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Gulf Coast Oil Spill Update: Fundamental Mistakes led to Disaster

May 26, 2010 – According to a new congressional memo, Deepwater Horizon oil rig operators made a “fundamental mistake” by ignoring a “very large abnormality” in a pressure test.

The memo stated operators erred by releasing pressure in a “kill line” while pressure in a drill pipe remained at 1,400 pounds per square inch. Operators also missed a series of warning signs prior to the explosion, including indications that more fluid was flowing out of the well than was being pumped in.

In the hours leading up to the blast, a riser pipe had a loss of fluid, suggesting leaks. Two hours before the event, a system gained 15 barrels of fluid when five were expected, suggesting an “influx from the well.” 41 minutes before the explosion, the pump was shut down and pressure unexpectedly increased.

The memo, which was signed on Tuesday and signed by Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak, also stated that the operators had trouble with cement used to hold back gas in the well, and a step in the cementing process had to be repeated nine times. A test performed after cementing was completed “may not have been definitive,” and may have been contaminated, making the cement weaker than it was intended to be.

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