Judge to Rule on Moratorium by Wednesday

Jim Brown
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A federal judge will consider overturning the six-month drilling moratorium by Wednesday. The ban was placed by the Obama administration on all drilling over 500 feet. Experts claim the moratorium could cause more financial damage to the area than the oil spill.

The U.S. District Court Judge, Martin Feldman, promised he would rule on the case by Wednesday. Actually he is going to rule on whether the drilling ban would be temporarily lifted while the case is heard. However, a decision to lift the ban would show a predisposition to permanently lifting the ban later.

The suit was brought against the government by Hornbeck Offshore Services (HOS). They provide support services for deepwater wells. More than a dozen companies have joined the suit calling the ban "arbitrary and capricious." A total of 33 deepwater wells have been shutdown pending a resolution.

The administration claims the ban is necessary to prevent further accidents. However, over 19,000 deepwater wells have been drilled without any prior accidents of this magnitude.

The governor of Louisiana claims his state will lose more than $3 billion in revenue due to the moratorium. The governor claims up to 45,000 workers are directly impacted by the halt with a monthly payroll of $330 million. He also said there was as many as 150,000 workers and businesses that would also be impacted by the halt.

With the growing anger about the moratorium the odds are increasing that it will be terminated soon. If the administration wanted to do it right they would call an end to the moratorium and present a new list of requirements for all deepwater drilling.

Some of those requirements would be blow out preventers with two blind shear rams certified to be capable of slicing through today's high strength drill pipe at depths greater than 5,000 feet. The BOP on the Horizon only had one set of shear rams and xrays of the BOP have shown that only one side of the dual rams activated. One side is fully deployed but the other did not deploy for reasons still unknown. We do know there was a leak in the hydraulic fluid but when the fluid was replaced the ram still failed to close.

One possibility of the new rules will be the requirement for a certified inspector to actually see the BOP slice through the pipe to be used before it is ever put in production on a new well. Currently there are 14-day inspection intervals once the BOP is on the ocean floor but there is no requirement for a pipe shear test.

One part of the well failure was the cement job by Halliburton. After the cement job Schlumberger technicians were brought onboard Horizon to run the cement bond log to test if the cement had bonded correctly to the casing and the rock walls of the well. The Schlumberger crew refused to run the test because the well was "kicking" so much that Schlumberger technicians demanded the well be immediately closed to prevent a blowout. This was four hours before the explosion. The BP manager on the rig told the workers to forget it and BP was canceling the test. The Schlumberger workers immediately left the rig in fear there was going to be a problem. Obviously they were right.

You can't legislate against dumb people. There were rules and procedures in place and BP either took shortcuts or ignored the rules completely. The rest of the fleet will NOT follow these idiots into oblivion. You can bet that the rig owners and operators of the 33 remaining rigs have lectured their workers to the point of obsession to follow the rules and to actually improve procedures because no other company wants to follow BP down the road to oblivion. If you owned/operated a deepwater rig today what would you be telling your crew?

Jim Brown

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