By Kristen Hays
NEW ORLEANS Feb 28 BP Plc's
investigation of its disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout did
not address the impact of cost overruns on the well, a BP
executive said on Thursday, in the final day of testimony this
week in the massive civil trial over the spill.
Plaintiffs contend that cost concerns prompted crew members
on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig to rush to wrap up the
drilling. The executive who led BP's internal investigation said
the company did not focus on that angle.
"I don't recall it being part of our discussions," Mark Bly,
global head of safety and operational risk, said on the third
day of testimony in the trial.
Bly, whose name is on the report of BP's internal probe,
said he and the then-chief executive, Tony Hayward, did not
include budgetary issues when they set the scope of the
investigation three days after the explosion in April 2010.
Plaintiffs lawyer Paul Sterbcow noted the Macondo well
operation had been $60 million over budget and more than a month
past schedule at a cost of $1 million per day.
The U.S. Justice Department, Gulf Coast states and
plaintiffs are suing well operator BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd
, well cement provider Halliburton Co and others.
The plaintiffs say BP put profits above safety, and forensic
engineer Bob Bea, co-founder of the Center for Catastrophic Risk
Management at the University of California, Berkeley, testified
this week that there was "ample evidence of intense pressure"
from BP to save time and money.
Bly told Justice Department trial attorney Mike Underhill
that BP forged ahead with its plan to pump Halliburton-made
cement into the well as part of finishing the job without having
received all the tests Halliburton conducted on the mixture to
make sure it would harden as required.
Bly said he thought they got results of some tests, but not
all. When asked if that decision to move ahead was a decision
made by BP supervisors on the rig or onshore, Bly replied, "I
believe that would be an onshore decision."
BP contends that Halliburton made substandard cement, which
failed to provide an adequate barrier to oil and gas that later
blew out. Halliburton disputes that contention.
Underhill, in a rare light-hearted moment at the trial, had
started his questioning of Bly with a joke about automatic
federal spending cuts due to take effect on Friday. "You get me
one day before my employer furloughs me," Underhill said.
Earlier, Bly went through his conclusions in BP's internal
report, which spread the blame for mistakes before the accident.
The report laid most of the blame on Transocean, and set the
tone for three years of finger-pointing among the companies.
Allocation of blame is one of the two key issues considered
in this first phase of the non-jury trial before U.S. District
Judge Carl Barbier, which will run for months if it does not
settle first. The other focus is severity of negligence among
the companies involved in the disaster, which killed 11 men and
let more than 4 million barrels of oil foul the Gulf.
Bly said BP's well site leader and Transocean crew
misinterpreted a pressure test that signaled possible trouble in
the well, losing key reaction time. If pressure in the oil
reservoir deep under the seabed is higher than that in the well,
oil and gas will flow upward.
"That risk was neither recognized or addressed until it was
too late?" Sterbcow asked.
"There were signs that the well was flowing," Bly said. "It
didn't seem to be recognized or reacted to."
Bly is due to continue his testimony on Monday. The
executive, who said he plans to retire in about two months, was
promoted to serve on BP's executive management committee shortly
after CEO Bob Dudley took the helm in October 2010.
The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater
Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, No.
10-md-02179, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of