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Wayne Madsen

Wayne Madsen

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. He has written for The Village Voice, The Progressive, Counterpunch, Online Journal, CorpWatch,…

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Schlumberger Denies Having Deepwater Horizon Mud Logs

On July 7, 2010, the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) reported: "Oil drilling industry inside sources have reported to WMR that 'smoking gun' documents, including what are known as "mud logs" are being kept at the Tulsa, Oklahoma headquarters of Schlumberger Oilfield Services. Mud logging entails the detailed analysis of rocky material and sediment from a borehole for signs and pressure levels  and types of gas being encountered during the drilling process. Mud logging is always carried out by a third-party and in the case of the Deepwater Horizon, this function was performed by Schlumberger."

The web site, www.OklahomaWatchdog.org in Oklahoma City followed up on the story and Schlumberger's media relations officer Stephen Harris commented: "Schlumberger did not run any mud logs for Deepwater Horizon. This story, for intents and purposes, is made up. We don't have files or paperwork on mud logs within our organization." Harris reportedly was irritated by the questions about the mud logs reportedly in the firm's possession.

Harris was obviously picking his words carefully. Although Schlumberger does not, itself, perform mud logging operations, that is under the control of the chief driller, the oil services firm does perform third-party analysis of the mud logs. Schlumberger mud logging analysts were on board the Deepwater Horizon hours before the rig exploded on April 20. The chief driller controls the well head pressure and drilling rate based on the mud logging provided by the third-party geologists and in the case of the Deepwater Horizon the analysis was carried out by Schlumberger.

According to Offshore magazine, earlier this year, Schlumberger acquired Geoservices, a privately-owned French oilfield services company specializing in mud logging, slickline, and production surveillance operations, particularly in the deepwater market. Andrew Gould, Schlunmberger's chairman and CEO, stated, "The combination of Schlumberger real-time downhole formation sampling measurements with Geoservices’ drilling mud analysis will help customers better identify and react to drilling hazards, while the combination of mud logging with Schlumberger formation evaluation measurements will bring more complete understanding of rock lithology and fluid content.”

On July 11, 2010, Reuters reported: "The world's largest oilfield services company [Schlumberger] had performed wireline services for BP on the rig in the Gulf of Mexico where the April 20 explosion and spill occurred.

In the WMR July 7, 2010 report, we provided a Schlumberger timeline, titled "Mississippi Canyon Block 252 Timeline," which states that on April 20, "At approximately 11 :15 a.m., Schlumberger crew departs Transocean Deepwater Horizon on regularly scheduled BP helicopter flight."
WMR has learned more details of Schlumberger's mud logging analysis from an oil industry insider: Mud loggers are always geologists and are contracted by the drilling company. The geologists analyze the soil strata as the well operators drill through them.

Schlumberger provided the equipment and personnel to analyze the geological data, Schlumberger makes 3-dimensional maps of the rock formations, checked the structural integrity of the well, and provided the data for BP. They also conducted geological survey services, including data logging, as well as ultrasonic, magnetic, electrical conductivity, radiological, X-ray, and neutron analysis services. The services include data storage and data processing for geological structures.

Schlumberger and other third-party mud log analysts cannot provide these services without having a copy of the mud logs. The data is extremely valuable to a client's competitors and it is considered an important industrial secret. Schlumberger has in place a confidentiality agreement with all of their clients. Therefore, Schlumberger never admits what data they have in their possession. If Schlumberger admitted what kind of data they possess, their clients would stop using them. The business is lucrative for Schlumberger since the firm charges $12,000 an hour for their mud log analysis services. 

The mud log information is also worth millions of dollars to BP's competitors. It would tell them how much oil is present at BP drilling sites and how much it costs to exploit it. Attempting to gain access to the mud logging data could also result in a prosecution under federal industrial espionage statutes. Thus, in Tulsa, the location of Schlumberger's oil services headquarters, employees and their friends have been warned that anyone who discusses Schlumberger's Deepwater Horizon mud logs will go to jail.

Schlumberger is also required to destroy any and all data at the client's request or claim that it never existed. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, this act may have been already carried out since Schlumberger's analysis of the doomed well would have provided it with detailed knowledge of the well's condition before it exploded.

BP contracted Schlumberger to run the Cement Bond Log (CBL) test that was the final test on the well plug that was skipped before the April 20 explosion. The oil industry website, www.oildrum.com quoted Gregory McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas, as saying the CBL is the "gold standard" of cement tests. The website reported the CBL "records detailed, 360-degree representations of the well and can show where the cement isn't adhering fully to the casing and where there may be paths for gas or oil to get into the hole."

Schlumberger's contractors ordered BP's Deepwater Horizon operational manager to dump kill fluid down the well to plug up the well. The BP manager refused and. Schlumberger's team asks for a helicopter to evacuate all Schlumberger's personnel to shore. BP's manager replied that there were not more scheduled helicopters that week but the Schlumberger crew interceded with Schlumberger's front office, which sent a helicopter to evacuate their personnel at Schlumberger's expense.
Schlumberger has another reason to deny possession of the mud logs from the Deepwater Horizon.

One source close to the oil industry told WMR, "If Schlumberger admits to providing any services to BP on that rig they open themselves up to being a co-defendant in any law suits filed. Any data that they have can also be subpoenaed. But if the data is destroyed before any law suits are filed, then it is legal to destroy the data. That is why BP, Halliburton and Schlumberger are sending out the sharks in advance so they can plug any information leaks before the tort lawyers find out.  Schlumberger's main service is real-time data logging on oil well bore holes, well cementing certification, well drilling management, and end-of-life services to cap wells. They process the data from mud logging, etc. but they don't do the physical job of mud logging themselves. They just process the data in real time."

By Wayne Madsen for OilPrice.com

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