BP Exec: Gulf Oil Spill Crisis Could Have Ended Sooner

According to the leader of BP’s campaign to control the well that exploded and caused the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the crisis could have ended sooner if the company simply stored a backup capping stack like the one ultimately used to close the well.

However, although BP executive and “source control” head James Dupree testified that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill could have been stopped sooner, he said the company simply lacked the foresight to have the necessary technology and “preparations” readily available to quickly and effectively handle such a massive environmental disaster.

“On the source control side, we didn’t have the preparations that we have today,” Dupree told plaintiffs’ lawyers in court.

He was then asked by a plaintiffs’ attorney if, in fact, BP could have had the capping stacks used to stop the oil spill and simply did not.

“Had we had the foresight, we could have had them,” Dupree answered. “That’s why we had to engineer so many things on the fly.”

The hypothetical capping stacks around which Dupree’s testimony was centered could have been lowered atop of the gushing underground well, he said, but BP did not have one with the exact specifications necessary to close the well at the time of the spill.

Dupree’s testimony, as well as that of witnesses on behalf of BP and current and former company managers involved with the oil spill response efforts, began the third day of the second phase of the company’s ongoing federal trial in New Orleans. The first phase of the trial dealt with assigning liability for the disaster, with this phase dealing with BP’s efforts to stop the spill. Court documents indicate that next week will focus on how to quantify the number of barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf, a facet that will most likely influence any fine imposed on BP by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier under federal environmental laws, attorneys speculate.

Mark Mazzella, who worked on well control for BP, was questioned by Morgan & Morgan plaintiffs’ lawyer Frank Petosa on the attempts made by the company to halt the flow of oil from the uncapped well. One such attempt, known as “top kill,” involved pumping mud and debris into the well to clog up the leak, an exercise among many others, Mazzella admitted, that was worth trying even though it ultimately failed.

The theme of the questioning from plaintiffs’ lawyers, court documents show, continued to go back to why BP pursued “top kill” and other shaky flow-stopping methods even though the company allegedly had estimates of the unmanageable oil flow rates—as high as 10,000 to 15,000 barrels a day, according to court records—coming from the well.

Primarily, the number of unknown variables involved with trying to cap the well, the risk of losing more lives than the 11 who were killed when the oil rig initially exploded, and compromised equipment within the well all played a part in BP’s management of the crisis currently being disputed in court.