Congressional investigators released new documents Monday outlining "serious questions" that have been raised in their probe of the events leading up to the BP oil disaster. In a lengthy letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) outline numerous questions raised by evidence they have turned up about the possible causes of the blowout on April 20, advising Hayward that he should be prepared to respond to when he appears before the committee on Thursday.
The letter notes that, on April 15, five days before the explosion, BP's drilling engineer referred to the well they were drilling as a "nightmare well." "In spite of the well's difficulties, BP appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure," write the congressmen. "In several instances, these decisions appear to violate industry guidelines and were made despite warnings from BP's own personnel and its contractors. In effect, it appears that BP repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk."
The letter highlights many issues about the operation that have come to light in the past weeks. Exploration at the well was behind schedule, which they note "appears to have created pressure to take shortcuts to speed finishing the well."
The questions focus on five key points, which they note all "posed a trade-off between cost and well safety":
(I) the decision to use a well design with few barriers to gas flow;
(2) the failure to use a sufficient number of "centralizers" to prevent channeling during the cement process;
(3) the failure to run a cement bond log to evaluate the effectiveness of the cement job;
(4) the failure to circulate potentially gas-bearing drilling muds out of the well; and
(5) the failure to secure the wellhead with a lockdown sleeve before allowing pressure on the seal from below.
The Energy and Commerce Committee has posted the letter and all the relevant documents here. The longer explanation of each point is below the jump: