BP Executive Pleads Fifth at Oil Spill Hearing
On Tuesday, Brian Morel, a BP drilling engineer who helped design the well, plead "the Fifth" to avoid testifying at a joint hearing of the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Houston, the Times-Picayune reports. He's the second witness to plead the Fifth, along with Robert Kaluza, a BP employee who was on the rig when it exploded. The only other BP employee on the rig when it exploded was Don Vidrine, who has also failed to appear to testify on three separate occasions, ostensibly because of illness.
However, Morel did leave behind some fairly incriminating digital footprints: e-mails about the state of the well before the explosion. In one of them, he presciently referred to Macondo as a "nightmare well."
Morel also wrote about a decision BP made to use six centralizers -- doughnut-like attachments affixed to the casing (aka pipe) as it is lowered down the wellbore (aka hole) to keep the casing centered -- instead of the 21 centralizers recommended by BP contractor Halliburton. The danger in using fewer centralizers is that the casing might not be properly centered, which could cause a shoddy cementing job, which could lead to channels forming in the cement, which could cause natural gas to rise to the surface and ignite a fiery explosion.
In affirming that decision, Morel wrote, "It's a vertical hole, so hopefully the pipe stays centralized due to gravity. As far as changes, it's too late to get any more product on the rig, our only option is to rearrange placement of these centralizers."
Reminding us all that when it comes to deepwater oil drilling, a stitch in time may not save nine.
Read more at The Times-Picayune (via NOLA).