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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.


The Future Is Hopeless, So Give it Your All

The never-ending national election in the United States, the “surprise” pro-Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, climate change … the list goes on and on about how easy it can be to lose hope in the future.Like many of life’s frustrations, or overwhelmingly large topics, most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the […] Read More

How Carbon Farming Can Save the Planet

Carbon farming alone is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, but coupled with new economic priorities, a massive switch to clean energy, and big changes to much of the rest of the way our societies work, it offers a pathway out of destruction and a route to hope.Along the way carbon farming can also […] Read More

Welcome to the Lyme Wars

Lyme disease infects a minimum of 300,000 people per year in the United States and millions more throughout the rest of the world. Symptoms run from mild lethargy to severe arthritis to heart disease to incapacitating mental dysfunction. Although tests have improved over the past decade, they are still not completely reliable, and antibiotics are […] Read More

Look Under Your Feet for Global Soil-utions

For several years, Chelsea Green has been publishing books that look under our feet for solutions to some of the most vexing problems facing the planet – hunger, drought, degraded farmland and grasslands, damaged waterways, and much more. Those books focus on (mostly) one thing: Soil.  In 2016, we’ve published two more important books that […] Read More

Feed Bees Biodynamically with Bee Tea

In this excerpt from An Unlikely Vineyard, Deirdre Heekin offers tips on how to biodynamically care for bees – just as they do everything else on the farm. Here, she provides a recipe for “bee tea” which is useful when feeding bees between winter and spring, when a hive has been robbed, or when starting […] Read More
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