1-year after BP Disaster, Transocean Execs Unconscionably Greedy, DOI Arrogant

Posted on April 20th, 2011 by Sherri

Today, we remember the 11 crew members who died in the explosion of the Transocean DeepWater Horizon oil rig and the very long, disastrous oil spill that followed. The disaster began 1 year ago tonight.

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.

There is an ongoing investigation and a forensic study of the blowout preventer (BOP) that failed. Here is the link to the DNV report Forensic Examination Report of DeepWater Horizon Blowout Preventer (pdf)

There are problems with the studies done on the BOP by DNV that were revealed in court on April 5. Studies were performed using computer models instead of actual laboratory testing. The report doesn’t include the data used in the models. The testing may have been rushed as well. There are still too many questions about the blowout preventer that need real answers. This doesn’t change the known failure rate of 45%. That was measured by real blowout preventer failures.

Here is a link to Bob Cavnar’s blog, The Daily Hurricane with more video and analysis. It’s a great resource for details about this disaster you won’t find unless you read the New Orleans Times-Picayune or Houston Chronicle newspapers.

Here is a real kick in the teeth from Transocean, on whose rig the crew members were killed:

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That is unconscionable!!! How is killing 11 workers and spilling oil in the Gulf for months in any way safe? They should be ashamed of even contemplating a safety award. If this was a safe year, what is a dangerous year?

At least they gave the safety award money to the families of the dead. They even skimped on some of that. Here is Bob Cavnar’s take on how they recalculated the safety portion of their bonuses.

I agree with Rachel that corporations are not people and that’s why we need government to make them behave. But I disagree that we shouldn’t expect more humane and moral behavior out of them. They may not be people, but they are run by people who make all those corporate decisions that ultimately hurt people, or help them. If corporations can’t be run with at least some benevolence toward the humans that work for them and live in the communities they inhabit, maybe we should get rid of major corporations. It’s not going to happen, but it might solve a lot of the problems we face today, and not just in the oil industry.

The culture of a corporation is dictated by the people who run it. Corporations can be humane, good citizens, and caring members of their communities. Or they can be the bane of those communities.

If there is a deep culture of safety and doing things right over profits, corners won’t be cut and preventable accidents will be prevented. If an accident does occur, it doesn’t take a government shut-down to stop operations until all the facts of the accident are known and deficiencies corrected. Corporations that put safety first reap the benefits. Having to deal with a major accident that causes employee deaths and a catastrophe is not profitable.

Another thing that makes it clear that corporations aren’t people is when they kill 11 workers, no one gets arrested or goes to jail, at least not unless they can prove individuals are directly responsible. Big, systemic mistakes and lack of adequate design, forethought and training somehow don’t make any individuals responsible. The explanation? Accidents happen. But they don’t have to if the corporate culture puts safety first.

Drilling permits are being awarded again.

Interview with Michael Bromwich, the person who grants drilling permits, on April 7 (16 min.):

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I’m especially shocked that Mr. Bromwich didn’t care that U.S. oil rig workers have a death rate 4 times higher than workers in Europe. My God. The DOI doesn’t care about a higher death rate? He could have said something contrite, or caring, or we’re greatly disturbed by this and are studying it thoroughly. My mouth still hangs open when I watch this video, and I’ve seen it more than a few times.

It is important that there are new procedures and better training is being done on the cementing of wells. (See the previous post). Had that been done correctly, it is likely this well would not have blown out and we wouldn’t have had to rely on a faulty BOP, which failed. But if BOPs are required on all rigs in the U.S., and they only work 55% of the time, why are they required and relied on as a last line of protection?

Containment can now be done in 17 days instead of 87 days according to Mr. Bromwich. While 17 days is better than 87, there was a hell of a lot of oil already in the Gulf after 17 days. That’s not good enough:

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There may not be a national freak-out, but I’m freaked out. I can’t believe Mr. Bromwich’s attitude.

Associated Press finally reporting on oil rig disasters:

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The deep water drilling industry had/has a huge failure of imagination, just like those in charge of our nuclear power plants. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster after a 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami suffered the same lack of imagination.

The powers that be in both industries failed to imagine that all their back-up and fail-safe equipment could fail. They just assumed they had enough back-ups and redundancies that something like that couldn’t happen. The same goes for worst-case scenarios about levees and the catastrophic flooding of New Orleans and other areas that rely on levees for flood control. No one imagined everything could go wrong at once. Well, it can. Future policies, rules and procedures need to make sure that the worst possible circumstances are addressed, no matter how remote.

BP’s Chairman really doesn’t have a clue about how much damage this disaster caused, nor does he seem to really care that 11 people died.

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I’m beginning to think when something like this happens, the executives in charge should be thrown into the oil they are spilling. Maybe one executive should be dumped into the oily water and sacrificed for each worker injured or killed? That’s a bit Old-Testament, but damn, this is infuriating.

The worst thing of all is the government regulators seems to be more concerned about the oil industry than about the people their mistakes impact. Maybe we should throw them in, too.

I keep putting up posts about this disaster because the whole of this; the loss of life, the environmental damage, it’s meaning for our future, and our expectations about safety have not sunk in to oil industry executives or federal regulators.

Like Rachel, I’m going to keep covering this story as long as it affects Louisiana. I just hope someone with real power to make changes will read this, understand our outrage, and do the right things so this doesn’t happen again. Right now, I don’t have much faith in government regulations, and I have no faith in the oil industry.

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BP Disaster in Gulf: Flawed Blowout Preventers Still Being Used

Posted on April 19th, 2011 by Sherri

A lot of analysis has been done since last year, including a complete review of all procedures, and a forensic study of the blowout preventer that failed to close off the Macondo well. Ultimately, the last line of defense, the blowout preventer, failed, so there was nothing left to prevent the disaster.

Not many lessons that aren’t proprietary were learned, especially this one. The blowout preventers have a design flaw that causes them to fail about 45% of the time when a well blows out. The blowout can damage the blowout preventer to the point that it cannot function nearly half the time.

We don’t really have a handle on what has been learned because the oil industry claims those lessons are proprietary and won’t be made public. They’re saying “trust us”. I hope we can because it seems like we don’t have a choice.

Some things have changed, procedures have been reviewed, but not really that much. The main focus has been on training and stepped-up third-party inspection certification. New permits are now being approved by the Interior Department for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The rub is, the same blowout preventer technology is still being used on all these newly approved drilling rigs as well as all the older wells that use them. The last line of defense is still the same flawed piece of equipment that failed to prevent the blowout of the Macondo well.

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Here is the link to the DNV report Forensic Examination Report of DeepWater Horizon Blowout Preventer (pdf)

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Here is a link to The MaddowBlog with all the links and video collected through March 30, 2011 about this story. Here is a link to Bob Cavnar’s blog, The Daily Hurricane with more video and analysis.

Investigative journalism wasn’t welcome by the government on their decision to start issuing drilling permits. The Rachel Maddow Show received considerable complaints by the Interior Department about their coverage of the story:

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They don’t seem to like it that news of the biggest change made is well containment after a blowout happens. They now have the containment “hat” thing built and ready to be deployed along with remote operational vehicles (ROVs) when a well blows out. Now they don’t have to hurry up and build them on the fly.

President Obama promised no drilling would resume until we are sure it can be done safely:

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I want to highlight why Rachel stopped the tape to explain about the world oil market. Any oil that is drilled anywhere on the globe goes onto the world market and is sold to whoever is buying. Oil is fungible. That means it doesn’t matter where the oil comes from. Oil is oil. What we get out of the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t necessarily stay in the United States.

Here’s another example that may make the definition of “fungible” more clear. Think of a twenty dollar bill. I can trade my twenty for a ten, a five and 5 ones. I still have twenty dollars. I can trade my twenty dollar bill for your twenty dollar bill, and we both still have twenty dollars. Money is fungible, and in today’s world, oil is fungible.

The whole notion of domestic oil is false. Anyone saying we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil doesn’t understand how the market works. If we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we have to reduce our dependence on oil period. In a world market, domestic and foreign oil are all the same thing. Oil is fungible.

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What happens when the blowout preventer fails? How about we improve drilling and design so that we don’t depend so much on blowout preventers or post-blowout containment?

And how about we redesign the blowout preventers to actually prevent blowouts, and deploy them throughout the industry? That sounds like a way to create a lot of good manufacturing jobs. There are a lot of oil rigs.

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