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Records show concerns about well, as BP says leak could last months

A House panel investigating the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico released new internal documents from BP on Sunday that suggest company engineers had concerns about the safety of the well as early as last year.

The chairmen of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak, wrote in a memo accompanying the records that, while many of the documents are technical accounts of the well design and blowout preventer, others “raise questions, but their connection to the blowout, if any, require additional investigation.”

The release of the documents came as BP officials and the Obama administration acknowledged for the first time that the blown-out well could continue spewing oil into the Gulf until August.

In emails released by the committee, BP engineers expressed concern to federal regulators in March about their ability to control the well. They later asked for an extension from the Minerals Management Service, the agency that regulates offshore drilling, of a federally mandated test of the blowout preventer, a fail-safe device designed to prevent spills. At first, federal officials declined.

“Sorry, we cannot grant a departure on the BOP test further than when you get the well under control,” Frank Patton, an MMS official wrote to BP engineers at the time.

Company officials pressed again for an extension of the test, expressing reservations about conducting the test without full control of the well. “We have major concerns about coming out without getting at least one cement plug set to secure the well,” they wrote.

About seven hours later, a second MMS official relented. “After further consideration, an extension is approved to delay the BOP test until the lower cement plug is set,” the official, David Trocquet, wrote to BP engineers.

The failure of the blowout preventer has been identified as a key component of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and subsequent leak. A federal panel said on Thursday that the well is now gushing anywhere from 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day into the fragile waters along the Louisiana coastline. BP’s latest attempt to contain the leak, the so-called “top kill” procedure, has proved unsuccessful.

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  • Rodney nedlose

    I am a citizen of the u.s. Iwant to talk about this oil spill. Ihave a suggestion on how to stop this big leak. maybe someone has though about this, maybe not. they know the size of this pipe underwater? why cant they take another pipe, largerthan the oil pipe. split the pipe right down the middle and put a rubber gasket on the inside of this split pipe, take it down where the oil is comming out. clamp the two parts together around the leak. is that to hard to do? your the big wigs, so do something befor you disrupte all living life about the water and below. BEFOR IT IS TO LATE??? ( concerned }

  • Abraham Fuchs

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to clean up a spill…
    President Obama brought up the emotional question by his daughter, Malia, when she asked her Daddy when he’s going to “plug the hole”. The gov’t does not have the expertise to “plug the hole” but what stops the gov’t from hiring all the unemployed fisherman with their boats to clean up the spill? What about employing other out of work people to help with the clean up? If we run out of our people who need work we can always hang up a sign near the Arizona border with an arrow pointing towards the Gulf of Mexico! The catastrophe of the gushing oil is not about losing the oil; it’s about its contamination of the water and when it washes up toward the coast line. Why was there no one working on the spill when CNN and James Carville were witnessing the devastation?
    As we see clearly now that “plugging the hole” which Pres Obama focused on, may have to take months. In the meantime we have to maintain the integrity of the natural ocean. The focus should be on a constant
    cleaning up of the spilled oil as it happens. Much in the same way that parents of babies need on a constant basis to clean up their baby from its own mess on a constant basis. Once is not enough. Complaining that the baby has soiled itself doesn’t do the job either. If there were ever a legitimate
    stimulus program it would be to hire people to clean up the Gulf spill which BP should ultimately be responsible for and we would compensate all those fisherman out there losing their job and they shouldn’t have to fight with BP to get more than the measly $5,000 that BP is trying to get them to settle for.
    Saudia Arabia used tankers to clean up a major mess when they had one. If China were involved with such a spill they’d send out a million people on boats with buckets to scoop up the oil, if that’s all they had. Oh but we have to “train” people how to deal with such toxic materials and we have to equip them with hazmat suits! It’s oil for God’s sake – not radioactive plutonium! The only reason why workers out there are getting sick is not from the oil but from the spraying over the water to disburse the oil bringing back images of Agent Orange which sickened our Vietnam veterans.
    President Obama has made references to people who stay on the sidelines and criticize others on how to use a mop when cleaning up a mess (purportedly Bush’s). Well I’d say to you Mr. President listen to your own advice and stop pontificating on how to use a mop for this mess! Just have lots of eager people get a mop (so to speak) and clean up this mess! It’s not rocket science!
    The question by Malia should have been “Daddy, when are you going to clean up this mess?” It’s understandable that she, being a child, got the question wrong but why do you Mr. President get it wrong when you say that you’re “totally engaged” and you don’t even know what to be “totally engaged”in?
    Is the phrase “it’s the cleanup, stupid” apropos here? As Bill O’Reilly would say – “you make the call”.