Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The fix is broken!

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the BP oil spill. A major corporation with 246.1 billion (2009) revenue.  A giant that merged with Amoco, and a controlling interest of Standard Oil. 
BP has been drilling oil since 1901 in Iran, Kuwait, Texas, Alaska, & the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP plc is a British global energy company that is also the third largest global energy company and the 4th largest company in the world. As a multinational oil company ("oil major") BP is the UK's largest corporation. The company is among the largest private sector energy corporations in the world, and one of the six "supermajors" (vertically integrated private sector oil explorationnatural gas, and petroleum product marketing companies). They have 92,000 employees (minus the 26 that died, and hundreds injured). 

So why then does this bad bad long term mega corporation come up with these "solutions" that seem to be nothing more than a freshman physics class guessing at theories of how they might stop this leak? 
A glimpse of the three companies, BP, Halliburton & Transocean limited, testifying to Congress today, all were pointing fingers at each other, as no one took responsibility. 

(The Halliburton guy is on the far right in the pimped out pinstripe suit & pants.)

The testimony went like this:

BP America CEO Lamar McKay testified it's the blowout preventer, failure to operate, and that this was likely a major cause of the spill. Points to: 

Steven Newman, CEO of Transocean, which owned the rig and was drilling under contract for BP, said it was a mistake to blame his company's blowout preventer, as it was only the last line of defense. Before the blowout preventer failed, other failures, such as in the cementing process, may have occurred. Points to:
Cementing operations, among the final stages of finishing a well, fill critical gaps between the pipe and surrounding rock. A cement plug placed inside the well was to be the final step. Cementing operations were the responsibility of Halliburton.
Tim Probert, Halliburton's chief health, safety and environmental officer, said the company, a contractor, performed its operations to the exact specifications of BP, whose engineers designed the well. Points the finger @ BP, just following orders. 
So far, this approach seems to be working. 
The company is also planning to try and block the crude flow with a "junk shot," in which materials including golf balls, knotted rope and shredded tires will be shot at high pressure into the well's failed subsea blow-out preventer. 
Another article mentions this theory might cause the pipe to back up & explode to an even larger flow. The so-called "junk shot" could cause the blowout preventer- a huge 450 ton valve system that should have shut off the oil, could see crude shoot out unchecked at 12 times the current rate. 

Golf balls, knotted rope and shredded tires????

BP's website claims they "Operate at the frontier of the energy industry. We use world-class assets, technology, capability and know-how to meet energy needs and deliver long-term value."

I wonder if they will revise that vision statement to say:

We use world-class assets, technology, capability and when all else fails, Golf balls, knotted rope and shredded tires  to fix our costly, deadly and embarrassing mistakes, which are not our fault. In fact, we'd like to officially blame it on methane bubbles. 

Methane bubble, my ass. The only reason they like the methane bubble theory is you can't sue methane bubbles.

They are also going to try a 5 feet tall, 2 ton "top hat", a smaller box, because the 100 ton box iced up & began to float, so perhaps a smaller box will float less? I'm thinking that's going to be a FAIL as well.  Then again, I'm not a world class industry pro... 

Top hat & tails for some razzle dazzle by the industry?

Troubled history:

On 23 March 2005, an explosion occurred at BP's Texas City Refinery. The third largest refinery in the US and one of the largest in the world, at the time it processed 433,000 barrels of crude oil per day and accounted for 3% of the nation's gasoline supply. Over 100 were injured, fifteen fatally, including employees of the Fluor Corporation as well as BP. BP agreed that its mismanagement contributed to the accident. Level indicators failed, leading to overfilling of a heater, and light hydrocarbons spread throughout the area. 
On 19 July 2006, BP announced that it would close the last 12 out of 57 oil wells in Alaska, mostly in Prudhoe Bay, that had been leaking. The wells were leaking insulating agent called Arctic pack, consisting of crude oil and diesel fuel, between the wells and ice.In March 2006, a leak in one of BP's pipelines on the North Slope in Alaska caused a spill of oil onto the tundra, leading BP to commit to replace over 16 miles of federally regulated Oil Transit Lines. As of the end of 2007, one half of the pipeline had been replaced and all 16 miles  of pipeline are now tested regularly.

BP is currently on probation
The company has been convicted of two felonies for environmental crimes, including one felony for which BP pleaded guilty in connection with the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 that caused 15 deaths, injured 180 people.
The company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act, was fined $50 million, and sentenced to three years probation.
On October 30, 2009, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined BP an additional $87 million — the largest fine in OSHA history — for failing to correct safety hazards revealed in the 2005 explosion. Inspectors found 270 safety violations that had been previously cited but not fixed and 439 new violations. BP is appealing that fine.
Over the last 20 years, BP subsidiaries have been convicted three times of environmental crimes in Alaska and Texas, including two felonies. It remains on probation for two of them.
There's no better time to keep in mind the wisdom of legendary oilwell firefighter Red Adair: "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

So far, it seems more like a world class blunder, with industry "pros" scrambling to try to make things up & every "solution" has never been done before at this depth. Yes, this is one grand experiment, and the Gulf of Mexico, all of it's species, reefs, and aquatic & wetland habitats are now the experimental lab.
If BP was on probation for previous felony crimes, yet still given this license to operate in highly risky deep ocean drilling, what will their consequence be now?
Surely this is a violation of the probation.
 If corporations are people, what happens to people when they violate probation?


Christopher said...

This is an excellent piece. Well done, Fran.

The Deepwater Horizon mess is far worse than either BP or Interior is admitting to the American people.

I have a aerial video up taken by an Alabama resident showing just how bad the Gulf degradation has become.

Oddly, I'm beginning to see a very troubling pattern by some bloggers in the reality-based community to reach back to the previous administration and blame Bush for the Gulf spill.

Of course, this is specious on the merits as BP received an exemption from filing required environmental impact studies on April 9, 2009. This was Obama's Interior Dept. and not Bush's.

If the hole in the earth isn't plugged soon, I have grave fears for humanity, as the spread zone of increasing and will threaten the oceans and the EU and Africa next.

nonnie9999 said...


how funny that you thought of the 3 monkeys, because that's the first thing that popped into my mind watching the 3 stooges testify. however, then i went in a completely different direction. come on over, and sing along!

Life As I Know It Now said...

Corporations get all the benefits of being a person with none of the penalties. Screw that and them too.