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AP Exclusive: Workers describe failures on oil rig

Posted by on May. 26, 2010 at 11:02 PM
  • 4 Replies

 

NEW ORLEANS – As the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig burned around him, Chris Pleasant hesitated, waiting for approval from his superiors before activating the emergency disconnect system that was supposed to slam the oil well shut at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

The delay may have cost critical seconds. When Pleasant and his co-workers at rig owner Transocean finally got the go-ahead to throw the so-called deadman's switch, they realized there was no hydraulic power to operate the machinery.

Five weeks after the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers, the blown-out well continues to gush oil, pouring at least 7 million gallons of crude into the Gulf.

Dozens of witness statements obtained by The Associated Press show a combination of equipment failure and a deference to the chain of command impeded the system that should have stopped the gusher before it became an environmental disaster.

At a Coast Guard hearing that started earlier this month and continued in New Orleans on Wednesday, Doug Brown, chief rig mechanic aboard the platform, testified that the trouble began at a meeting hours before the blowout, with a "skirmish" between a BP official and rig workers who did not want to replace heavy drilling fluid in the well with saltwater.

The switch presumably would have allowed the company to remove the fluid and use it for another project, but the seawater would have provided less weight to counteract the surging pressure from the ocean depths.

Brown said the BP official, whom he identified only as the "company man," overruled the drillers, declaring, "This is how it's going to be." Brown said the top Transocean official on the rig grumbled, "Well, I guess that's what we have those pinchers for," which he took to be a reference to devices on the blowout preventer, the five-story piece of equipment that can slam a well shut in an emergency.

In a handwritten statement to the Coast Guard obtained by the AP, Transocean rig worker Truitt Crawford said: "I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew out."

BP declined to comment on his statement.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100526/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill_mistakes

by on May. 26, 2010 at 11:02 PM
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tericared
by on May. 26, 2010 at 11:03 PM

 

 

There were other signs of problems, including an unexpected loss of fluid from a pipe known as a riser five hours before the explosion that could have indicated a leak in the blowout preventer.

The witness statements show that rig workers talked just minutes before the blowout about pressure problems in the well. At first, nobody seemed too worried, with Transocean chief mate David Young leaving two workers to handle the difficulty on their own and telling them to call when he was needed. The well site leader worked in his office. Then panic set in.

Workers called their bosses to report that the well was "coming in" and that they were "getting mud back." The drilling supervisor, Jason Anderson, tried to shut down the well.

It didn't work.

At least two explosions turned the rig into an inferno. Crew members were hurled through walls, doors flew through the air and the living quarters blew apart. Workers stumbled across a bloody, dark deck, trying to pull debris off the injured.

Brown said that as he waited beside a lifeboat for the order to abandon ship, he witnessed "complete chaos, mayhem. People were screaming, people were crying." Rig leaders struggled to comprehend the magnitude of what was happening. An emergency generator wouldn't start.

Steve Bertone, the chief engineer for Transocean, wrote in his witness statement that he ran up the bridge and heard the captain screaming at a worker for pressing the distress button. Bertone turned to Pleasant, who was manning the emergency disconnect system, and asked whether it had been engaged.

Pleasant told Bertone that he needed approval first, according to Bertone's sworn statement. Another manager tried to give the go-ahead, but someone else said the order needed to come from the rig's offshore installation manager.

kk_bella
by on May. 27, 2010 at 2:01 PM
Pretty scary.
tericared
by on May. 27, 2010 at 2:29 PM

Very scary...How does it get to the point where a guy has to get permission to shut off the flow of oil when all hell is breaking loose around him?

tinybubblez
by on May. 27, 2010 at 2:59 PM

also, there were not any hydro- fire booms immediately available.

this just sickens me.

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