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You are here News Energy Report adds to doubts about key oil rig safety equipment

Report adds to doubts about key oil rig safety equipment

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Boaters make their way along the edge of the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.As offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere boomed, a 2003 report warned that the industry wasn't taking time to find and fix the problems that commonly plagued blowout preventers — the supposedly failsafe mechanisms designed to stop oil spills such as the one now threatening the gulf coast.

The report, delivered at an industry conference seven years ago and uncovered by the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was co-authored by the then-director of technology development for Transocean, the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that caught fire on April 20 and sank two days later.

Though the accident's cause remains unknown, an apparent malfunction of the blowout preventer, which sat on the wellhead beneath 5,000 feet of water, has allowed more than 200,000 gallons of oil to escape daily, creating a massive spill.

"There is clear evidence that the oil industry has been well aware for years of the risk that blowout preventers on offshore rigs could fail," said Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee's oceans, atmosphere, fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee.

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