BP Brings Failed Blowout Preventer to Surface for Tests by Investigators

BP Plc bought to the surface the well-safety system that failed to prevent the largest U.S. offshore oil spill and a fire that killed 11 workers, for examination by federal officials.

The blowout preventer of the well that was being drilled by Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon rig for BP was secured at 10:20 p.m. local time yesterday aboard another drilling rig, BP said today in a statement on its website. The 50-foot (15-meter) valve stack will be stored by the federal government in New Orleans while attorneys haggle over procedures to determine why it failed, a U.S. District Judge ordered Sept. 3.

BP yesterday installed a new blowout preventer that’s expected to maintain a seal on the well 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf as BP injects cement into the bottom of the well, about 18,000 feet below the surface, to assure it is permanently sealed. BP stopped the gusher after capping the well with an additional valve assembly in July and later injected cement from the top.

“The well doesn’t constitute a threat to the Gulf of Mexico at this point,” National Incident Commander Thad Allen said yesterday in a conference call, declaring a near end to the effort to kill the well. The old blowout preventer is under supervision of criminal investigators and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Allen said.

Blowout preventers are intended to stop violent surges of oil and gas such as the April 20 gusher that ignited, destroyed the Deepwater Horizon and lead to the spill that the government estimates dumped more than 4 million barrels of crude into the Gulf, enough to fill two supertankers.

Performance Tests

Once the new blowout preventer passes performance tests, crews will proceed with a relief well designed to intercept the damaged hole and plug it with cement this week, Allen said. It will be up to the Department of Interior to determine when the well can be declared abandoned, he said.

Transocean, which leased the rig to BP, and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a partner in the well, objected to the U.S. having sole control over the blowout preventer and its testing. The companies asked the New Orleans judge to allow them to help decide what happens to the equipment and how it’s examined.

Cameron International Corp., the maker of the blowout preventer, previously lost a bid to delay removal of the equipment. The company said plans risked losing or altering material evidence, and it asked to postpone retrieval to allow photographing and recording of conditions. A delay would interfere with continuing well-control operations, the judge said in denying the motion.

Asset Sale Plan

BP increased the target for its asset sales to $40 billion from $30 billion to cover the rising clean-up cost of the Gulf spill, London’s Sunday Times newspaper reported today, citing sources it did not identify.

BP has put its $20 billion stake in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay up for sale, and is in the process of disposing of between $5 billion and $10 billion of its assets to TNK-BP, its Russian joint venture, the newspaper reported. The company’s clean-up cost has risen to $8 billion, it said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Polson in New York at jpolson@bloomberg.net.

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