VERY Peculiar

Our buddy Steve Maley at RedState has come up with a fascinating image from the bottom of the Gulf at the Macondo site. It’s a shot of the busted riser from the Deepwater Horizon after it was sawed off in preparation for the installation of the containment cap that ultimately stopped the leak and facilitated the killing of the well, which was accomplished today.

Steve explains the significance of this image, which unless you’re in the offshore oil business like he is would likely escape you. He notes that inside that riser you see two sections of drill pipe, not one. You’re only supposed to see one.

Specifically, he says…

Yep, there appear to be two drill strings, side-by-side, where there should be only one. Not only shouldn’t the second one be there, it’s hard to imagine how it could have possibly gotten there. Either it was dropped from above, or the drill pipe parted downhole, but either way it seems plausible that there could be two strings inside the blind/shear rams, the key BOP component that failed to operate and secure the well.

To me, this image presents the biggest, and perhaps most important puzzle of the spill so far.

(For you fans of CSI, this is the equivalent of finding out that a “suicide” victim died of six gunshot wounds to the back of the head. At the very least, someone’s got some ’splainin’ to do.)

If true, this would be evidence of some catastrophic failure for which no one, as far as I know, has offered a plausible explanation. The only humans who might know how this happened (short of a forensic examination of the riser and BOP) sadly perished in the explosion.

Significantly, this second drill pipe, if it extends down through the BOP, would provide a plausible explanation for the failure of the BOP to close by shearing the drill pipe. The shear rams are designed to shear a single string of drill pipe under operating conditions, not two strings.

It’s very possible that all the speculation about dead batteries, disabled pods, acoustic switches and failed annular rubbers were all leads down blind alleys. Maybe this second string of pipe explains everything.

So the BOEMRE has virtually the entire offshore industry tied in knots, unable to secure permits, with a new BOP testing protocol in place. All the certified BOP testing shops are backlogged as every BOP in the Gulf is retested and certified.

And after all the testing, certification and retesting, none of them will be able to cut two strings of pipe at once.

It would seem that with the (apparently successful) killing of the well, in the very near future we can recover the Macondo BOP and figure out what happened.

The long and short of this? This part is easy – nothing about BP and Transocean’s conduct in drilling the Macondo well conforms to regulations that were in place on April 20, 2010. And no other Gulf wells in the last 30 years have had incidents even remotely like what happened at Macondo.

In other words, that moratorium was unnecessary and stupid when it was put in place, it hasn’t done a damn thing to improve safety on those wells, it’s an insult to all the other companies in the Gulf who DON’T operate a slack ship like BP does and it has hurt a whole bunch of innocent people.

It also means that whatever the trial lawyers do to BP is fine. You’ll notice you haven’t heard a thing about this in all the time the spill has been discussed. You’ve heard about Haliburton’s cement job and you’ve heard about Cameron’s blowout preventers. You haven’t heard that two sections of drill pipe were sitting in the BOP when only one should have been there, and that shear rams on BOP’s aren’t designed to chop through two pipe sections instead of one. And this might be the whole story.

After all, let’s not forget this – Congressional investigators revealed last month that BP had 760 safety violations in the past five years; no other major oil company had more than eight. Yes, you heard that correctly. BP has been the smelly kid in the class for a good while, but they also have been buttering up politicians at a staggering rate – including 70K to the Obama campaign in 2008 which we’re sure had nothing to do with a fresh start from MMS that led to an impending safety award before the Deepwater Horizon blew up.

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in the Gulf on Wednesday of last week, looking at oil rigs and getting an impassioned pitch from company executives to let them do their jobs. At one rig, an idled shallow-water operation with a surface BOP, he was pigeonholed by David Harris, Murphy Exploration’s general manager of world-wide drilling and asked to allow drilling to resume.

The response?

“So you can guarantee me there will be no blowouts?” Mr. Salazar countered. “We are not going to have another oil spill like the one we are still dealing with out here at the Macondo well” operated by BP.

Mr. Harris and other officials stressed the redundancies built into the rig’s design—a series of backup systems meant to ensure the blowout preventer works in case of disaster. Yet pressed by Mr. Salazar, James Hunter, Murphy’s general manager for field development and facilities engineering, finally conceded that, no, he could not make such a guarantee. Mr. Salazar beamed.

He beamed. Can you believe it? Of course you can.

These people are not serious about safety. They’re serious about killing an industry.

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