The two-part trial is designed to sort out the complexities involved with the factors leading up to the explosion, as well as with the efforts afterward. For this phase, the defendants are BP and partner Anadarko Petroleum Corp., while the plaintiffs include two BP contractors – vessel operator Transocean and cement supplier Halliburton – and a steering committee made up of attorneys representing local claimants.
The first phase of the trial ended in late April and largely involved the decisions leading up to the blowout. This second phase is expected to last a month and will examine decisions by BP and others in mitigating the oil flow. A decision will be rendered for the entire trial sometime after both phases conclude.
On Monday, plaintiff attorneys said BP misled federal officials in early reports, saying the oil was flowing at a rate much less than the company’s internal estimates. They say that BP initially reported an oil flow of 5,000 barrels of oil per day, but company engineers were estimating more than 100,000 barrels per day. Early attempts to plug the well, including the “top kill” – which involved pumping mud into the blowout preventer – failed because BP insisted on basing the effort on the lower estimates, they said.
“BP pressed ahead and falsely claimed that [top kill] was a slam-dunk. It failed, just as its outside consultants had predicted,” plaintiff attorney Brad Brian said Monday.
In court filings, BP insists that the unprecedented nature of the disaster forced the company to try measures whose outcomes were impossible to predict and involved a high level of risk. They also say that higher estimates used in company modeling efforts were meant to evaluate worst-case scenarios. A “capping stack” – essentially, a device that could be placed atop a counterpart that failed – was not ready for installation before the top kill experiment, they add.