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Rig's manager says BP tried to skip test, changed drilling plan

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Rig's manager says BP tried to skip test, changed drilling planThe Transocean manager of the doomed Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig told a board of inquiry on Thursday that BP officials aboard the rig wanted to skip required pressure tests and tried to impose a drilling plan sent from BP's Houston headquarters that had not been approved by the federal government's Minerals Management Service.

Testifying before a Coast Guard and MMS board here, Jimmy Harrell, the Deepwater Horizon’s offshore installation manager, said BP initially wanted to replace heavy drilling lubricant, commonly called mud, at the bottom of the rig’s drill pipe with lighter seawater without performing a negative-pressure test. He said the plan to proceed with removing the drilling mud came from BP's Houston headquarters and had not been approved by MMS.

Harrell refused, however, to go forward without the negative-pressure test, which inovles sucking the air out of the pipeline to see if gas or oil leaks into the pipe. The test is critical to be certain that the pipe is secure before the heavy mud, which is the primary force keeping gas from surging up the pipe, is removed.

“I would not displace without doing a negative test,” Harrell said.

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