Investigators Hunt for Blowout Preventer Flaws

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 @ 03:03 PM gHale

Pods that controlled the massive device that failed to stop the Gulf oil spill may have had a fundamental safety design issue, federal investigators said.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has objected to the government’s decision to halt testing of the blowout preventer.

A team of investigators has been testing the blowout preventer since November in New Orleans. The Norwegian firm doing the testing, Det Norske Veritas, should submit its findings by March 20.

A spokeswoman for the joint investigation team, Melissa Schwartz, said the scope of the testing done by DNV came through work with other interested parties, including the safety board, and in consultation with the Justice Department. She said there have been no other objections.

She said the team believes DNV has performed the tests necessary to determine why the blowout preventer did not function as intended. Cameron, the company that made the blowout preventer used with BP’s blown-out well, had no comment, according to a spokeswoman.

Blowout preventers sit at the wellhead of exploratory wells and are supposed to lock in place to prevent a spill in case of an explosion. The 300-ton device that was used with BP’s Macondo well was raised from the seafloor in early September. It sat at the NASA facility in New Orleans for two months before testing began.

Its final report was due this month. Instead, the panel now has until July. It will make a preliminary statement by mid-April.

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