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BP has removed capping stack, blowout preventer next

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's pointman on the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe Thursday evening announced that BP successfully removed a containment cap that had stopped crude oil from spewing into the Gulf of Mexico nearly two months ago and is expected to remove the well's dysfuntional blowout preventer later Thursday.

"Under the direction of the federal science team and U.S. government engineers, BP has completed the capping stack removal procedure _ an important step in the process to remove and preserve the damaged BOP," Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said in statement, using the common abbreviation for the blowout preventer. "This procedure was undertaken in accordance with specific conditions I set forth in a directive authorizing the capping stack removal and BOP replacement last week. BP will continue to follow these required conditions for the BOP removal procedure, which is expected to commence this evening. I will continue to provide updates as necessary."

Allen's conditions included a requirement that a Justice Department criminal evidence team be granted "unfettered access" to the operation and that it take control of both the capping stack and the blowout preventer, whose failure to shut down the well April 20 is one of the central issues in both criminal and civil investigations into the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

Eleven oil rig workers died in the initial blast and fire. The Deepwwater Horizon rig sank two days later. BP and Transocean, which BP hired to drill the well, have blamed one another for the BOP's failure to sever the drill pipe as oil and methane surged up it.

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