BP and the Federal Government, Doing Just Enough to Achieve Nothing

June 18, 2010

It seems daily the news of the run-a-way oil well in the Gulf of Mexico brings information more dire than the day before.  Volume numbers that seemed extreme estimates are quickly passed and even larger estimates thrown out.  We are slowly being pulled to the reality of a disaster of proportions never before seen in the United States.

While the Deepwater Horizon rig burned, British Petroleum (BP) expressed confidence little to no crude oil would escape into surrounding waters.  After the rig sank, BP and Transocean reported the volume of crude was limited to the over 25,000,000 gallons estimated to be aboard at the time.

It was then found the pipe had a small leak but BP was sure they would have it under control and posed little environmental risk.  Next, that was changed to a 6,000 barrel a day estimate and it has been a moving target ever since now resting at 2,500,000 gallons a day.

During this time, various methods of ending the uncontrollable flow of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico have met with failure.  BP would propose a solution, the government would stand behind it and it would fail leaving the public more and more frustrated.

The problem is the solutions proposed were destined to fail.  Since the first day, BP and the government have known or should have known they would fail.  Comments like “we are going to try a top-kill, but the long term solution is a relief well” give a huge hint to their agenda all along.  BP is simply placating the public to allow themselves time to complete the only solution they have known will work, the relief wells.

All along, it has been known that to control a run-a-way well, a relief well must be drilled.  The question is, if this is the case why is a relief wells not drilled as a natural order of business when drilling a well in the first place?  It seems the prudent thing to do.  Had BP drilled the two relief wells as they drilled the primary well, this issue would be over by now.

People affected by President Obama’s moratorium on deep water drilling rightly complain that their livelihoods are at stake.  Where were their complaints when BP was risking that livelihood?  In fairness to them, they may not have understood the risk BP was taking, a risk all oil companies take.  The moratorium must stay in place until oil companies, all oil companies, prove they have procedures in place to deal with the worst possible case.  That is the ability to kill the well and prevent it from leaking.  To claim they did not foresee this possibility is simply a lie.  All engineers know better.  Did the guy that designed the Titanic really believe it was unsinkable?  Really?

This is a case where business received what it was asking for, lax regulations.  Now they must deal with the results and pay for the mess they created.  Government must require companies to have real plans of dealing with the worst possible disaster, regardless of cost.

Other companies with deep-water operations need to start drilling relief wells today.  If they are never needed, that is great.  If they are needed, it will take a day or two to complete the job of killing a well rather than months.  It is time to use logic in dealing with operations like deep-water drilling and not leave the choice of what to do in the hands of companies trying to make a buck off the process or a government that acts as their shills.

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