Cementing, Mainstay of Oil Drilling, Is Prone to Failure

Bruce Bullock, director of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute, talks about how cement used in oil drilling is prone to failure.


Cementing, a crucial step in drilling safely for oil or natural gas, is prone to frequent failures such as the one that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

That appears to be one of the starkest lessons federal investigators have drawn so far in their probe of the explosion that killed 11 and unleashed the worst offshore oil leak in U.S. history. It is a topic almost certain to be probed at a hearing of the presidential commission investigating the disaster when it next meets, on Nov. 8. . .

By highlighting the uncertainties about cement, testing and other parts of the drilling process, the Gulf disaster has shaken public confidence in the industry, said Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "When you look at this, the first thing you ask is, 'Is this more art than science at times?' " Mr. Bullock said.

Mr. Bullock said that questions about the industry's capability will likely color the debate over onshore drilling for shale gas, because many wells are likely to be located near people's homes.

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