A former Helmerich & Payne Inc. (H&P) drilling manager has been charged with making false statements to the Department of Interior‘s Office of Inspector General regarding a key safety device on a Gulf of Mexico drilling rig. Donald Hudson, 49, of Walnut Grove, MS, was employed by H&P as the drilling rig manager for Rig 206 from Oct. 14, 2009 until May 27, 2010. Rig 206’s blowout preventer (BOP), like other BOP systems, has to be pressure tested at regular intervals prior to continued drilling operations, and results of the tests, including any problems or irregularities, also are to be recorded. On March 30, 2011 Hudson allegedly lied to investigators about instructing the rig’s crew to falsify BOP testing results, according to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, who oversees the Eastern District of Louisiana. Testimony by other crew members revealed that Hudson had told the crew to close valves on the BOP choke manifold to prevent leaks, said Letten. In May 2011 H&P indicated in a regulatory filing that it suspended operations on an offshore rig after an employee reported possible “testing irregularities” and said “certain employees” were fired. No environmental or other harm occurred and the BOP system ultimately was repaired, Letten noted. If Hudson is found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release following a prison term.
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