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Engineering and Risk Assessment Failures at BP, Transocean and Halliburton

Its been 12 days since the explosion, and leaks are still poisoning the gulf with 200,000* gallons of oil per day. BPʻs attempts to utilize a containment dome have failed due to the formation of ice-like crystals that blocked the flow into the pipeline and made the container buoyant. Now they are talking about shooting garbage into the blowout preventer. BPʻs CEO keeps whining about how hard it is to utilize containment techniques at 5,000 feet, but it makes one wonder, if we know there is no proven technology to contain leaks at that depth, why is it legal to drill at 5,000 feet? If a single drill can do significant damage to most of the Gulf of Mexico, and there is no known way to contain it, how did it not have a legally mandated 3X redundant containment system with no single point of failure? What sort of risk modeling did BP, Transocean and Halliburton do? Iʻm not a mechanical engineer, but if someone told me a software system I was writing had the potential to destroy the Gulf of Mexico, you can bet it would be multiply redundant with no single point of failure and 100% test coverage. It doesnʻt seem like analogous precautions were made with this drill, but Iʻd be very interested to hear differing opinions from people with domain expertise.

BP, Transocean and Halliburton - Based on initial reports it appears your crappy engineering and shoddy risk assessment led to the worst environmental disaster in history. You can never pay enough to make up for this.

*... or two million, depending on who you ask.

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Comment by Patrick Ahler on May 11, 2010 at 10:28am
BP are Bad People who make Billions Profit while Being Pricks... sad But Precise
Comment by Paul Graydon on May 11, 2010 at 9:39am
Sometimes it takes disasters like these to make people wake up and realise that what the oil companies are telling them isn't true.

Something of related interest. BP announced about a month ago the closure of a profitable solar power site on the mainland, with the loss of a few hundred jobs.
Comment by Patrick Ahler on May 11, 2010 at 9:36am
I like how Schwarzenegger and Obama both switched their stance on off shore drilling overnight. It's too bad one crappy UK company (with a green marketing theme) had to ruin it all (no offense Paul!). Boycott BP anyone?
Comment by Paul Graydon on May 11, 2010 at 9:10am
It's all about the bottom line.. Redundancy and SPOF avoidance costs money. BP rarely spends money when they don't have to.
A friend of mine does materials analysis for a company in the UK, and one of his jobs is to fly out to Alaska each year and carry out ultrasound analysis of oil pipelines to look for fractures. He's never had a good thing to say about BP's pipelines, in comparison to other companies. It would seem the operational position is "it's good enough".
Comment by Cameron Souza on May 10, 2010 at 6:34pm
There is no punishment commensurate with this crime. Some private estimates put the leakage at more than 10 times the official estimate - 2 million gallons per day. I suspect these companies will look even worse after the current investigations are concluded.

From the NYT: For BP, a History of Spills and Safety Lapses


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