BP accused of faulty device in US oil leak

City A.M. Reporter
US lawmakers pressed BP executives about flaws in a crucial well safety device yesterday while the oil giant scrambled with its latest deep-sea effort to control the huge Gulf of Mexico spill that threatens environmental disaster.

BP said it hoped to have a small containment dome in place by late today to staunch the oil flow.

BP, Transocean and Halliburton were all back in the hot seat in Washington over their responsibility in a rig explosion that killed 11 and triggered what could be the worst-ever US oil spill if the crude keeps spewing unchecked into the Gulf at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day.

A US House of Representatives panel said it had uncovered significant problems with a safety control mechanism on BP’s oil well that could have contributed to the accident. Representative Bart Stupak said his panel’s investigation showed the Deepwater Horizon rig’s underwater blowout preventer had a leak and was not powerful enough to cut off the oil flow before the rig blew up.

“The safety of its entire operations rested on the performance of a leaking and apparently defective blowout preventer,” Stupak said.

The hearing came, as proposed legislation rushed out by US President Barack Obama in response to the crisis could see oil companies face an immediate tax rise of one cent per barrel to help to pay for the clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico. The measure would put an additional $500m (£34m) over ten years into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which covers damage caused by such disasters.