From: Washington’s Blog
Several weeks before the Gulf oil explosion, a key piece of safety equipment – the blowout preventer – was damaged.
As the Times of London reports:
[Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon, and one of the last workers to leave the doomed rig] claimed that the blowout preventer was then damaged when a crewman accidentally moved a joystick, applying hundreds of thousands of pounds of force. Pieces of rubber were found in the drilling fluid, which he said implied damage to a crucial seal. But a supervisor declared the find to be “not a big deal”, Mr Williams alleged.
UC Berkeley engineering professor Bob Bea told 60 Minutes that a damaged blowout preventer not only may lead to a catastrophic accident like the Gulf oil spill, but leads to inaccurate pressure readings, so that the well operator doesn’t know the real situation, and cannot keep the rig safe.
Bea also said that – despite the damage – BP ordered the rig operator to ignore an even more critical safety measure. Specifically, BP ordered the rig operator to remove the “drilling mud” – a heavy liquid used to keep oil and gas from escaping – before the well was sealed.
According to Bea, the accident would not have occurred had drilling mud been used.