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Oil companies involved in U.S. oil spill play blame game

05-12-2010 08:04 BJT

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Executives of three oil and oil service companies involved in the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill all blame each other at a hearing Tuesday at the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

BP America, Inc. President and Chairman Lamar Mckay (L Front), Transocean Limited President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Newman (C Front), and Global Business Lines President and Halliburton Chief Health, Safety and Environment Officer Tim Probert (R Front), attend a hearing on offshore oil drilling before the U.S. Senate energy and natural resources committee on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, May 11, 2010. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)
BP America, Inc. President and Chairman Lamar Mckay (L Front), Transocean Limited
President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Newman (C Front), and Global Business
Lines President and Halliburton Chief Health, Safety and Environment Officer Tim
Probert (R Front), attend a hearing on offshore oil drilling before the U.S.
Senate energy and natural resources committee on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.,
capital of the United States, May 11, 2010. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

Lamar McKay, president of BP America, Steven Newman, chief executive of Transocean and Tim Probert, a senior executive of Halliburton, testified before the committee. Their companies face intense political pressure in the aftermath of an explosion that sank Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig as it was finishing a well for BP. The accident killed 11 people and oil is still flowing unchecked from the ruptured well.

Halliburton joins BP and Transocean because it provided a variety of services on the rig and was involved in cementing on the well to stabilize its walls.

While acknowledging that it was too early to make a final determination of the cause of the April 20 blowout that started the spill or why the oil was not contained, the companies stressed one another's failures.

BP's McKay focused on a critical safety device, the 450-ton blowout protector owned by rig operator Transocean, that was supposed to shut off oil flow on the ocean floor in the event of a well blowout but "failed to operate."

"The systems are intended to fail-close and be fail-safe," McKay said. "Sadly and for reasons we do not yet understand, in this case, they were not. Transocean's blowout preventer failed to operate."

Only seven of the 126 onboard the Deepwater Horizon rig were BP employees when it was engulfed in flames, he stressed.

However, Transocean's Newman said the blowout preventers "were clearly not the root cause of the explosion" and "it is inappropriate to focus any causation discussions exclusively on the blowout preventers." He said they might have been damaged by debris made of cement and steel casing material blown upward because of other failures.

"The one thing we know with certainty is that on the evening of April 20 there was a sudden, catastrophic failure of the cement, the casing, or both," Newman said. "Therein lies the root cause of this occurrence. Without a disastrous failure of one of those elements, the explosion could not have occurred."

 


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