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BP Ignored Safety Modeling Software To Save Time 203

DMandPenfold writes "BP ignored the advice of safety modeling software in an attempt to save time before the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to a presentation slide (PDF) prepared by US investigators. The slide in question briefly appeared on the Oil Spill Commission's website in error, but was quickly retracted. Advanced cement modeling software, provided by BP's cement contractor Halliburton, had highlighted serious stability concerns with the well."
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BP Ignored Safety Modeling Software To Save Time

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  • Criminal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @10:26AM (#34357640)

    I think some people need to spend time in jail if this is proven. A lot of time.

    • Re:Criminal (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mspangler ( 770054 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @12:03PM (#34358004)

      11 counts of negligent homicide (or manslaughter in other jurisdictions) should be adequate cause for a long jail time.

      The question is who is the corporate designated felon. I vote for all the C-level executives in charge at the time, but then I'm ex-Navy, so I have archaic notions about the chain of command.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The thing about corporate malfeasance of this magnitude, is that it's extremely difficult to nail an individual within the company unless there's evidence specifically fingering him-- which was why Enron was shredding documents against explicit orders from federal investigators not to do so. It's a bit like how high-ranking government officials get nailed-- Nixon would have surely been impeached for at least conspiracy and obstruction of justice because of the tapes he took of his office (the irony of his p

      • 11 counts of negligent homicide (or manslaughter in other jurisdictions) should be adequate cause for a long jail time.

        That chart hardly seems like damning evidence. You could list 11 safety tradeoffs as the cause of just about any conceivable accident.

        Do you run diagnostic checks on the braking system every time you drive a car? Does not doing so save time and increase risk?

    • Yes! If it is true then I believe both companies are guilty of gross negligence and the key decision makers should be behind bars. If Haliburton was of the opinion it was not safe then surely it should not have proceeded simply because BP would be legally responsible for the decision. Knowingly following illigitamte orders should never be a valid defence.
  • by techsoldaten ( 309296 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @10:30AM (#34357662) Journal

    Quality concerns should never be ignored with projects of this scale. Information like this should result in a shutdown of the project until the issue is addressed.

    If you are developing a web site, you can get away with defects in quality because of the nature of the web and precompiled code. To correct an issue, all you have to do is deploy code that corrects the problem. There is no impact outside the site itself. If you want to reduce the possibility of things like this happening, you introduce more advanced testing procedures, beta tests with limited numbers of users, and other methods to reduce the potential for a disruption in services.

    If you are building an oil rig, the potential risk of disaster has an impact that goes far beyond the capital involved in building the rig itself, and being faithful to the results of quality assessments is essential to avoiding catastrophes like the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Any action failing to meet high quality standards should be considered criminal, as the outcome will have a harm on people / environment / wildlife around the rig.

    Reading this powerpoint just makes me angry. BP has been lobbying Congress for a while now to reduce potential penalties they may have to pay, and their marketing arm has been doing a lot of damage control in the public arena. It is very important to hold these people accountable for their actions, since this is the way these people do business.

    • by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <oarigogirdor>> on Saturday November 27, 2010 @10:37AM (#34357696) Homepage

      Hey, it's penny pinchers: they will do anything to save a few millions, even if it ends up costing a few billions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Twinbee ( 767046 )

        Hey, reminds me of the general attitude towards saving electrical energy.

      • by Teun ( 17872 )
        Penny pinchers indeed!

        Knowing the industry I can tell you few were surprised this accident happened to BP in the US.

        Please remember this company is an amalgamation of the veritable cowboys of the old Amoco and the never before beaten penny pinchers of BP in the London City.

        Combine this with a company like TransOcean that is (especially outside of the US) known for it's flexible spine and non-stick safety management and the picture is getting clear.
        And don't forget Halliburton, a company with serious t

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      My understanding is that the modeling software was not of sufficient quality that it could be trusted.

      I would like to know more about the way in which the model's prediction of failure was communicated to BP. It would be consistent with common practices in the industry for Haliburton to go on record with a negative report while dismissing its findings off the record and urging a go-ahead behind the scenes. It is more than possible-- it is highly likely-- that Haliburton brought forth this negative report

      • Like all of these disasters, there were compounding factors that turned an ordinarily "safe enough but not the safest" decision into an unsafe decision. All three companies made decisions that look pretty damning, but the big ones that pop out to me in the slide are the last two. Transocean basically ran the operation in such a way that they would not know if there was a problem. Even if everything else is done the safest way possible, that's just asking for something to go horribly wrong. To run things

  • by xQuarkDS9x ( 646166 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @10:31AM (#34357668)

    This seriousely does not suprise me at all. In a recent issue of Popular Mechanics magazine (October 2010 issue) they had an excellent article on just how bad BP blew it in the gulf of mexico. Everything from turning off and disabling safety systems and alarms, to rushing the drilling process, using wrong materials, ignoring advice and warnings from others that they were going to fast and ignoring safety, and more.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @10:35AM (#34357684) Homepage Journal
    and ignored any kind of safety precautions, even at the cost of an entire ecosystem .....

    impossible. that cannot have happened.... because, uncle greenspan said that, corporations could regulate themselves. im agape with surprise.... surely, this must be a one-time incident ....
    • by bonch ( 38532 )

      Ignoring your annoying, hard-to-read, all-lowercase style of writing...

      Your beloved government edited its oil drilling safety report [] to make it appear as if a six-month drilling ban had been peer-reviewed by experts, and it ignored scientists and misrepresented data [] throughout the ordeal.

      The difference between corruption in government and corruption in the free market, however, is that BP actually gets punished. They lose money, reputation, face increased scrutiny, and so on. What happens to the government?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jasenj1 ( 575309 )

      And in a "free-market", libertarian modeled world, BP would be sued out of existence. Every fisherman, hotel owner, casino owner, Gulf Coast resident & Gulf Coast tourist would line up to take a bite out of BP for damages sustained. BP would be nibbled to death.
      Of course, there's several obstacles to that happening:
      1) The vast majority of the plaintiffs are too small to fund the legal challenge necessary. It'd be interesting if the States affected could/would go after BP on behalf of their citizens.

  • by anomnomnomymous ( 1321267 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @10:55AM (#34357762)
    We're sorry. []
  • Some at BP needs to do Pound-me-in-the-ass prison time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Some at BP needs to do Pound-me-in-the-ass prison time.

      The fact that you and many others condone prison justice in the form of the very acts that cause people to go to prison is a brilliant example of how sad our society has become.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Don't kid yourself. IF (and it's a big if) any BP execs go to prison, it won't be the supermax, it'll be the one that's more like a suburban elementary school with uniforms. Decent but not great food, a strict rule not to wander past that hedge, clean environment, free health care, gym membership and a nice TV, etc.

      They don't send poor people who rob the liquor store there because they don't want to encourage robbing the liquor store.

      If you really want to punish the execs, make them live like the people the

  • Being reasonable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fridaynightsmoke ( 1589903 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @11:39AM (#34357914) Homepage

    I'm sure that BP did cut a lot of corners that they really should not have, and that this lead to the Deepwater Horizon accident.

    On the other hand however there will always be 'more that could have been done' in absolutely every situation, by anybody. There's a fine line between taking into account genuine concerns, and listening to every crank or someone with something to sell peddling expensive solutions to minor risks. Nothing is ever entirely risk-free, and there will ALWAYS be more tests, more safely equipment, more drills etc etc that could have been implemented.

    In summary, there's a difference between saying, for example in the event of a car wreck "the driver shouldn't have been drinking" (a genuine concern) and "the driver should have taken weekly driving exams, fitted 2ft of foam rubber to the front of his car, and drove everywhere at 10mph max" (the 'more' that could doubtless have been done). I'm not saying that's the case here, but it's worth bearing in mind.

    • BP's reputation is one of cutting too many corners and not having the skill or acumen to back off critical cuts, and then blaming the victims or "bad luck". BP's corner cutting strategies start from the top, driven straight down, hard. BP has long been one of the larger players in influencing politicians and relevant government officials rather than consistent engineering and operations. Forget excellence.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Note here that most experts are say8ing BP was closer to turning up a bottle of jack while doing 90 in a school zone than they were to the foam rubber and creeping end of the spectrum.

      Of course, as the size of the potential damage increases, the ability to mitigate an accident goes down, and the ability to properly remediate the damage goes down, the appropriate level of caution goes up. In this case, they really had no idea what to do if a blow out happened (that's why they had to try and fail several time

    • by ebuck ( 585470 )

      The key issue isn't "there was more that could be done." They key issue is that "they did even less than what the normally do."

      If you are taking on a high-risk project, and you do even less preparation than you typically do for a low-risk project, you can be proved negligent. If you "just" did what you normally do, then you might have "only" lacked foresight.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @11:53AM (#34357964)

    I find it fascinating that people were willing to blame Halliburton (and Dick Cheney who hasn't been its CEO for 10 years) when they had computer modeling software for the cement that pointed out problems. I wonder if these same people are going to dismiss this fact as junk science while blindly accepting computer models of weather forecasts for the next 100 years all because they prefer one flavor of politics over another.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Well if you have a hate-on or love-on for whatever your handlers tell you, then yes. You'll blame Bush, Cheney, and openly state that global warming is all mans fault.

      • by Cwix ( 1671282 )

        Or blame Obama, Pelosi, and state that man had nothing to do with global warming.

        Cuts both ways.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Except that the current admin, really likes to use the previous administration as a punching bag for everything that goes wrong. Because they can. But even pundits are long since tired of that method of politics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lennier ( 44736 )

      I wonder if these same people are going to dismiss this fact as junk science while blindly accepting computer models of weather forecasts for the next 100 years all because they prefer one flavor of politics over another.

      What does belief in anthropogenic global warming have to do with politics? Whether you prefer left-wing or right-wing economics as a solution to a global crisis, politics should define your response to a problem, not the problem itself.

      But if your preferred political-economic model can't cope with a particular crisis scenario, and has to resort to denying that that crisis could ever occur... then perhaps that model isn't as robust as its supporters would like to think?

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @12:31PM (#34358162) Homepage Journal
    Halliburton is everyone's favorite whipping boy and the media has tried to place some blame on them, but they're really coming off looking like some of the good guys in this story. From all the coverage, it sounds like the entire thing was the result of several very poor decisions made by the BP manager of the platform. The scary thing is, it really didn't sound like they were doing all that much differently than how all the other oil rigs are run. It kind of sounds to me like this hasn't happened before now (at least not at this scale) out of pure luck.
    • Except the slide clearly shows that Halliburton decided not to reevaluate the faulty cement slurry nor did they wait for the foam stability tests, which would have showed the foam was not stable enough.

      Some good guys.

      The extra centralizers were a "just to be safe" measure, it's the cement slurry that failed.

      The real problem here, though, was Transocean. I imagine everything would have gone as intended (even with the bad cement and insufficient centralizers) had Transocean been watching the process as caref

  • The conversation will soon turn to alternative energy. I just say this documentary which I think will be interesting to others: []

    Some tidbits:
    1) Model Ts ran on ethanol well into prohibition. Ford had designed it so farmers could grow their own fuel. A major backer of prohibition was J. P. Morgan head of Standard Oil. Prohibition killed the alchohol powered model Ts.

    2) The Deisel engine was designed to run on vegetable oil.

  • BP has a long record of avarice compounding arrogance compounding ignorance, and setting up pawns like (sub)contractors for the fall.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.