"Gas Surge Shut Well a Couple of Weeks Before Gulf Oil Spill"

"Powerful puffs of natural gas, called kicks, are a normal occurrence in many deep-ocean drilling operations.

But one intense kick of natural gas caused the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to be shut down because of the fear of an explosion just weeks before a similar release succeeded in destroying and sinking the platform and sent millions of gallons of oil on a collision course with Louisiana and the rest of the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Shortly before the accident, engineers argued about whether to remove heavy drilling mud that acted as a last defense against such catastrophic kicks, and the decision to replace the mud with much lighter seawater won out.

Those are some of the new details gathered by Robert Bea, a University of California at Berkeley engineering professor better known in New Orleans as co-leader of an independent team of scientists that conducted a forensic investigation of the causes for the failure of levees and floodwalls during Hurricane Katrina. "

David Hammer and Mark Schleifstein report for the New Orleans Times-Picayune May 10, 2010.

See Also:

"Rig Blast Caused by Gas Hydrates, Berkeley Professor Believes" (Los Angeles Times)

"What Went Wrong on the Deepwater Horizon?" (AFP)

MMS Engineer Approved Blowout Preventer (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

MMS Leadership Questioned at Hearing (New Orleans Times Picayune)

Times-Picayune Gulf Spill Portal

Wednesday, May 12, 2010