MACONDO April 2010 – Deepwater Horizon

On April 20, 2010, the blowout of the Macondo well resulted in explosions and an uncontrollable fire onboard the Deepwater Horizon. Eleven people lost their lives, 17 were seriously injured, and 115 of the 126 onboard evacuated. The Deepwater Horizon sank 36 hours later, and the Macondo well discharged hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months before it was contained.

Transocean was contracted by BP Exploration & Production Inc. (BP) to provide the Deepwater Horizon rig and personnel to drill the Macondo well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252. Drilling started on February 11, 2010, and was completed on April 9, 2010.

Immediately following the incident ENGINEERING SERVICES LP was contacted by the U. S. House Energy and Commerce Committee under the leadership of Chairman Henry Waxman of California and Bart Stupak, Michigan. We were requested to help the committee understand the nature of the incident and to provide them guidance in developing their questions for BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward. The effort we expended to help the committee was driven by the need to protect the industry from misunderstandings and lack of knowledge. The assistance we provided to the Committee was done pro bono. In a very short period of time with very little information, we analyzed the available facts and information surrounding the incident to accurately determine the immediate nature of the incident.

Subsequently, the Committee requested that the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigate the cause of the blowout of the Macondo well. ENGINEERING SERVICES, LP was made aware of the requested and contacted the CSB for an opportunity to provide a bid to perform the investigation. We were the successful bidder and were contracted by the CSB to participate in the root cause failure analysis of the BOP (blowout preventer).


Engineering Services, LP, Gordon Aaker news/videos/articles on various topics below:

May 30, 2014

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June 5, 2014 CSB Meeting, 4:00 to 7:00 pm CDT »

Location: Hilton Americas, 1600 Lamar Street, Houston, TX 77010
Open to the Public

Gordon A. Aaker, Jr.
Engineering Services, LP

FEBRUARY 6, 2013
Newsletter Announcement

As promised, Engineering Services, LP, has left no stone unturned in our investigation of the BP Macondo BOP failure. The final details of our investigation and our findings have recently been provided in multiple reports to the Chemical Safety Board.

In part, the additional time required to complete our investigation was the result of not being invited to participate in Phase II Testing. It was not clear why the judge excluded the CSB’s participation in this Phase of testing. In any event with a little cooperation from the industry we were able to secure resources and equipment to duplicate and expand the testing protocol to ensure accurate results.

The benefit of the expanded testing protocol using an exemplar for testing permitted us to test the effect of out-of-sync control systems on coils which are relied on to energize valves. With this testing, we were able to advance theories that were not even considered during the testing at Michoud during Phase I and Phase II. Also, the exemplar testing has allowed us to re-interpret the AMF Deadman test results at Michoud conducted in March, 2011. Previous testing thought to be “inconsistent” is now understood. With this understanding, we have numerous new and significant findings not previously reported by any of the other agencies. Our investigation has provided the details on how the equipment operated and its influence on the operation of the BSR.

We anticipate that the CSB will issue their final report and present it to the public prior to the 3rd anniversary of the incident.

Gordon A. Aaker, Jr.
Engineering Services, LP

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012
Newsletter Announcement
Status of the

Engineering Services, LP (ES) in Houston has entered the final stage of our investigation into the root cause failure analysis of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

To date, we have participated in, and reviewed the results of the extensive joint industrial task force investigation. The focus of our investigation has moved from the mechanical and process aspects of the blow-out preventer (BOP) to the details of the control system and deep-sea batteries.

In the final investigation, Mr. Greg Miller, Lead Control Systems Engineer for ES is in the process of reviewing test data and preparing protocols for testing of exemplar control components believed to be significant to the operation of the Blind Shear Ram (BSR). These final set of tests will permit ES to conclude our root cause analysis of the BOP failure for the CSB. Our final report will be made available to CSB in the 4th quarter of 2012.

After this incident, ES began our investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 20, 2010. ES was contracted by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) as a result of a request from United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The initial investigation began at the NASA facility in New Orleans in November, 2010.

Gordon A. Aaker, Jr.
Engineering Services, LP

AUGUST 2, 2011
Poorly maintained gas pipelines put increasing numbers at risk

Shutting down a pipeline for repairs or replacement is costly, so pipeline owners prefer a different approach as corrosion eats through pipeline walls and water, earth movements, and “dings” from earth moving equipment damage exterior walls and welds. The pipeline companies just reduce the pressure in the pipeline, explained Gordon Allen Aaker, Jr., a pipeline engineer in Kingwood, Tex., who consults on safety issues to both pipeline companies and those who sue them.
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JULY 18, 2011
Spill it
What went wrong before last April’s deep-water disaster? Problem with the blowout preventer?
It shouldn’t be a secret

And why didn’t a component called the “upper annular” seal around the drill pipe? “That, ultimately, is why [11 men] died,” explained failure analyst Gordon Aaker, of Kingwood-based Engineering Services. “If that thing had closed, it would have saved lives.”
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JULY 11, 2011
Questions raised about Deepwater Horizon equipment
Second round of testing on equipment was open only to feds.

WASHINGTON – A government-run examination of the device ended in March, and a second round of testing was open only to the Justice Department, the oil spill victims and the three companies connected to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“It’s only fair to the industry that they know what happened,” said Gordon Aaker, president of Kingwood-based Engineering Services.

He said too many questions about the Macondo blowout preventer remain for the companies that use similar devices to be confident of avoiding a repeat of the April 20, 2010, disaster.

Engineering Services took part in a four-month government-led examination of the blowout preventer, or BOP, on behalf of the Chemical Safety Board, an independent agency that also is probing the disaster.

That probe was meant to aid a federal investigation into the root cause of the explosion that killed 11 workers and the resulting oil spill that dumped 4.9 million barrels of crude into the Gulf last year.
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JULY 11, 2011
As BP gets closer to sealing leaking well, the stakes get higher

Teams of engineers have been holed up for weeks in two conference rooms, one for each relief well, at the west Houston BP offices. Cloistered on the second floor of a building called Westlake 4, apart from the main spill crisis center on the floor above, they see every nugget of data from the wells in real time, and they’re in constant communication with offshore teams running the controls. Even the smallest decisions are reviewed by BP and other technical specialists.
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Eye of the Storm … Aging Pipelines

By R.P. Stastny

Enbridge’s Michigan leak drops the company in the middle of the ongoing debate over the integrity of North America’s sprawling network of aging pipelines.

There is no shortage of people who take issue with this industry view. And not all of them come from the ranks of environmental advocacy groups. Consultant Gordon A. Aaker, Jr., president of Texas-based Engineering Services, a specialty engineering firm that provides engineering expert witness services, forensic engineering and root-cause failure analysis, is not only skeptical of such claims but has access to statistics that paint a different picture.

His work for the United States Department of Justice, Environmental Enforcement Division and appearances before a congressional committee appointed by the president provided him access to the full records of pipeline incidents of the United States.

“Based on the incidents report that I saw a few years ago, I was seriously considering establishing a forensic engineering consortium along the lines of Pipeline Spill R Us – or something to that effect – to prepare for the onslaught of pipeline failures that I personally think ought to be coming up in the next two or three years,” Aaker says.

"It’s a real epidemic," he adds.
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OCTOBER 26, 2010 (Original Air Date)
FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate the long and troubled history of the oil giant, BP
Chapter 5 of 6 "Deeper Waters…Bigger Risks"

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

GORDON AAKER, Mechanical Engineering Consultant:

“The storm is not really the cause of why that thing almost flipped, it’s because the check valve was installed backwards, OK? And all that was probably caused by being in a hurry and not dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s in this case.”

OCTOBER 26, 2010 (Original Air Date)
FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate the long and troubled history of the oil giant, BP
Chapter 6 of 6 "The Well from Hell"

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

GORDON AAKER, Mechanical Engineering Consultant:

“Every indication was that the well that blew out was already $10 million over. And to get caught doing a remedial cement job, and going back in there and doing all this work, was another $10 million. And that was going to impact them. So they were cutting corners on an operations side, trying to get by with less.”

JULY 12, 2010
In BP’s Record, a History of Boldness and Costly Blunders

“It could have been catastrophic,” said Gordon A. Aaker Jr., a senior engineering consultant on the project. “You would have lost a lot of oil a mile down before you would have even known. It could have been a helluva spill — much like the Deepwater Horizon.”
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JULY 1, 2010
BP Criminal Case in Oil Spill May Be Inevitable, Analysts Say

Gordon Aaker Jr., an engineering consultant hired to advise the House committee, called the failure to test the cement bond “horribly negligent.” BP spokesman Scott Dean declined to comment, saying the company isn’t talking about pending litigation.
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JUNE 16, 2010
Congress to Scrutinize Safety on Another BP Rig

Atlantis critics argue that such “as-built” drawings are particularly important for undersea components since those parts can’t readily be observed by the eye. Without such drawings, “you don’t know what you’ve got,” said Gordon Aaker, Jr., of Engineering Services, a Houston engineering and consulting firm, who has worked with Mr. Abbott on his complaints and is helping congressional investigators on the Deepwater Horizon accident.
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June 15, 2010
Papers charge BP cut corners while constructing oil well

Oil drilling consultant Gordon Aaker told committee investigators BP’s decision was “unheard of” and “horribly negligent,” said the letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward, who will testify before the committee Thursday.
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JUNE 14, 2010
Text of letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward outlining congressional investigators’ findings

Page 11:
The Committee staff asked an independent engineer with expertise in the analysis of well failure about BP’s decision not to conduct a cement bond log. The engineer, Gordon Aaker, Jr., P.E., a Failure Analysis Consultant with the firm Engineering Services, LLP, said that it was “unheard of” not to perform a cement bond log on a well using a single casing approach, and he described BP’s decision not to conduct a cement bond log as “horribly negligent.” Another independent expert consulted by the Committee, John Martinez, P.E., told the committee that “cement bond or cement evaluation logs should always be used on the production string.”

Briefing by Gordon Aaker, Jr., P.E., Failure Analysis Consultant with Engineering Services, L.P. (Houston), to House Committee on Energy and Commerce Staff (June 10, 2010).
Read full letter – PDF » article » article » article »

MAY 3, 2010
Will BP Pay

Ed Schultz and panel debate whether BP will actually cover the cost of the oil disaster in the Gulf like they claim. Gordon Aaker of Engineering Services , LP gives his engineering evaluation and failure analysis.
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September 23, 2004

The rig’s design engineer, Gordon Aaker, said that the cracked manifold could have caused a catastrophic oil spill.
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2004 – 2005
Thunder Horse & Blue Marlin

Thunder Horse PDQ was evacuated with the approach of Hurricane Dennis in July 2005. After the hurricane passed, the platform fell into a 20 degree list and was in danger of foundering.

The platform was designed for a 100 year event, and inspection teams found no hull damage, and no water was taken on from a leak through its hull. Rather, an incorrectly plumbed 6-inch length of pipe allowed water to flow freely among several ballast tanks that set forth a chain of events causing the platform to tip into the water. The platform was fully righted about a week after Dennis, delaying commercial production initially scheduled for late 2005. During repairs, it was discovered that the underwater manifold was severely cracked due to poorly welded pipes. The rig’s design engineer, Gordon Aaker, said that the cracked manifold could have caused a catastrophic oil spill.

The platform took a nearly direct hit six weeks later from Hurricane Katrina, but was undamaged.
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