60 Minutes Oil Spill Special: Survivor Tells Story: Watch Online
60 Minutes on CBS Aired an Oil Spill Special with Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Survivor Mike Williams; The Blame for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill is on BP's Shoulders
Mike Williams is one of the last survivors from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded and sunk and is now causing thousands of barrels of oil to spill out in to the Gulf of Mexico every day. He was the chief electronics technician in charge and met with 60 minutes correspondent Scott Pelley to talk about what happened leading up to the explosion and after. The CBS special can be watched online.
According to Mike Williams, the explosion that caused the sinking of the rig was not a freak accident and had been building for weeks before it happened. He told the cameras that the night the explosion occurred he heard the engines suddenly start to go crazy and that was when the explosive gas started leaking out on to the decks and were sucked in to the engines what powered the generators.
"I hear the engines revving. The lights are glowing. I'm hearing the alarms. I mean, they're at a constant state now. It's just, 'Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.' It doesn't stop. But even that's starting to get drowned out by the sound of the engine increasing in speed. And my lights get so incredibly bright that they physically explode. I'm pushing my way back from the desk when my computer monitor exploded," Williams told Pelley.
When the rig was first drilling down in to the ocean floor for oil and gas, they still had a number of metres to go, but they were not working at a fast enough pace. Williams said that a BP manager ordered a faster pace from the crew, meaning the drill would be going down in to the potentially explosive oil and gas faster. Due to the faster pace, the bottom of the well split open and that well had to be abandoned.
That move cost BP millions of dollars. Williams said that due to the amount of money lost, the crew knew that BP was going to ask 'for a big push'. He said the pressure to get the job done was increased.
Then, four weeks before the explosion, an accident on the rig damaged the 'most vital piece of safety equipment'. It is a rubber gasket called an annular at the top of a blowout preventer that is meant to seal off the drill pipe in case of an emergency. However, when the crew did seal the pipe, a crew member accidentally applied hundreds of thousands of pounds of force, meaning chunks of rubber were discovered in the drilling fluid.
"He discovered chunks of rubber in the drilling fluid. He thought it was important enough to gather this double handful of chunks of rubber and bring them into the driller shack. I recall asking the supervisor if this was out of the ordinary. And he says, 'Oh, it's no big deal.' And I thought, 'How can it be not a big deal? There's chunks of our seal is now missing,'" Williams told Pelley.
There was apparently no way to know how much damage was done. When there was a meeting to discuss how they were going to seal the well, Williams said that a manager from BP changed the process at the last minute and 'communication broke down'.
Mike Williams describes the terror and confusion on the rig the night of the explosion and he was knocked out when the gas exploded. He said he made a decision to get outside, even if it killed him, and eventually he did make it out on to the deck only to notice that the rig had no communication systems between them and the blowout preventor.
He said that the lifeboats had also left him on board along with the captain, but eight others managed to drop an inflatable raft from a crane in to the water. He was left with another man and a woman named Andrea and he made the decision to jump in to the water; about 90 to 100 feet below.
He plunged in to the water and just started swimming and he was covered in oil but he made it far enough until someone put him in their boat.
Now Mike Williams' testimony will be key to the investigation in to the BP oil spill. The key part seems to be Williams' story about the damage to the annular four weeks before the explosion.
Here's why that's so important: the annular is used to seal the well for pressure tests. And those tests determine whether dangerous gas is seeping in.
"So if the annular is damaged, if I understand you correctly, you can't do the pressure tests in a reliable way?" Pelley asked.
"That's correct. You may get pressure test recordings, but because you're leaking pressure, they are not reliable," Bea explained.
According to the man investigating the disaster, Dr. Bob Bea, BP should have stopped the drilling weeks before the explosion and thought of another way.
They didn't stop. As the drilling fluid was removed, downward pressure was relieved; the bottom plug failed. The blowout preventer didn't work. And 11 men were incinerated; 115 crewmembers survived.
And two days later, the Deepwater Horizon sank to the bottom.