Gas surge shut BP's oil well down a few weeks before Gulf spill

Discuss

16 Responses to “Gas surge shut BP's oil well down a few weeks before Gulf spill”

  1. Jvalver says:

    It’s called a kick, and those happen frequently in oil and gas drilling. The blowout preventer IS a remote shut off system used to control the well during all phases of drilling and completion. Until someone can say why this particular one failed, vilifying the parties involved is silly. The response to the accident is another story.

  2. jphilby says:

    By this time, I’m absolutely convinced that the people we’ve hired to do the right thing are not only not interested in that, they are deliberately doing everything they can think of — so long as we can be fooled into believing they mean well — to fuck things up *so badly* that none of it can ever be repaired.

    If somebody were *ordering* them to destroy the planet, but slowly enough that noone caught on, could they do any better?

  3. Anonymous says:

    “They are unable to leave their happy place where everything goes according to plan, because that might require independent thought or principled action.”

    As a mechanical engineer currently working in oil+gas industry, I’m afraid thats not very accurate. Engineers do consider what happens when things don’t go to plan (perhaps more in oil and gas than any other industry), in fact its a large part of what we spend our time doing. The first point I would make is that it is very difficult to accurately assess risk (quantitatively). Secondly it is impossible to eliminate risk from most human endeavours. You either need to chose to live in pre-industrial age society where we do not fly planes, drive cars, send people to the moon, build bridges, drill into the earth for resources, minerals, etc, or you need to accept that if there’s enough of these activities going on around the world, then from time to time things will fail. That’s not to say we can’t learn a lot from this – hopefully we learn more about how and why the Blowout Preventer failed and hopefully we can turn that into either more stringent standards for design or maintenance of BOP’s, or perhaps additional back-up systems. But my point would be that its not always greed/incompetence that leads to failures of this kind, often it is just the inherent riskiness of what we’re actually doing.

    • Anonymous says:

      You either need to chose to live in pre-industrial age society where we do not fly planes, drive cars, send people to the moon, build bridges, drill into the earth for resources, minerals, etc, or you need to accept that if there’s enough of these activities going on around the world, then from time to time things will fail.

      Utterly false dichotomy! We can do better, and we do not have to choose between deep-water drilling and progress. In reality, drilling is impedes social and technological progress – every new oil well delays the inevitable move from finite polluting resources to sustainable non-polluting systems because new wells prevent the inevitable scarcity and price rises that drive improvements in a pseudo-capitalist world market.

      Cheap oil is the dead hand of the past strangling the future. It’s not a blessing, it’s a curse.

      It’s easy to see that managing risk is done competently by individuals every day (not all of them, admittedly, but most people survive their daily commute). But when risk is externalized by social structures such as corporate/government partnerships that recognize corporate objectives as equivalent or superior to individual objectives, risks cannot be managed competently. If BP’s executives were guaranteed to be killed slowly and painfully by any drilling mishaps, we would have fewer mishaps. If the drivers of cars were guaranteed to get lung cancer from pollution, we would have non-polluting cars practically overnight. Protection from consequences drives acceptance of inordinate risk; this is a basic principle.

      You all realize petroleum exploitation was a substitute for whaling, which came about because whale oil got to be too expensive, right? That’s what needs to happen to gasoline and home heating oil, it needs to cost ten times as much as carbon-neutral alternatives. Suck it up, petroleum addicts!

  4. Cowicide says:

    Among those tossed asunder by the explosions were BP officials who were on the rig to celebrate a seven-year spotless safety record.

    Wha?

  5. Anonymous says:

    A big ole navy a place called nassa a whole bunch of really smart people and we as a country do nothing while the gulf is turned into a huge oil puddle!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone asked about other oil rigs in the gulf? Are they safe or could this happen again? Are they being or can be checked to make sure their blow out preventers will work in an emergency? Any safety checks going on down there? Questions questions questions.

  7. Anonymous says:

    ” If the failure mode creates cost externalities or inordinate risk I redesign until it doesn’t. That means I would not build a “Deep Horizon” rig, because I am too good an engineer to build something with such a horrible failure mode. ”
    It sounds like you’ve just chosen to work in a less risky industry – I don’t see why that makes you a better engineer. I just find it a bit hypocritical that we all use products derived from crude oil every day of our lives, but our anger is only directed to the corporations profiting from these projects, or the engineers doing the design work. Don’t consumers need to take some responsibility for this too, since we’re the ones choosing to consume these products?

  8. AllisonWunderland says:

    “BP: Bringing Oil To America’s Shores.”

    It’s a T Shirt. I wish I’d thought of it. Is it just me or are we not seeing the BP “GreenWashing” ads on TV these days?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yeah obviously we don’t have to pursue every possible technological option – we might decide that some things aren’t worth the risk, and there’s nothing wrong with that – my point was simply that all technological progress involves risk. I think there’s a common misconception though that oil is purely used as a fuel – in reality, pretty much every thing you own (including the computer you’re using right now) is probably made from materials derived from crude oil (e.g. plastic). You can check out a (short) list of stuff here: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_products_are_derived_from_crude_oilYeah obviously we don’t have to pursue every possible technological option – we might decide that some things aren’t worth the risk, and there’s nothing wrong with that – my point was simply that all technological progress involves risk. I think there’s a common misconception though that oil is purely used as a fuel – in reality, pretty much every thing you own (including the computer you’re using right now) is probably made from materials derived from crude oil (e.g. plastic). You can check out a (short) list of stuff here: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_products_are_derived_from_crude_oilYeah obviously we don’t have to pursue every possible technological option – we might decide that some things aren’t worth the risk, and there’s nothing wrong with that – my point was simply that all technological progress involves risk. I think there’s a common misconception though that crude oil = petroleum – in reality, pretty much every thing you own (including the computer you’re using right now) was probably made from materials derived from crude oil (e.g. plastic). You can check out a (short) list of stuff here: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_products_are_derived_from_crude_oil

    • Anonymous says:

      my point was simply that all technological progress involves risk.

      But that’s an incorrect overgeneralization! Technological progress simply does not require or necessarily involve risks beyond the risks that are already present without the same “progress”.

      And, in many cases (such as undersea drilling) risk aversion would drive technology further than acceptance of risk. Undersea drilling at 5000 feet is stupid at our current level of technology.

      When risks are deemed acceptable we say they are “worth” the probable outcome. That sort of value judgment explicitly shows that economic relationships are important; if the cost of doing something risky exceeds the cost of not doing it, we will find a better way. If all the costs of oil exploitation are borne by Louisiana shrimpers and brown children in the Middle East, the oil companies have successfully externalized their risk and will continue to do things they shouldn’t. If the costs are instead borne by consumers of oil, those same consumers will find less risky, less costly ways to meet their end goals, and thus drive technology forward while simultaneously reducing oil companies incentive to engage in stupid behaviour.

      I’m an engineer too, and I know the failure modes of everything I design and build (if I can’t figure it out, I test empirically). If the failure mode creates cost externalities or inordinate risk I redesign until it doesn’t. That means I would not build a “Deep Horizon” rig, because I am too good an engineer to build something with such a horrible failure mode. Therefore, engineers less capable than I designed and built it.

  10. Daddyology says:

    There is so much going wrong with this entire thing — from the way we allow oil companies to destroy our environment, to BP’s refusal to install shut-off switches, to this report, to the failed clean up.

    The latter is actually the subject of a fantastic diary over at the Great Orange Satan (aka The Daily Kos) about the failures to install booms correct. It’s not overtly political–in fact, it is highly critical of the Obama administration and the Coast Guard—and from someone who claims to have 30 years in the oil industry. He details well the correct way to boom an oil spill, and how they’re doing it wrong. Way, way wrong.

    Note: The piece has some profane language, but it’s in there to capture the way those who do the real work on oil rigs, clean up, etc. really speak (as compared to the PR hacks and execs). So it’s not just in there to be there.

    Anyway, the link is: http://tinyurl.com/2cpv5v6

    • Ito Kagehisa says:

      Thank you for that link! The author also apparently predicted the failure of the containment dome here:

      http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2010/5/5/132139/0182/96#c96

      He says it could have worked if they’d used heating elements, insulation and methanol injection to keep the pipe from freezing up, but they chose to use bare pipe instead… leading to exactly the (avoidable) situation he predicted.

    • millrick says:

      thanks for those links Daddyology & Ito Kagehisa

      that dude is fucking amazing!
      can we have him a guest blogger???
      please? please? please?
      he’s “more useful than” god!

  11. Ito Kagehisa says:

    “BP fell into the same damn trap, and they were not engineering; they were ‘imagineering,’” he said. “Risk analysis continues to mislead us because we’re only looking at part of the risk.

    “The same trail of tears led to Katrina, to the Massey Big Branch (coal) mine disaster, and it’s showing up here again,” Bea said.

    I know exactly how this guy feels! I went to a public meeting locally to find out about a development to be built near my property. I asked the state and county engineering boys what the failure mode was for the ginormous rainwater containment chamber they’d designed to sit uphill from my house. (Around here, new developments are legally required to manage rainwater so that surrounding properties are not damaged by runoff.)

    The engineers started by saying that they had designed the holding tank to meet the requirements of the law, which specified how much rainfall could be expected at a maximum. I explained that I didn’t care what it could take, I was interested in what would happen if it failed. Would the escaping rainwater run down the street out of the intakes? Would the walls of the chamber burst, or were they designed to withstand total immersion? What is the failure mode?

    I wouldn’t stop asking, and the engineers and politicians become extremely agitated, and eventually quite impolite, but they never answered my question. They literally do not know what will happen when entropy inevitably destroys their construct, because they are not going to do any such analysis. They are unable to leave their happy place where everything goes according to plan, because that might require independent thought or principled action.

    • humanresource says:

      “They are unable to leave their happy place where everything goes according to plan, because that might require independent thought or principled action.”
      Its not just engineers; this is the single best description of my civilization I have ever encountered.

Leave a Reply