- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
It appears that Halliburton ran tests on its planned foam cement mixture months before it would be needed at this site. The tests showed that it failed and was unstable. They changed the mixture and retested, and again it failed. They continued making changes and retesting until they had a good result and used that result in a report to BP. BP knew about at least some of the failed tests and just accepted the good result without asking for validation or another test.
Actually, this scenario is quite familiar. How many times have we pulled environmental samples and looked at the results? If the results are good as hoped or expected, they are just accepted. However, if they fail, we immediately ask for a resample and retest.
It is not just environmental industry practices. I recall working at a manufacturing plant as a lab tech some 30 years ago. We made bi-metallic parts and the plant metallurgist was away on vacation so it was my responsibility to test the bond between two dissimilar metals. The parts were expensive so they gave me a setup part to use in the procedure. The part failed miserably. I retested and it failed again. After a total of five tests, I failed the job and almost immediately got a call from the plant manager. I explained what I had done and showed him the results. He said this job was a very expensive job and we needed it. He asked me to retest. I machined down the part and set up a series of ten test points. After running them all, one just passed the minimum strength. Understand that normally, this bond was usually quite strong and easily surpassed the minimum standards. I took the results to the manager and he said good, run it. I told him that in all good conscience, I could not sign off on the job. He signed the papers and the job went forward.
Testing should provide us with confidence that we have accomplished our goals. However, so many times, it is merely used as a tool for managers to make a risk decision. As long as something does not go wrong, it is okay but when things go wrong, the first thing investigators want to know is why didn’t we take action. Too bad management does not ask for significant verification first. I don’t know how much the Halliburton tests cost but I would bet my bottom dollar it was less than the tens of billions of dollars BP has spent since the explosion.