Oil rig safety device was defective

The chairman of a congressional subcommittee said yesterday that it had uncovered significant problems with the device that was supposed to cut the oil flow after BP's oil rig exploded, creating a massive unchecked spill.

Representative Bart Stupak, head of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said the rig's underwater blowout preventer had a leak in its hydraulic system and the device was not powerful enough to cut through joints to seal the drill pipe.

He said the panel also discovered that the blowout preventer had been modified, which made it difficult to operate after the accident. Mr Stupak added that the device's emergency back-up controls may have failed because the explosion that destroyed the rig also disabled communications.

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

Senior executives involved in the Gulf of Mexico disaster returned to Capitol Hill yesterday for the second day of hearings.

Jack Moore, president of Cameron International Corp, which built the blowout preventer, said that it was "far too early" to draw conclusions on what caused the accident.

He said that the company has not been able to examine the blowout preventer. REUTERS