12 May 2010

US oil industry watchdog to be broken up

4:11 pm on 12 May 2010

A United States federal oil industry watchdog is to be broken up amid conflict of interest fears following the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has unveiled the plans to split up the Minerals Management Service which both inspects rigs and collects oil royalties, the BBC reports.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April, killing 11 workers and causing a huge oil slick.

Attempts to plug the leak have so far been unsuccessful. Oil company BP will make a second attempt this week to seal the well.

Meanwhile, the three main oil companies involved in the Gulf Coast oil disaster have been blaming each other as their chief executives were were grilled at a Senate hearing into the spill.

BP, the well's owner and lead operator of the project, sought to turn attention to Transocean, which had a contract to drill the well for BP using its Deepwater Horizon drill rig.

BP drew attention to a valve that was supposed to shut off the well in case of an accident.

Transocean said it was unclear why the valve, called a blowout preventer, did not work as it had performed properly in tests a week before the accident.

It said the failure was not the ultimate cause and it was responsibility of the well's owner to set all specifications for the drilling process, CNN reports.

The White House says US President Barack Obama is deeply frustrated that the oil leak has not yet been stopped.