Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer being transported by barge to a NASA facility in New Orleans.

The 50 foot, 300-ton, blowout preventer from the Deepwater Horizon arrived at a NASA facility in New Orleans this afternoon.

The preventer is a key piece of evidence in the investigation into what caused the April 20th explosion on the Deepwater Horizen. The explosion killed 11 men, and began a 12 week effort to stop oil from flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken well. It’s estimated that 4.9 million barrels gushed from the well before it was finally plugged on June 15th.

On September 4th, the preventer was raised from a mile below the surface. It took almost 30 hours to raise the five story high device, which was then secured to an oil field construction vessel, the Helix Q4000.  It was then transferred to a barge for delivery to the NASA facility.

Its been widely assumed that the preventer failed in some manner. However, a recent report by BP indicated that the preventer worked, but workers only triggered it after a portion of the gas had already passed its valves. The gas that escaped capture continued up the pipe. Not realizing how much gas had escaped, workers funnelled the gas through the rig’s systems, rather than dumping it overboard. The volume of gas overwhelmed the system, containment was lost, and the rig exploded when the gas was ignited by a spark.

The BP report was released prior to the preventer being raised and inspected.  Analysis of the preventer will tell if BP’s version of the event matches up with the physical evidence.

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