BP Engineer Called Doomed Rig a "Nightmare Well"

Six days before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP drilling engineer called the rig a "nightmare well" that had caused the company problems in the past.

The comment by BP engineer Brian Morel came in an e-mail April 14. On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 11 people and sent tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf in the nation's worst environmental disaster.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

The e-mail was among dozens of internal documents released Monday in Washington by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the explosion and its aftermath. Committee leaders said BP made a series of questionable decisions before the explosion that "posed a trade-off between cost and well safety."

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The revelations came as President Barack Obama toured the oil-ravaged Gulf coast Monday, asserting that BP appeared ready to meet his demand for a multibillion-dollar, independently-run damage fund.

Spokesman Bill Burton told reporters with the president that the administration and BP were "working out the particulars," such as the exact amount of the fund and how it would be run.

Burton said the account would be in the hands of a third-party and would amount to "billions of dollars."

Aside from the compensation fund, administration officials have also said that BP has submitted a revised containment strategy that should increase the amount of oil captured to more than 50,000 barrels a day by the end of June, two weeks earlier than originally planned, reports CBS Radio News White House correspondent Peter Maer.

The new plan was in response to a Coast Guard demand Saturday that the company speed up the containment processs. Currently, containment efforts in the Gulf are siphoning off approximately 15,000 barrels of oil a day. That capacity is expected to increase to up to 28,000 barrels by the end of the week as BP moves additional equipment into the area, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told reporters Monday.

BP's original plan called for a gradual buildup of containment capacity, peaking at 50,000 barrels by mid-July. Now the company is hoping to capture up to 53,000 barrels a day by the end of June. Capacity could be increased to up to 80,000 barrels by the middle of July, if needed, according to the new plan.

Increasingly accurate estimates of the spill have brought the enormity of the disaster into focus. Already potentially more than 100 million gallons of crude expelled into the Gulf, far outstripping the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

For Mr. Obama, it is imperative that he try to help guide the country through what's to come. Mr. Obama will aim to accomplish that with his speech Tuesday and also detail specifics of the response to the oil spill, from cleanup to damages claims.

Burton said Obama will address both worker safety and food safety "to make sure the American people know we're doing everything we can and we're monitoring in each and every place possible."

The symbolism of using the Oval Office for an address for the first time in Obama's presidency was deliberate, and a decision made by the president himself, Burton said. "What we're seeing in the Gulf is a catastrophe the likes of which our country has never seen," he said.

The next day, Wednesday, Mr. Obama will convene his first meeting with BP PLC executives, expected to include the company's much-criticized CEO, Tony Hayward. And on Thursday, BP executives will likely face angry lawmakers as they testify on Capitol Hill.

(AP/CBS/NOAA)
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