Cement is used to plug holes in the offshore drilling process. Sometimes cement is used to fill gaps between the outside of the well pipes and the inside of the hole drilled into the ocean floor. Other times cement is used to plug abandoned wells or wells that are between drilling and production. In all cases, the cement is pumped to prevent natural gas and oil from escaping a contained environment into a more volatile environment where it may violently combust.

Halliburton was hired to perform the cementing work on the Deepwater Horizon, and had just completed a job shortly before the explosion. This is leading many to question whether cementing played a causal role. There is reason to believe it did. According to the Wall Street Journal, "[a] 2007 study by three U.S. Minerals Management Service officials found that cementing was a factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico over a 14-year period. That was the single largest factor, ahead of equipment failure and pipe failure."

Last August, a rig caught fire and leaked tens of thousands of barrels of oil into the Timor Sea off the coast of Australia. Guess who was in charge of the cement work on that rig?

I'll give you a hint. It starts with an H and smells like Dick Cheney.


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