BP officials aboard Deepwater Horizon to testify

By David S. Hilzenrath
Monday, July 19, 2010; A10

Two of the top men who represented BP aboard the Deepwater Horizon are scheduled to testify this week as a government panel investigating the rig's destruction holds its third round of hearings in Kenner, La.

Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza both held the title "company man," working in alternating shifts. They were involved in testing the well shortly before the April 20 blowout.

Both are slated to testify on Tuesday about "test results and operations," according to witness lists for the hearings.

In earlier testimony, one rig worker said the company men clashed over how to deal with the troublesome Macondo well.

Another rig worker described a scene in which an unnamed company man allegedly argued with the senior representative of Transocean, the firm that owned the rig.

The hearings are part of a joint investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service (now under the new leadership of Michael Bromwich and renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement). They are one of several probes into the disaster that until late last week left oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Senior Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written that BP apparently cut corners to save time and money.

The witnesses for this week's hearings include BP well team leader John Guide, an official involved in one of the decisions that committee leaders have spotlighted.

Halliburton, a contractor to BP, recommended that the company install 21 devices called "centralizers" in the well, but BP used only six.

When a BP engineering official told Guide about plans to fly extra centralizers to the rig, Guide objected, partly because, he wrote, "it will take 10 hrs to install them."

The witness lists released Friday by the investigating panel show that much of this week's testimony will address the Deepwater Horizon rig's failed blowout preventer, which should have sealed the well.

The witness lists refer to blowout preventer "modifications" and "leaks."

In an earlier round of hearings, a rig worker testified that the preventer had "one little minor leak . . . possibly hydraulic" and that the plan was to address it after the well had been drilled.

The agenda for the hearings also mentions another technical issue -- ruptured disks in one of the well's pipes.

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