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Bob Cavnar: BP’s “Failure to Learn”

Yesterday, National Academy of Engineering committee chair Donald Winter submitted preliminary findings about BP’s Macondo well blowout to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  Among other criticisms of BP’s and Transocean’s management (or lack thereof) that led up to the April 20 catastrophe, Winter characterized as a key finding the companies’ “lack of a suitable approach for anticipating and managing the inherent risks, uncertainties, and dangers associated with deepwater drilling operations and a failure to learn from previous near misses.

Though only preliminary, the report took issue with a number of BP’s conclusions in its own report issued in September that attempted to spread blame over as many parties as possible, ignoring critical management decisions that it’s own people had made that contributed to the blowout.  Specifically, the report does point out that installing a long string, which runs from the top of the well all the way to bottom, rather than the safer liner that only covers the open hole and provides an additional downhole barrier and is better risk management.  It seems that everyone but BP now agrees with that finding.

Also contrary to BP’s conclusions that the blowout went down the outside of the casing, through bad cement, up through the shoe track through different bad cement, through two float valves and up the well, the committee said that we may never know the true path of the blowout since all of those elements are forever buried under thousand of feet of cement.  We all know that BP’s conclusion just coincidently happen to follow the path that spread the blame to as many parties as possible including Halliburton, Weatherford, and Transocean rather than themselves for high risk design.  Apparently, the Academy committee is not so convinced. A common theme in the report was that poor decision making, complacency, over confidence, and the lack of checks and balances in BP’s organization created an environment where rig and onshore managers failed to recognize the signs of an increasingly dangerous well.  Failure to recognize the flow of hydrocarbons into the well above the blowout preventer was the fatal mistake, but many ingrained organizational factors contributed to that blindness.  Hurrying to get off the well, too many decision makers, and simultaneous complex operations all contributed.  As we have also pointed out, the committee has concluded that changing rig managers in the middle of these operations contributed to the confusion prior to the blowout. We will continue to follow this story as the accident investigations continue. The forensic evidence from the blowout preventer will be key; that is, if they ever get around to testing the damn thing rather than stupidly letting it rust away sitting on the dock in Louisiana while lawyers argue over who’s going to test it.  That’s a developing story that we are also following. Read the original article on The Huffington Post. Bob Cavnar is the author of Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, available now.


Wild Edibles: 5 Tips for Beginner Foragers

Ever spotted a dandelion growing in your backyard and wondered, can I eat that? According to wild plants expert Katrina Blair, the answer is a resounding yes. And there are plenty of other commonly found weeds that fall into this category as well. In her book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Blair introduces readers to […] Read More..

10 Books to Celebrate the International Year of Soils

Beneath our feet lies a resource that is critical to our future. It’s the first thing we think about when it comes to farming and gardening – and yet, one of the last things considered when thinking about the long-term preservation of our earth. It’s the basis for healthy food production, is a crucial tool […] Read More..

5 Shareable Strategies for Creating Climate Action

Frustrated about climate change? You’re not alone. Most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the spectrum of depressed about our climate situation to flat-out denying that it exists. In fact, the more information about global warming that piles up, the less we seem to do to combat it. What is the reason for this […] Read More..

A Permaculture Approach to Managing Hedge Bindweed

As Permaculture Month continues, we are making our expert authors available to answer your burning permaculture questions. If you have a question to submit, fill out this form. In the below Q&A, Tao Orion, author of the new book Beyond the War on Invasive Species, discusses how she approaches weed management. Orion believes invasive species are good ecological […] Read More..

A Mini-Festo for Earth Day – Rebuild the Foodshed

For the past month, author Philip Ackerman-Leist has been on a Twitter MiniFesto campaign – each day sending out a new tweet designed to spark conversation and pass along some lessons he learned whilst working on his last book, Rebuilding the Foodshed. You might also know Philip as the author of his memoir Up Tunket […] Read More..