BP oil spill: leak found in rig weeks before blast

Monday, June 21, 2010
By Paul Martin

The Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded causing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, had suffered a leak in the weeks leading up to the blast, an employee has claimed.

TelegraphUK
21 Jun 2010

Tyrone Benton told the BBC that he identified a leak in the rig’s safety equipment weeks before the explosion.

He claimed that the leak was not fixed at the time. Instead, the faulty device was shut down, forcing the rig to rely on a second one.

“We saw a leak on the pod, so by seeing the leak we informed the company men,” Mr Benton said. “They have a control room where they could turn off that pod and turn on the other one, so that they don’t have to stop production.”

The pods control the blowout preventer, the most important piece of safety equipment on the rig, and contain both electronics and hydraulics. This is where Mr Benton said the problem was found.

The blowout preventer failed when the rig exploded on April 20. The device, designed to avert disasters just like the devastating oil spill, is equipped with large shears which can seal off the well’s main pipe.

Professor Tad Patzek, petroleum expert at the University of Texas, told the BBC: “That is unacceptable. If you see any evidence of the blowout preventer not functioning properly, you should fix it by whatever means possible.”

Mr Benton said his supervisor emailed both BP and Transocean about the leaks when they were discovered. He did not known if the pod had been turned back on before the rig exploded.

BP said rig owners Transocean were responsible for the operation and maintenance of that piece of equipment.

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