Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Thoughts on the BP Oil Spill Pt.1

Instead of posting a small bit on the BP oil spill in response to Boon's previous post, I figured I would post a little more on my take on the overall event. Although this sounds stupid to say, any of the things that I post on this blog are my thoughts and not that of my company. Additionally, my knowledge of "upstream" (which is exploring for new oil/natural gas wells and producing from those wells) is very narrow, so I cannot give any sort of in depth analysis on how things work, etc.

So, where do I begin. Just to start, I think that what is going on in the Gulf is a very bad situation. On the scale of 0 to 10 in terms of what the consequences of the event are, I'd put it at an 8. The consequences of the event are 11 dead (worst offshore incident in U.S. history) and a large environmental impact that will cost billions of dollars in the end to recover from. The worst offshore disaster ever was the Piper Alpha incident, which killed 167 people and had a total economic impact of $3.4 billion. A ~30 minute video recaping the Piper Alpha event can be watched via YouTube (I recommend watching).

In terms of BP, this isn't the first tarnish on their record. Although I do not remember this when it occurred, they had an explosion at their Texas City refinery in 2005 that killed 15 people and injured 170 more. A video (quite long) covering the investigation to this incident can be viewed on the link below. This is an hour long, but I feel this is one of the best videos that give insight into how much risk this business takes; it also how important the proper operation of safety critical devices are. This event is the most infamous internal to the petrochemical world and has lead to significant changes to the current U.S. petrochemical regulations.

The reason I posted these videos (if you watched them or not) is to highlight that it typically takes multiple failures on physical equipment, engineering, and organizational levels to result in a very severe event as the videos listed above and the current BP incident in the gulf. This is a very big thing to understand because of how society currently thinks. The current society thinks there is one thing/person/company to blame and that all it takes is more oversight to make things better.

So what I am I getting at with all this rambling and video posting? 1) This event is a very significant event and will likely re-shape the offshore oil industry in the U.S. from now into the future. 2) This likely wasn't one thing that failed. It will be a combination of multiple things, potentially including some type of organizational or management problem (work systems). But realistically, until an OFFICIAL investigation is performed, we won't know the true cause of the incident. I don't trust a 30 day investigation that will be put together for the government to sit on Capitol Hill and tell the U.S. why this happened. 3) This industry is extremely dangerous and the consequences of a single event are huge.

I actually am going to dip out for now because this took longer than expected, but I will continue posting my thoughts tomorrow. This was more of a ramble post, but it gets the discussion going.


term said...

Also, the Piper Alpha event was non-BP for clarification.

Staboski said...

Too bad they block youtube at work. I'll have to peep them tonight at home and then respond.

nyphon said...

i watched the first one and it got me thinking. could you image working out there? that would suck sooo much. but i bet they get paid big bucks for that

term said...

One of the most interesting things about the Piper Alpha event was that a majority of the people who actually followed the procedure to stay in the "safe haven" were killed. This was all due to the engineering group modifying the rig to fit a new purpose when it wasn't safe enough to do so.