Who ordered the alterations in the blowout preventer, the 500,000-pound mass of gears and hydraulic valves that sits atop and underwater well and is intended to snap the pipe if disaster threatens, was the subject of dispute at Wednesday's hearing.FDL has a webpage summarizing and keeping track of the unfolding disaster.
Transocean, the owner of the blowout preventer and of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, said any alterations would have come at BP's instigation; BP, which owns the well and hired Transocean to drill it, said it had never sought the changes.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said the changes prevented BP's engineers from activating a "variable bore ram" intended to close tight around the pipe and seal it.
"When they investigated why their attempts failed to activate the bore ram," Stupak said of BP engineers, "they learned that the device had been modified. A useless test ram _ not the variable bore ram _ had been connected to the socket that was supposed to activate the variable bore ram."
"An entire day’s worth of precious time had been spent engaging rams that closed the wrong way.” [emphasis added]
This reminds me of the time when my father and I were reviewing the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack. I came across the item that pointed out that actually, had the Monitor's guns been tested to their full extent, their cannonballs would have torn right through the Merrimack's armor and ended the battle very quickly. Dad pointed out "The people who denied victory to the Union were not the people on the ship. The person who messed up was the guy in charge of the testing program. Had he done his job, the Monitor would have promptly knocked out the Merrimack!" His statement rung true then and rings true today. The battle doesn't always depend on those who are on the front lines. Sometimes, it's the people long ago and far away who are decisive.