KENNER, La. -- A BP PLC engineer who helped draft the Deepwater Horizon's drilling plans defended his work on the ill-fated project in the face of harsh words Friday from government officials investigating the deadly explosion on the oil rig.
John McCarroll, a Minerals Management Service official sitting on a six-member panel of investigators, pressed drilling engineer Mark Hafle to justify his design for a cement job that may have failed and contributed to the April 20 well blowout.
Hafle rejected McCarroll's suggestion this his design was doomed to fail.
"You think that's normal to expect someone to be able to cement a seven-inch casing inside an eight-and-a-half inch hole?" McCarroll asked. "Is that a good engineering practice?"
"It's done every day on wells," Hafle said. "It is a sound engineering practice."
"Personally, I would not want to try to attempt that myself," McCarroll said.
"All indications were that we had an adequate cement job," Hafle said.
"Eleven people were killed, but you still think the cement job was successful?" McCarroll asked.
"I don't have the data that says the cement job was not successful," Hafle said.
Panelists and a lawyer for the rig's owner, Transocean Ltd., questioned Hafle about the failure to do a "cement bond log," a way to test the integrity of a cement job. Hafle said BP determined the test wasn't necessary.
Transocean lawyer Edward "Ned" Kohnke ticked off a list of possible failures and asked if any of them could have been responsible for the blowout.
"Not necessarily," Hafle said. "There will be an official investigation, which is ongoing, which is why we're here to answer questions to try and find out what happened."
Coast Guard and MMS officials heard testimony from several other witnesses Friday, the fifth day of hearings for their probe of the rig explosion that killed 11 workers and has spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Christopher Pleasant, a Transocean employee who was the rig's subsea supervisor, said he had tried in vain to activate the rig's emergency disconnect system, which would have shut down the well, after he saw a fire break out on the rig.
Pleasant said he was about to press the buttons when the rig's captain, Curt Kuchta, initially told him not to activate the system.
"He said, 'No, calm down. We're not hitting the EDS,"' Pleasant recalled.
About 30 seconds later, however, Pleasant said he went ahead and pressed the buttons anyway. Pleasant said he didn't wait for permission because he didn't think he needed it. Another four to five minutes elapsed before Kuchta changed his mind and told him to activate the EDS, but Pleasant said he didn't tell the captain that he already had.