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Gulf oil spill puzzle: A giant piece begins long rise to surface

BP raises the titanic steel blowout preventer, whose failure led to the Gulf oil spill, one of the world's worst. What story will it tell?

Part of the containment cap is pictured in this video grab from a BP live video feed at the site of the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. BP said it removed the cap from its ruptured well Thursday.


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The mystery of why the massive blowout preventer at the heart of the Deepwater Horizon accident failed and caused the enormous Gulf oil spill is a step closer to being solved.

Clearing the way for the drilling of a final relief well to permanently kill the Macondo well, BP and its now well-worn underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) disconnected the troubled piece of equipment at 1:20 Central time Friday in order to lift it to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

The pesky four-story steel structure, part of the BOP "riser package" that connected the rig to the wellhead, failed at the time of the Deepwater explosion, leading to one of the world's worst industrial oil spills. It later continued to thwart attempts by BP's deepwater submarines to manually activate its hydraulic on-board "shearing rams."

The blowout preventer is expected to become a key piece of evidence in several federal probes, including criminal investigations, to find out the cause of the spill.

Investigators are likely to find at least some remnants of the tons of debris -- including golf balls and shredded tires -- that BP attempted to jam into the BOP to stop the flow. The underwater gusher was finally stopped on July 15 after BP placed a large containment cap on top of the riser package to stabilize the well, and then jammed cement into the wellhead. The containment cap was successfully removed Thursday.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal incident commander, said it will take 24 to 36 hours for the BOP to make the long trip from the Gulf's darkest depths to the surface.

"We will continue to closely monitor progress as the BOP, which along with the latching device weighs approximately one million pounds, is lifted to the surface in the next 24-36 hours," Mr. Allen said in a statement.


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