Journalism in the Public Interest


BP Attorney: Rig Had 390 Overdue Maintenance Items


BP lawyer Richard Godfrey testified before a joint panel of Coast Guard and Bureau of Ocean Energy officials that there were 390 overdue maintenance jobs on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig before the explosion. (Godfrey photo by Charlie Riedel-Pool/Getty Images)

In the past 24 hours, much of the attention paid to the BP oil saga has been focused on the well’s leaks and seeps, but some pretty enlightening hearings are happening this week just outside of New Orleans.

In Monday's hearing before a joint panel from the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy  (formerly the Minerals Management Service), Richard Godfrey, a lawyer for BP, testified that a September 2009 audit showed there was “overdue planned maintenance considered excessive—390 jobs amounting to 3,545 man hours.”

Godfrey said the lapses were spelled out in a 30-page report submitted to Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Transocean’s chief engineer, Stephen Bertone, was asked how many of those jobs were completed before the April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers.

“I do not have that number,” Bertone said. But he did expound on some of the ongoing equipment problems, and told the panel that "rig-wide electrical failures had occurred two or three times before the explosion," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s more from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans:

Chief engineer Stephen Bertone, a Transocean employee, testified that the rig's thruster, an underwater propeller that helps the rig move, had been "having problems" for eight months before the disaster. He also said that the driller's chair had lost electrical power days before.

Both pieces of information provide possible new clues about why the massive Deepwater Horizon was a "dead rig" with no engine power and failed backup generators immediately following the first explosions.

At previous hearings, executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton have traded blame for the disaster. BP has said that Transocean was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the rig's equipment, and in disclosing this pattern of lapsed maintenance, BP appears to be continuing to try to push responsibility back on Transocean. (It's worth mentioning, however, that BP doesn't have a good maintenance record either. As we've reported, BP managers in Alaska had a practice of saving on maintenance and repairs by running equipment into the ground--a practice called "run to failure.")

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder hinted that BP may not be the only subject of his criminal investigation, and that “there are a variety of entities and a variety of people who are the subjects” of the investigation.

Thanks for covering hearings like this one.  It is the reporters at technical hearings, (not standing on the beach with blobs of sand,) who are informing the public, for the long run, what the oil industry is doing wrong.

I called BP’s office in Houston whree I live and gave them my link to my post about the problems with the Deepwater Horizon since no one else was listening.  We had a long talk about the problems.

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