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BP Aware of Problems on Offshore Well - 11 Killed

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BP knew of problems with an offshore well hours before it exploded last month, spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a House committee chairman said Wednesday.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the oil company told the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight privately that the well failed a key pressure test just hours before it exploded on April 20.

With the Gulf oil slick spreading, these 5 business owners are among the thousands fearing for their livelihood.
View photosThe test indicated pressure was building up in the well, which could indicate oil or gas was seeping in and could lead to an explosion, said Waxman.

"Yet it appears the companies did not suspend operations, and now 11 workers are dead and the Gulf faces an environmental catastrophe," he said, asking why work wasn't stopped on the well.

Witnesses before the panel, which included executives from the three primary companies working on the well - BP, Transocean, and Halliburton - said the course of events and actions leading up to the explosion is still under investigation, and will come to light over time.

BP's deepwater oil well, 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, is now leaking some 200,000 gallons of crude a day following theexplosion that claimed 11 lives.

Lawmakers also wanted to know a valve sitting atop the well, known as a blowout preventer, known as a BOP, failed to close and avert the disaster.

"It is far too early to draw conclusions about how the incident occurred," said Jack Moore, president and CEO of Cameron International (CAM, Fortune 500), the company that built the device. "Our BOPs have a very long history of reliable performance, including performance in some of the harshest operating conditions in the world."

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said the blowout preventer may have failed for four reasons: Modifications to it may have reduced the number of shears that can close the well; a hydraulic leak may have knocked it out of commission; it may have hit a section of pipe that was too thick to cut; and its battery power may have died.

The executives said the blowout preventer is not designed to handle all situations, especially when it becomes clogged with debris from an actual explosion.

"I would think that your blowout preventer should be designed to handle that," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

Lawmakers also criticized proposed efforts to seal the well by injecting rubber debris down the top, including old golf balls and bits of tires.

"The American people expect a response on par with the Apollo Project, not Project Runway," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Reported by CNN



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