Contractor Says Strange Chemicals Were Involved in BP Rig Explosion

An ill-advised attempt to evade environmental laws may have been the major cause of BP's (BP) Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, testimony before a government panel revealed on Monday.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Leo Lindner, a drilling fluid specialist for contractor MI-Swaco who was on the rig, testified that BP injected large quantities of an unusual chemical mixture into the well to flush drilling mud from the hole hours before the April 20 explosion. The mixture was made up of two chemicals that the company wanted to dispose of, but couldn't under current environmental laws.

Lindner testified that mixing the chemicals to flush down the well first allowed BP to take advantage of an exemption in environmental law, thus allowing it to discharge the hazardous waste into the Gulf of Mexico. He said 400 barrels of the mixture were injected, nearly double the amount normally used during the process.

"It's not something we've ever done before," Lindner said.

After the rig explosion, a gray fluid resembling the mixture covered the rig. Stephen Bertone, chief engineer on the rig, testified that the material resembled "snot."

According to The Washington Post, an attorney for one of the rig workers theorized that using a larger than normal amount of the mixture may have affected the results of a pressure test on the well just before the blowout. Based on the test results, BP continued to displace the heavy drilling mud from the well when it may not have been safe.

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