Workers describe failures on oil rig
NEW ORLEANS — As the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig burned around him, Chris Pleasant hesitated, waiting for approval from his superiors before activating the emergency disconnect system that was supposed to slam the oil well shut at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
The delay may have cost critical seconds. When Pleasant and his co-workers at rig owner Transocean finally got the go-ahead to throw the so-called deadman’s switch, they realized there was no hydraulic power to operate the machinery.
At a Coast Guard hearing that started earlier this month and continued in New Orleans on Wednesday, Doug Brown, chief rig mechanic aboard the platform, testified that the trouble began at a meeting hours before the blowout, with a “skirmish” between a BP official and rig workers who did not want to replace heavy drilling fluid in the well with saltwater.
The switch presumably would have allowed the company to remove the fluid and use it for another project, but the seawater would have provided less weight to counteract the surging pressure from the ocean depths.
Brown said the BP official, whom he identified only as the “company man,” overruled the drillers, declaring, “This is how it’s going to be.” Brown said the top Transocean official on the rig grumbled, “Well, I guess that’s what we have those pinchers for,” which he took to be a reference to devices on the blowout preventer, the five-story piece of equipment that can slam a well shut in an emergency.
In a handwritten statement to the Coast Guard obtained by the AP, Transocean rig worker Truitt Crawford said: “I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew out.”
BP declined to comment on his statement.
As I imagine they might. To be a fly on the wall in the BP boardroom about now. Because they, probably better than most, know what they have done- and what they can’t do. Which is, of course, to stop the oil from gushing out of a rip in the surface of the earth, 5000 feet below us. They don’t have the technology, the will, or the humanity to end it. BP is a threat to the safety of mankind and should be seized by the federal government immediately. No more decisions can be allowed to be made with part of the process being “how will this look” or “can we cap the well and get the oil later”. BP – and to a great extent, we- took a risk, that risk went bad, and now we all suffer. But in the immediate sense, ALL BP ocean drilling must stop, because they have clearly demonstrated an inability to do so safely. All assets of the company should go to stopping the leak, cleaning the water, and attempting to rebuild the lives of those formerly dependent upon the gulf waters for their livelihood.
We are witnessing a generational moment. Twenty years from now we’ll be able to recount to our grandchildren about what it was like before the Gulf of Mexico, and the American Gulf coast was killed. Deliberately murdered by a corporation driven by greed, by a hollow government gutted by corruption and beholden to the plutocracy that runs this world, and finally, by us, an era of people allergic to the realities that they live under.
Hope we all took pictures.