A senior House Democrat said that the blowout preventer that failed to stop an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a "useless" test version of one of the devices that was supposed to close the flow of oil and a cutting tool that wasn't strong enough to shear through joints that made up 10 percent of the drill pipe.
In a devastating review of the blowout preventer that BP said was supposed to be "fail-safe," Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said in a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday that the device was anything but fail-safe.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) pressed BP on why it had assured regulators in its exploration plan that it could deal with a spill 50 times larger than the current one when the current one seems to have defied control technology. "The American people expect you to have a response comparable to the Apollo project, not 'Project Runway,' " Markey said.
Stupak said that the committee investigators had also uncovered a document prepared in 2001 by the drilling rig operator Transocean that said there were 260 "failure modes" that could require removal of the blowout preventer.
"How can a device that has 260 failure modes be considered fail-safe?" Stupak said.
In addition, an oil industry whistleblower told Huffington Post that BP had been aware for years that tests of the device were being falsified in Alaska.
Mike Mason, who worked on oil rigs in Alaska for 18 years, says that he observed cheating on blowout preventer tests at least 100 times, including on many wells owned by BP.
As he describes it, the test involves a chart that shows whether the device will hold a certain amount of pressure for five minutes on each valve. (The test involves increasing the pressure from 250 pounds per square-inch (psi) to 5,000 psi.) "Sometimes, they would put their finger on the chart and slide it ahead -- so that it only recorded the pressure for 30 seconds instead of 5 minutes," he tells HuffPost.
Mason claims that a BP representative was usually present while subcontractors performed the tests.
The 48-year-old veteran oil worker claims that in the oil industry, particularly at BP, "the culture is basically safety procedures are shoved down your throat and then they look the other way when it's convenient for them." He claims that oil operators often wouldn't report spills and that when he spilled chemical fluid in 2003, he was told by his superiors not to report it. Mason, who now runs a small operation hauling freight in the Alaskan bush and owns guest cabins, says he was fired by a drilling company in 2006 after he wrote a letter to the editor of the Anchorage Daily News to condemn the firm for incorporating overseas and thereby avoiding taxes.