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Related Categories: U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense
What caused the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon?
by wsws (reposted)
Friday May 14th, 2010 6:32 AM
As more details emerge about the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, it has become clear that the single-minded drive for profit and a total lack of regulation created the disaster.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, oil giant BP, rig operator Transocean and the Obama administration all took the position that the disaster was an unforeseeable event. Interviews with workers, information gathered by researchers and testimony given to Congressional and Coast Guard hearings prove, however, that there was in fact ample warning that a disaster was possible, even likely. But BP and its partners, Transocean and Halliburton, disregarded these warnings.

They could do so with impunity. There exists no regulatory body in the oil industry to defend the safety interests of workers and the environment, the Mineral Management Service (MMS) of the Department of the Interior having long ago ceded all meaningful regulatory control to the industry itself.

Buildup to disaster

Evidence revealed in Congressional testimony, press accounts and gathered by University of California professor Robert Bea has provided a detailed picture of the weeks and hours leading up to the explosion.
Deepwater Horizon was not an extractive oil rig, but an exploratory rig. When it exploded on April 20 it was in the process of completing its exploration by capping the well it had bored some three miles below the ocean floor, before moving on to another exploration site. This required the rig to plug the oil well and separate its riser piping from the wellhead to the rig. A separate rig would later have come to access the sealed wellhead.

Deepwater Horizon’s exploratory drilling had been troubled by unusually frequent and forceful contact with explosive natural gas deposits, known in the industry as “kicks,” workers say. Only weeks before the fatal explosion, so much gas forced its way up the well bore and onto the rig platform that an emergency freeze was placed on many activities aboard the rig in order to avoid triggering an explosion.

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