Witness: BP, Transocean Officials Botched Tests

The rig’s crew misinterpreted results of negative pressure tests done April 20, 2010, that showed the Macondo well was unstable, Richard Heenan, a Canadian engineer who has supervised off-shore drilling projects, told a judge yesterday in a trial over spill claims. The U.S. government contends the botched tests led to the blast, which killed 11 workers and sent more than 4 million barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf.

“I couldn’t believe, based on what I saw, that the people on the rig came to the conclusion that this was a successful test,” Heenan told a federal judge yesterday in New Orleans. The handling of the check “was a gross and extreme departure” from accepted oil-industry standards, he said.

After hearing evidence in the three-month trial, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will decide who is liable for damages over the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

He will also rule on whether BP, Transocean or other companies were grossly negligent in their handling of the rig and well. His ruling in the nonjury trial will affect how much each company may have to pay.

Robert Dudley, BP’s chief executive officer, said yesterday at an oil conference in Houston that his company is “safer” and “stronger” almost three years after the spill, and he praised BP’s response to the disaster.

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