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AP Exclusive: Workers describe failures on oil rig

Posted by on May. 26, 2010 at 11:06 PM
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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

by on May. 26, 2010 at 11:06 PM
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tericared
by on May. 26, 2010 at 11:07 PM

 

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.

Ultimately who gave the order is a matter of dispute. Donald Vidrine, well site leader for BP, said he did it. But Bertone said it was Jimmy Harrell of Transocean.

By the time the workers obtained the approval and got started, Pleasant said he "got all the electronic signals but no flow on meters," meaning hydraulic fluid wasn't flowing to close the valves on the blowout preventer. Darryl Bourgoyne, a petroleum engineer at Louisiana State University, said a valve could have been broken or hydraulic fluid could have leaked earlier.

It is not clear whether the delay could have contributed to the system's failure to close off the well and snuff out the fire. The rig burned for two days before finally collapsing in the Gulf.

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