Tuesday, June 01, 2010

An Informed Perspective on Oil Spills

This essay was timed fortuitously.

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been the operations manager for a small Gulf of Mexico oil and gas company. I’ve had more than a few sleepless nights in that time, whether it be worrying about a problem well, a reported accident or an impending hurricane. Since Barack Obama has assumed full accountability for the outcome of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I offer this advice as one who understands the nature, if not the scope, of the challenge facing him.

With all due respect, sir, rookies make rookie mistakes.

...BP already has the best and the brightest working on controlling the source of the spill. They are working as hard as they can to fix the problem. Your mistake, sir, is that you are constitutionally unable to let go of the Lefty prejudice: Oil People Are Bad People. So you’ve a given us all this nonsense about “boots on the throat” and threatened prosecutions and pointing fingers at the finger-pointers, which has done nothing to enhance their confidence in you as a leader. Oh, they want badly to stop the spill, but their loyalty to you and your success is only as deep as the loyalty you’ve shown them. And then, if you had a back up plan, it would be in knowledgeable Federal employees to take over. Your only source of oilfield-savvy professionals who might be capable of managing this task is in the MMS, and you’ve already thrown them under the bus! You’ve taken a couple of unrelated scandals (investigated, by the way, on President Bush’s watch), and a couple of wayward employees in a backwater office to build the oft-repeated notion of a ‘cozy, often corrupt relationship’ between MMS and the industry it regulates...

One of the "good management" principles is that good managers serve their subordinates as "facilitators." Assuming that your workforce is composed of good people who are oriented towards the company's good, all the manager has to do is provide some direction and then HELP those employees toward their objectives.

Rants and finger-pointing are counterproductive by their nature.

Vlad provides three very useful suggestions for The LightWorker. He ought to take them seriously.

Vlad also provides a companion essay which sorts out the players, the action, and the consequences.


J. Strupp said...

"With all due respect, sir, rookies make rookie mistakes."

Yeah and professionals, of whom offshore drilling is their expertise, would have a f_cking back-up plan when they sink an oil platform.

This moron should keep in mind that the brain trust he adores so much have spent a month unsuccessfully trying to plug a hole in the seafloor that they drilled. This isn't an informed opinion. This is a joke.

Nevermind the future environmental impact of this incident on the gulf region. These jokers have cost BP over a billion dollars and counting and then this guy has the balls to talk about how smart his fellow engineers are? Get real.

Dad29 said...

Well, Struppster, they won't cost 1/1000ths of the cost of Keynesian Econ as practiced by Obama.

And, by the way, I'm sympathetic to these guys. It's like space-missions; at one point in time, nobody EVER did it.

Backup plans are all fine and good IF you know what could go wrong.

My understanding is that the BP man on the rig pushed hard to ignore the signals of an impending methane blowback--which means BP will take the fall AND they ignored Plan One.

John Foust said...

Still, it comes down to "privatize the profit, socialize the risk".

J. Strupp said...

"Backup plans are all fine and good IF you know what could go wrong."

None of these jokers worried about a catagory 5 hurricane tearing an oil platform off the seafloor and wondered what would happen if safety valves were to fail on the well during the process?

Come on.

Dad29 said...

You got me. They didn't send me their contingency-planning book.

IIRC, the wellhead was double- or triple- failsafed. If a triple-failsafe fails, Struppster, are the engineers culpable?

It appears that either the methane blast was FAR more significant than anyone expected---OR that ignoring Plan One ("When the signals start popping, Shut It Down!!") was fatal.

It will be interesting to read the final outcome, if we live that long.