Hours before the calamitous blowout on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig last month, a disagreement occurred between a BP official and a drilling operator who worked for Transocean, the owner of the rig.
NPR's Pam Fessler told All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block in a discussion that Douglas Brown, the rig's chief mechanic and a Transocean employee, testified about the disagreement at a hearing held by the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service:
BROWN: I recall a skirmish taking place between the company man... and the tool pusher and driller concerning the events of the day. The driller was outlining what was going to be taking place. Whereupon the company man stood up and said 'No. We have some changes to that.'
The company man that he's talking about is the BP representative. The others were Transocean employees. It appears the disagreement was about how to shut down the well. BP was essentially finished with this well and ready to move on.
And the process involved removing the mud from the drill pipe. That mud is used to keep pressure down on any gas that might come out of the pipe. The question was how quickly you remove that mud safely to do that. And it appears from what we've heard so far that BP was interested in removing that mud more quickly than Transocean wanted to.
Pam also reported that on Thursday the Transocean employee who had the argument with the BP employee is scheduled to testify. A BP official was scheduled to testify as well but reporters learned Wednesday that the BP employee would be a no show.
The testimony of Transocean employees on Wednesday reiterated something that's been heard elsewhere, that BP was in a hurry to end activities on the well because it was paying $500,000 a day for the semi-submersible rig.
The Associated Press had some extra details about the "skirmish" from Brown's testimony:
Brown said the BP official, whom he identified only as the "company man," overruled the drillers, declaring, "This is how it's going to be." Brown said the top Transocean official on the rig grumbled, "Well, I guess that's what we have those pinchers for," which he took to be a reference to devices on the blowout preventer, the five-story piece of equipment that can slam a well shut in an emergency.