BOP manufacturer says device did not cause Deepwater Horizon disaster

Alejandro de los Rios Apr. 20, 2011, 1:42am

Cameron International, the company the built and owned the failed blowout preventor (BOP) used on the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon oil rig, said its device did not cause the April 2010 disaster that cause the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Attorneys for Cameron filed a motion to dismiss the personal injury and death claims brought forth in one of the pleading bundles in the Federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) surrounding the oil spill.

The motion cites findings by the U.S. Presidential Commission on the BP Oil Spill, which state that hydrocarbons had begun moving up the well to the oil rig before workers on the Deepwater Horizon were able to activate the BOP.

"Even a perfectly functioning BOP could not have prevented the explosions," the motion says.

In March, the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) charged with forensic testing of the BOP issued a report stating that the BOP failed to cut off the flow of oil because a bent drill pipe prevented the sheers in the device to make a clean cut.

During the loss of well control, blind sheer rams (BSRs) designed to cut the drill pipe in the event of a blowout were unsuccessful because the "drill pipe elastically buckled within the wellbore," the report states.

The buckling occurred due to pressure which built up before the BOP had a chance to operate.

The report also blames the failure on the BOP itself, stating that "the BOP functionality testing indicated some back-up control system components did not perform as intended."

BOP testing also indicated that "not all back-up control systems had built-in redundancy," the report found.

BP has since filed and was granted a motion to conduct further BOP testing.

The motion stated that JIT and the contractor Det Norske Veritas have declined to perform the operations that BP has requested.

Cameron filed a letter with Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in opposition of BP's proposed protocols for further BOP testing.

"BP continues to insist that Cameron agree to a level of involvement in the testing by its technicians far beyond what Cameron has agreed to do or believes that it could be required to do," the letter states.

"There is simply no authority for one party to demand that another party participate
in its testing regime."

The subject of the BOP, the JIT's findings and further testing has become a contentious issue in the oil spill MDL.

FU.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the litigation, expressed concerns about the length of the testing process as it was being conducted.

Determining what caused the BOP to fail and whether it led to the Deepwater Horizon explosion will be a key issue in determining the liability of the defendants in this case.

The BP oil spill liability trial is set to start in February 2012.

Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179

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