Documents prove trouble long before well burst

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

(WFLX) - Frustration is growing in the Gulf after the best hope yet of capping the leak, 'Top Kill, was declared a failure over the weekend. Now, BP officials are preparing to try a custom built cap to fit over the leak site.

Meantime, weeks after the devastating explosion of the deep horizon oil rig, some troubling new insights are coming to light.

Newly-released documents show BP was having problems controlling this well back in March and possibly earlier.

An e-mail from a BP official to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) on March 10 says, "We are in the midst of a well control situation".

The BP e-mail says they have a "stuck pipe", and, "We are bringing out equipment to begin operations to sever the drill pipe, plug back the well and bypass".

The next day, engineers were supposed to do a routine test to make sure the blowout preventer worked. But, in a follow-up e-mail, the BP official asks for a delay in that test, "With the give and take of the well and hole behavior, we would feel much more comfortable getting at least one of the two plugs set in order to fully secure the well prior to testing the BOP (blowout preventer)".

We asked Tulane Energy Institute Professor Eric Smith what it meant for BP to ask for a delay in the test. "I think it is significant that she asked MMS for this, this waiver, if you will. Although, I think, from my perspective, it would make a lot of sense that if she was having a well control problem -- probably a kick, incipient blowout if you will, or a gas-bubble in the system -- that she would say, 'I don't want to remove my main line of defense until I've made other arrangements.

According to the e-mail exchange, MMS first refused BP's request to delay the blow-out preventer test.

The BP official fired back saying she had "major concerns". Indicating the seriousness of the well problem.

The MMS finally granted a delay.

I asked a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which released these documents, what he thought about that. "They should have at least stopped operations, stabilized the well," said Representative Bart Stupak. "So, why didn't they get the well under control, and do a top review to make sure that everything is proper?"

BP Executive Bob Dudley addressed that on ABC's 'This Week'. There were issues of well-control, signs out there, and there are strict procedures that are written.

The rig owner is Transocean. A representative for Transocean says everything having to do with the well -- including the design, construction and completion of it -- was the responsibility of BP.

President Obama will meet for the first time Tuesday with the commission he's put together to investigate the Gulf oil spill.

BP admits the leak will get worse when the oil giant attempts to install a new pipe into the well Wednesday.

So far, everything BP has done to stop or slow the spill has failed. A relief well, which many feel is the best solution, won't be ready until August.

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