Oil probe evidence retrieved

Washington – Workers have retrieved the failed blowout preventer from BP’s Macondo oil well, giving US investigators a key piece of evidence as they probe the reasons behind the biggest maritime spill yet.

The raising of the giant safety valve from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico will allow experts to study the device to determine why it crucially failed to shut off the well when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20.

Two days after the blast, which killed 11 workers, the rig sank to the sea floor 1 500m down and toxic crude gushed uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico for almost three months.

Parts of the resulting slick washed ashore on all five southern US states that border the Gulf of Mexico, ruining pristine marshlands and tourist beaches and devastating the coastal economy for years to come.

US spill chief Thad Allen announced on Saturday that the blowout prevent, known as the BOP, was safely in the hands of federal investigators on a surface vessel after being removed from the wellhead and hoisted up.

“The BOP is considered evidentiary material, and is now under the supervision of the Deepwater Horizon Criminal Investigation Team and FBI Evidence Recovery Team,” Allen said.

BP finally succeeded in capping the Macondo well in mid-July, and last month performed a static kill operation that sealed the bottom of the reservoir by pumping in cement from the top.

“I’m very pleased to announce that with the new blowout preventer on this well, the cement that was previously put into this well, that this well does not constitute a threat to the Gulf of Mexico at this point,” said Allen.

The former Coast Guard chief said efforts would likely resume this week to finish a relief well that will allow a final “kill” operation to be performed below the seabed.

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