Houston company caught in cement?
Is Halliburton to blame for the Gulf oil spill explosion disaster?
With the oil spill in the Gulf hitting disastrous proportions, states of emergencies declared and no end in sight, authorities aren't just trying to contain the damage — they're trying to figure out what went wrong.
And though BP, which was leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig at the time of the April 20 explosion, announced that it would definitively pay for the cleanup efforts (cue the sarcastic clapping, please), Houston's Halliburton is under investigation for its role in the explosion.
The Huffington Post first reported that Halliburton Energy Services was named, along with BP and Transocean (which owned the platform), in a lawsuit brought by relatives of a missing rig worker.
The lawsuit claims that Halliburton, "prior to the explosion, was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap and, upon information and belief, improperly and negligently performed these duties, which was a cause of the explosion."
Halliburton's role in the Deepwater Horizon was in charge of the "cementing" process, which is a technique used to plug holes in the pipeline by pumping in cement from the rig. According to a hard-hitting report in the Wall Street Journal, investigators have begun to suspect that the explosion was due to flaws in this process.
According to Transocean Ltd., the operator of the drilling rig, Halliburton had finished cementing the 18,000-foot well shortly before the explosion ... The timing of the cementing in relation to the blast —and the procedure's history of causing problems—point to it as a possible culprit in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, experts said.
"The initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement," said Robert MacKenzie, managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets and a former cementing engineer in the oil industry.
Several other drilling experts agreed, though they cautioned that the investigation into what went wrong at the Deepwater Horizon site is still in its preliminary stages.
Halliburton also was the cementer on a well that suffered a big blowout last August in the Timor Sea, off Australia. The rig there caught fire and a well leaked tens of thousands of barrels of oil over 10 weeks before it was shut down. The investigation is continuing; Halliburton declined to comment on it.
In response to the damaging report, Congressman Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to the company requesting a briefing with the committee and a detailed record of its work on the rig and all matters pertaining to the explosion.
It's not the first time the government has tangled with Halliburton over potentially faulty work. Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR ignited a firestorm of controversy when an Army investigator declared the death of Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in an army base shower, as a "negligent homicide," due to KBR contractors' flawed electrical work. The Pentagon later estimated that as many as 18 soldiers died from similar electrocutions.