A federal panel investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster said Friday that its probe might not be complete until July 27 — 15 months after the well blowout that killed 11 workers and triggered the nation’s worst oil spill.
The joint inquiry by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Interior Department had already received one extension and had planned to wrap up work by the end of March.
But delays in testing the blowout preventer that failed to stop gushing oil at BP’s doomed Macondo well prompted the government to ask for more time.
“The condition of the BOP, as well as additional unanticipated events, were the reasons for the delay,” the joint investigation said in a statement.
A lawmaker and the Chemical Safety Board have questioned whether the integrity of the BOP testing has been damaged by the involvement of Transocean employee who served as the subsea supervisor on the Deepwater Horizon rig that was drilling the Macondo well.
Since November, the forensic analysis firm DNV Columbus Inc. has been testing the 60-foot-tall, 300-ton device at a NASA facility in New Orleans. DNV expects to complete the forensic analysis within the next two weeks and now is slated to issue its report to the joint investigation team by March 20.
The results of the BOP examination will be scrutinized during public hearings the week of April 4.
Separate investigations of the Deepwater Horizon disaster are ongoing, including probes by the National Academy of Engineering and the Chemical Safety Board. A presidential commission released its final report on Jan. 11, concluding that the oil spill revealed “systemic” failures by the offshore drilling industry and federal regulators.