Deepwater Horizon Blast Triggered by Methane Bubble, Report Shows

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Deepwater Horizon Blast Triggered by Methane Bubble, Report Shows

Investigation reveals accident on Gulf of Mexico rig was caused when gas escaped from oil well before exploding

by
David Batty and agencies

The deadly explosion caused 3 million gallons of crude oil to pour into the Gulf. (Photograph: KPA/Zuma/Rex Features)

The deadly blast on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas, an investigation by BP has revealed.

A
report into last month's blast said the gas escaped from the oil well
and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through
several seals and barriers before exploding.

The sequence
of events, described in the interviews with rig workers, provides the
most detailed account of the blast that killed 11 workers and led to
more than 3 million gallons of crude oil pouring into the Gulf.

Segments
of the interviews conducted during BP's internal investigation were
described in detail to the Associated Press by Robert Bea, a University
of California Berkeley engineering professor who serves on a National
Academy of Engineering panel on oil pipeline safety. He also worked for
BP as a risk assessment consultant during the 1990s. He received the
details from industry friends seeking his expert opinion.

The revelations came as a giant funnel was lowered over the oil well in a bid to contain oil leaking from it.

BP
said it might take up to 12 hours for the 98-tonne, steel and concrete
containment device to settle in place almost 1 mile (1.6km) below the
surface. But the company added that the operation appeared to be going
as planned.

It is hoped that the structure will be able to
collect as much as 85% of the leaking oil and begin funnelling it to
ships above by Monday.

But the BP chief executive, Tony
Hayward, has warned there is no certainty the device will prove
successful because it has not be tried at that depth.

The
company, which is also drilling a relief well to halt the leak, faces
an equally daunting challenge to contain the political and financial
fallout from the spill. The Obama administration has kept up the
pressure on the oil giant, a move seen in part as a tactic to divert
criticism of its own role in the disaster.

Recent news
reports have suggested the interior department exercised lax oversight
in approving BP's operations in the Gulf, accepting too readily its
claims there was little risk of an accident.

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