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March 31, 2011

Did BP Make the Spill Worse?


New evidence shows that in their frantic attempt to stop the Gulf oil gusher last April, BP may have inadvertently made the situation far worse. According to a 551-page technical report by forensic examiners at Norway-based Det Norske Veritas, when industry experts finally got part of the busted well's blowout preventer to work nine days after the accident, they opened a new path for oil to flow.

Days after the spill began, BP and Transocean tried desperately to find a way to get the blowout preventer (BOP) to work. It was later discovered that the drill pipe, knocked out of alignment, prevented the BOPs from working completely which left a path for the oil to escape from. Officials then used shear rams to cut the drill pipe, with one major problem: those rams do not have the capability to seal, only slice. This made a larger hole for the oil to flow unchecked for the next 78 days before workers were finally able to seal it. This raises the question as to whether the flow of oil might have been smaller at the start of the disaster. Scientists have estimated that the total is about 4.9 million barrels of oil that gushed out, a sharp contrast to BP's early figure of a mere 5,000 a month.

The forensic report makes it clear that the industry must update its BOPs. This is just one of the design flaws that need to be addressed before more offshore drilling should even be considered. To learn about the report, click here

-- Lauren Bertolino, Sierra Club Louisiana Intern


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