METAIRIE, La. — An investigator who examined the safety device that failed to prevent last year’s BP oil spill said Monday his company did not skip critical tests under pressure to meet a deadline to file a report on what caused the contraption not to work.
Neil Thompson, a Det Norske Veritas vice president, told a federal investigative panel that tests that were removed would not have affected the determination of why the blowout preventer failed.
DNV’s March 23 report concluded the device failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe.
“We don’t believe that conclusion would change,” Thompson said.
The report appears to shift some blame for the disaster away from the oil giant and toward those who built and maintained the 300-ton safety device. It was built by Cameron and maintained by Transocean.
At least one outside expert has said the findings cast serious doubt on the reliability of all other blowout preventers used by the drilling industry.
BP and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board argue that more testing should have been done before conclusions were reached. Cameron contends backup data should have been given to the parties when the report was filed.
Documents emerged early in the probe showing that a part of the device had a hydraulic leak, which would have reduced its effectiveness. There were also concerns raised about batteries in the control pods used with the blowout preventer and a “deadman” trigger that is supposed to activate the device when power to the rig is lost.
Gary Kenney, the lead investigator assigned by DNV to handle the blowout preventer analysis, testified Monday that testing showed low battery function in one of the control pods and inconsistent power function to operate a component of the other control pod. But he said those issues were dismissed as primary contributing factors to the blowout preventer failure.
Kenney acknowledged that not all of the functions of the blowout preventer stack were tested.
Under cross-examination from a Cameron attorney, Thompson acknowledged that a final DNV computer model of where the pipe was believed to have lodged inside the blowout preventer was not completely accurate. He also acknowledged he has no operational experience on a drilling rig and had never laid eyes on a blowout preventer before being asked to participate in testing the device used with BP’s Macondo well.