BP Report: Pipe Halted Blowout Preventer

Friday, March 25, 2011 @ 12:03 PM gHale

A damaged piece of drill pipe got in the way of the blowout preventer designed to shut down a BP well in an emergency, a new federal report said.

When the Deepwater Horizon rig crew lost control of the well in April, the force of rushing oil buckled a section of drill pipe, which then became stuck in the blowout preventer. After activation the safety device, the mangled pipe made it impossible for shearing rams to close and plug the flow of oil.

Det Norske Veritas compiled the report for the Interior Department after the contracting firm examined the blowout preventer as part of a series of investigations into the cause of the massive BP oil spill.

A key piece of emergency equipment, officials raised the blowout preventer from the seafloor in early September and hauled to a NASA facility in New Orleans for forensic testing.

Had it worked, the blowout preventer might have averted the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The rig exploded April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men and setting off a deep-sea leak that took months to stop. By the time officials capped the wellhead in July, it had released more than 200 million gallons of crude into the gulf.

The next in a series of Coast Guard hearings on the disaster, scheduled for early next month in Louisiana, will deal with the findings on the blowout preventer.

Various investigations have attributed the rig explosion and spill to a series of missteps by the companies involved in the Deepwater operation, as well as lax regulation by the federal agency that oversaw deep-sea drilling in the gulf.