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Approximately 20 hours prior to the catastrophic loss of well control, Halliburton had completed the cementing of the ninth and final production casing string in accordance with the well program. Following the placement of 51 barrels of cement slurry, the casing seal assembly was set in the casing hanger. In accordance with accepted industry practice, as required by MMS and as directed by the well owner, a positive pressure test was then conducted to demonstrate the integrity of the production casing string. The results of the positive test were reviewed by the well owner and the decision was made to proceed with the well program. The next step included the performance of a “negative” pressure test, which tests the integrity of the casing seal assembly and is conducted by the drilling contractor at the direction of the well owner and in accordance with MMS requirements. We understand that Halliburton was instructed to record drill pipe pressure during this test until Halliburton’s cementing personnel were advised by the drilling contractor that the negative pressure test had been completed, and were placed on standby.
Here's where this account varies from others I've heard. Apparently, after hanging off the casing, cementing, setting the packoff, and testing, they came out of the hole with drillpipe, then went back with a bridge plug to set in the top of the casing to seal the inside. A bridge plug is a mechanical device, in this case run on drillpipe, that is set with weight from the drill string after it is turned to activate it. With two plugs in the casing, and the packoff outside the casing, the well should have been safe.
In a strange twist of fate, the off-shift crew was reportedly having a party in the living quarters, celebrating 7 years of accident free performance. Dear God. This writer confirms that there were 7 BP bigwigs visiting on the rig at the time, which we've now heard from several sources.