Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BP oil worker 'warned about vital safety problem but nothing was done' Terry Kirby


A worker on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig claimed he spotted a leak in safety equipment weeks before the explosion which has sent millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Speaking on tonight's Panorama programme on BBC 1, Tyrone Benton claims the leak in the blowout preventer was not fixed at the time but instead the faulty device was shut down and a second one used.

The claims will increase pressure on BP, which today saw its share price drop by three per cent after criticism from the White House of BP chief executive Tony Hayward for taking part in a yacht race around the Isle of Wight while the environmental disaster continues.

Today, the lawyer in charge of BP's $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the spill said he was determined to speed up the payment of claims.

Kenneth Feinberg said President Obama wanted to "get these claims paid". He also said he would "err on the side of the claimant" when dealing with grievances from fishermen and businesses.

"Do not underestimate the emotionalism and the frustration and the anger of people in the Gulf uncertain of their financial future," he said. "It's very pronounced. I witnessed it first-hand last week."

BP admitted that its response to the spillage has now cost the company $2 billion.

However, the firm says rig owner Transocean, which was responsible for the operation and maintenance of safety equipment, said it tested the device successfully before the accident.

When the rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 people, the blowout preventer failed. According to the Panorama report, the blowout preventer contains a pair of giant “shears” which are designed to cut and seal off the well's main pipe.

Mr Benton told the programme that the problem was identified in the control “pods” of the blowout preventer, which contain hydraulic and electrical equipment.

He said: “We saw a leak on the pod, so by seeing the leak we informed the company men. They have a control room where they could turn off that pod and turn on the other one, so that they don't have to stop production.”

The programme says that repairing the control pod would have meant temporarily stopping drilling work on the rig at a time when it was costing BP $500,000 a day to operate the Deepwater Horizon.

The decision not to repair the pod was criticised by Professor Tad Patzek, petroleum expert at the University of Texas: “That is unacceptable. If you see any evidence of the blowout preventer not functioning properly, you should fix it by whatever means possible.”

The US Congressional inquiry is said to have identified numerous other problems with the blowout preventer, including design problems, unexpected modifications and a flat battery.

In his evidence to Congress, Mr Hayward denied claims the company had put costs before safety.

Shadow foreign secretary David Miliband told Sky News: “Tony Hayward is accountable for the actions of the company. Does that mean he's not allowed to have a day with his son? No. “Does it mean that he does have to lead the company to deal with this fundamental issue that threatens the whole future of the economy? Yes, it does.”

1 comment:

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