Judge and attorneys find humor in BOP and cement testing

Alejandro de los Rios Mar. 25, 2011, 10:17am


U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and lawyers involved in BP oil spill litigation found humor today during a status conference held at federal court in New Orleans.

Barbier questioned attorney Michael Underhill and the progress of testing of the failed blowout preventer (BOP) and drilling cement from the Deepwater Horizon oilrig.

Underhill, who at previous status conferences joked about hiding in the back of the courtroom, said he was pleased to inform the court that the BOP testing was finally completed and a copy of the 200-page report had been given to all parties.

"I haven't seen it," Judge Barbier responded. "I've read news reports about the report, but haven't seen the report itself."

Barbier, who repeatedly stressed the importance of completing the tests for the litigation to continue, also stressed that the concrete testing needs to be completed shortly.

Underhill, who is the court's liaison to a government Joint Investigative Team (JIT) charged with testing the cement, took the comments in stride.

"I've been told if you'd like an honorary hard hat, you're welcome to have it," Underhill said, to laughter.

Barbier joked that he wasn't sure if a free construction helmet would violate gift-giving laws for federal judges and told Underhill to just leave it in an empty courtroom and he'd take a look.

Despite the light mood attached to the discussion, the BOP and cement testing represent some of the most critical aspects of discovery in determining liability for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

On Wednesday, a report issued by JIT stated that a bent drill pipe prevented the BOP from cutting off the flow of oil that led to the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

During the loss of well control, blind sheer rams (BSRs) designed to cut the drill pipe in the event of a blowout were unsuccessful because the "drill pipe elastically buckled within the wellbore," the report states.

The buckling occurred due to pressure which built up before the BOP had a chance to operate.

The report also blames the failure on the BOP itself, stating that "the BOP functionality testing indicated some back-up control system components did not perform as intended."

Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179

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