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BP official says effort to shut gulf well was late

HOUSTON — Workers on the doomed Gulf of Mexico oil rig were distracted by multiple activities going on simultaneously and didn't try to shut down the well until 49 minutes after potentially explosive gas particles began flowing in, a BP vice president told a federal investigative panel Wednesday.

Steve Robinson, who led the team that questioned the well site leaders as part of BP's internal investigation, said at hearings in Houston that the workers' actions were late. He said that by the time the crew reacted, hydrocarbons were already in the riser. He said they couldn't be contained, only diverted.

An explosion occurred just minutes later on April 20, killing 11 workers and leading to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from BP's well a mile beneath the surface of the gulf, according to government estimates.

This is the joint U.S. Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement panel's sixth series of hearings, and at least one more is expected before the panel issues its report, which is due by March 27. The panel is still awaiting the results of forensic testing on a key piece of evidence — the blowout preventer that failed to stop the spill. Investigators are analyzing it at a NASA facility in New Orleans.

BP has previously acknowledged that its engineers and employees of Transocean misinterpreted a pressure test of the well's integrity before the explosion.

BP official says effort to shut gulf well was late 12/08/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 10:34pm]
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