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WASHINGTON, May 26, 2010
Oil Rig Explosion Followed Argument, Warnings
Internal BP Documents, Testimony to Government Panel Show Bad Signs Leading up to Explosion on Deepwater Horizon Rig
(CBS) A mechanic's testimony Wednesday before a government panel and internal documents BP provided to Congress help piece together the hours leading up to the explosion that left 11 workers dead and caused the leak spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon had finished drilling. Workers were getting ready to seal the well shut until another rig could pump the oil. Eleven hours before the explosion, chief mechanic Douglas Brown says there was tension over how to cap the well between the rig's owner, Transocean, and a BP representative, whom he calls "the company man," CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.
"The driller was outlining what as going to be taking place, whereupon the company man stood up and said, 'No, we have some changes to that,'" Brown testified during a hearing.
When others disagreed, Brown said "the company man was basically saying, 'Well, this is how it's gonna be.'"
Internal documents BP provided Congress help piece together the most detail yet of events after that contentious meeting.
At 5:05 p.m. Central time - five hours before the explosion - a possible leak in the critical rubber gasket closes tightly around the drill pipe.
Mike Williams, the rig's chief electronics tech, told CBS' "60 Minutes" that chunks of rubber from the gasket had broken loose weeks before, but a supervisor brushed off concerns.
"I thought how can it be not a big deal? There's chunks of our seal is now missing," Williams said.
About two hours before the explosion, there's a bad pressure test result, a possible "influx of the well." Pressure builds and there's an indicator that BP investigators now call "a very large abnormality." Yet the rig team moves on. BP says this may have been a "fundamental mistake."
At 51 minutes before the explosion, a bad sign: more fluid flows out of the well than is being pumped in.
At 41 minutes before, the pump is closed for a test, but the well continues to flow. Pressure unexpectedly rises.
At 18 minutes before, data show more abnormal pressures and "mud returns." The pump abruptly shuts down.
The new data from BP suggests the crew may have attempted mechanical fixes at that point to control pressure but in vain. Pressure shot up and the well exploded.