This week Congress continues its investigation, but Capitol Hill has not heard from the man "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley met: Mike Williams, one of the last crewmembers to escape the inferno.
He says, four weeks before the explosion, the rig's most vital piece of safety equipment was damaged.
Down near the seabed is the blowout preventer, or BOP. It's used to seal the well shut in order to test the pressure and integrity of the well, and, in case of a blowout, it's the crew's only hope. A key component is a rubber gasket at the top called an "annular," which can close tightly around the drill pipe.
Williams says, during a test, they closed the gasket. But while it was shut tight, a crewman on deck accidentally nudged a joystick, applying hundreds of thousands of pounds of force, and moving 15 feet of drill pipe through the closed blowout preventer. Later, a man monitoring drilling fluid rising to the top made a troubling find.
"He discovered chunks of rubber in the drilling fluid. He thought it was important enough to gather this double handful of chunks of rubber and bring them into the driller shack. I recall asking the supervisor if this was out of the ordinary. And he says, 'Oh, it's no big deal.' And I thought, 'How can it be not a big deal? There's chunks of our seal is now missing,'" Williams told Pelley.
And, Williams says, he knew about another problem with the blowout preventer.
The BOP is operated from the surface by wires connected to two control pods; one is a back-up. Williams says one pod lost some of its function weeks before."
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The accompanying article continues, but it's really just a summary of the video. Take the time to sit down and watch, it will enrage you, and as bad as ignoring problems with a vital piece of safety equipment is, you will probably not be surprised to learn about all the other safety and procedural rules skipped in the name of expediency.
I was reminded of the interview when I heard that the "topkill" method failed, because the method appears to me to basically be the a hard-core version of one of those safety measures BP/Transocean skipped on/screwed up. It didn't work to seal the well, but it would have KEPT it sealed if done properly.
If what Williams says is accurate, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, then the Horizon disaster isn't "just" an accident, it's willful negligence. BP killed 11 people and is costing us hundreds of millions of dollars (and counting!) because profit came before basic safety.
Also, if you're interested in any progress made on shutting down the Atlantis rig mentioned near the end of the segment, here's a little information on where things currently stand in DC. With the resignation/firing of the director of the Minerals Management Service, I suspect things are a little stalled, but hopefully we'll see action taken quickly after the administration finishes cleaning house.
Source is not just grumpy ranting by that old guy
Originally broadcast May 16, I don't recall seeing anyone post it. Apologies if I missed it.