Two more of those cute oil-drilling phrases to keep track of: "long string" and "liner tieback." Both refer to well designs, with "long string" the cheaper of the two because it's relatively easy to execute. "Liner tieback" is more complex, and thus more expensive, but it's especially suited for risky, high-pressure wells because it's safer. Guess which one BP used 5,000 feet below the Gulf of Mexico?
If you guessed "long string," congratulations. And what's more, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows that BP uses the design a lot, as in 1 in every 3 deepwater wells, far more than any other oil company. Says a Shell exec: "When it is a high-pressure, deepwater well, we only have one way of doing that way, and that is with a liner tieback. Period." But BP insists "long string" is safe at such sites, and as Tony Hayward told Congress this week: "It was approved by the MMS." Which should make everyone feel safer.