updated 10/6/2010 8:47:14 PM ET 2010-10-07T00:47:14

The 300-ton device that failed to stop the massive Gulf oil spill — considered a key piece of evidence in the investigation into the disaster — has not been analyzed a month after it was raised from the seafloor, a Coast Guard official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The government had told a federal judge that necessary equipment would be procured and sufficient space for the blowout preventer would be constructed so the examination could begin on Oct. 1. But the analysis has yet to begin because officials are still waiting for testing procedures to be approved, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Suzanne Kerver told the AP.

The delay could prolong the work of a federal panel investigating the cause of the oil rig explosion and the spill it triggered. A multi-agency government investigative team has the final say on the testing techniques, according to court records.

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"It's really important that they get those procedures vetted," Kerver said. "They want to absolutely ensure it is done accurately and appropriately."

The device was raised from the seafloor on Sept. 4 and later taken to a NASA facility in New Orleans where officials from the space agency say it is being preserved for testing. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the delay.

Story: Panel: Feds blocked worst-case Gulf spill figures

An April 20 blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig killed 11 workers and led to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from BP PLC's undersea well. Blowout preventers are hulking devices that are designed to shut in oil in the event of an explosion or major well-control problem. In the Deepwater Horizon case, the valves would not stay closed, allowing oil to spew into the sea.

The joint U.S. Coast Guard-Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement panel, which is also trying to find ways to improve safety, was holding hearings in New Orleans this week.

In Wednesday testimony, a BP contractor who handled logistics aboard the doomed rig was asked about a helicopter flight that took workers for oil services firm Schlumberger off the vessel hours before the explosion. Also, a BP negotiator who handles agreements involving offshore projects was asked about the cost of building the well that blew out and the relationship between BP and its partners.

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BP was a majority owner of the well that blew out and was leasing the rig that exploded from Transocean Ltd.

BP offshore land negotiator Michael Beirne said that there are e-mails showing that minority well owners Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and MOEX 2007 LLC were provided real-time data from the rig in the days before the explosion.

The disclosure could be a factor down the road in parceling out financial liability for the disaster.

BP has already spent more than $11 billion related to the cleanup and response to the spill. It also has agreed to set aside $20 billion for a victim's compensation fund, and it faces tens of billions of dollars in fines, penalties and other potential liabilities from the disaster.

Anadarko and MOEX would be excused from paying their share of the damages if BP were deemed grossly negligent or shown to have committed willful misconduct, according to an agreement among the three parties. Absent such a finding, the partners would be responsible for a portion of the damages, depending on the amount of their culpability, according to testimony at the hearings Wednesday.

Beirne also testified that the Macondo well project was nearly $60 million over budget days before the explosion.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Oil spill commission deeply critical of Obama team

  1. Closed captioning of: Oil spill commission deeply critical of Obama team

    >>> disaster and an investigation ordered by the white house of the government's handling of that catastrophe. turns out the panel is coming down hard on the obama administration. our white house correspondent savannah guthrie with us with the story tonight.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. this is an early report, not the final record on the response. but it does fault the obama administration for a lack of competence on the issue of how much oil was leaking. for months, tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil gushed into the gulf, disrupting wildlife and a way of life . but now a draft report from a commission appointed by president obama is sharply critical of his administration for underestimating how much oil was spilling into the gulf and overestimating how quickly the oil disappeared once the leak was stopped. by doing so, the report concludes the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the american people about the scope of the problem. among the findings, the government took initial estimates about the rate of the oil leak on bp's word alone, without supporting documentation. and used crude methodology to determine how much oil was leaking and was overly casual about the numbers. while estimates at the same time from private scientists were significantly higher, and used more clear and rigorous analysis.

    >> there's no doubt in my mind the original numbers were significantly lower than the flow was. from what i've seen, i don't see that the government was intentionally trying to low ball the oil spill estimates.

    >> reporter: the report says when some government scientists thought to publy size their figures, they were blocked by the white house . but the white house says worst case data was available then and points to examples of top officials in early may being quite candid about how bad it could be.

    >> the worst case scenario is we could have 100,000 barrels of oil coming out.

    >> our scientists have done an official assessment and more than three quarters of the oil is gone, the vast majority of the oil is gone.

    >> reporter: but the report says the administration misused the data to come to an overly sweeping conclusion. again, this is just a staff report, not the final word. it doesn't answer that ultimate question, whether all this confusion about the flow rate of the oil into the gulf affected the government's sponsor cleanup. the white house has always insisted it based its response on the worst case scenario of more than 100,000 barrels a day going into the gulf and ultimately those figures, about 62,000 is what was concluded was flowing


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