Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blase About The Gulf

This is what it has come to- at least for one right-wing radio talk show host. Megyn Kelly, Mark Levine, and Mike Gallagher discussed the oil spill on GOP TV after President Obama's press conference on Thursday, Gallagher remarking

But this was a tragic accident that should not have been laid at the doorstep of either George Bush or Barack Obama, or even BP for that matter! No one wanted this to happen, they did everything they could to respond appropriately, and I think the blame game has just been absolutely appalling. And it's very distressing, and it breaks my heart to see what's happened the past few days.

Perhaps after eight years of a failed President, reckless gambling by bank behemoths with other people's money (bringing the world financial system nearly to its knees), the deaths of 29 miners in West Virginia accompanied by Massey Energy's reckless disregard of safety regulations, and BP's insatiable greed resulting in the worst oil spill in American history, the bar has been set extraordinarily low.

No one wanted this to happen. It's all O.K. because they didn't do it on purpose. It wasn't intentional but a lust for profits (not the sort of lust which appears to exorcise the right) did play a major role, as the Orlando Sentinel reports:

Oil company BP used a cheaper, quicker but potentially less dependable method to complete the drilling of the Deepwater Horizon well, according to several experts and documents.

"There are clear alternatives to the methods BP used that most engineers in the drilling business would consider much more reliable and safer," said F.E. Beck, a Texas A&M University petroleum-engineering professor who testified recently before a Senate committee investigating BP's blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.

He and other petroleum and drilling engineers who reviewed a log of the Deepwater Horizon's activities described BP's choice of well design as one in which the final phase called for a 13,293-foot length of permanent pipe, called "casing," to be locked in place with a single injection of cement that often can turn out to be problematic.

A different approach more commonly used in the hazardous geology of the Gulf involves installing a section of what the industry calls a "liner," then locking both the liner and a length of casing in place with one or, often, two cement jobs that are less prone to failure.

The BP well "is not a design we would use," said one veteran deep-water engineer who would comment only if not identified because of his high-profile company's prohibition on speaking publicly about the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon or the oil spill that started when the drilling rig sank two days later.

He estimated that the liner design, used nearly all the time by his company, is more reliable and safer than a casing design by a factor of "tenfold."

But that engineer and several others said that had BP used a liner and casing, it would have taken nearly a week longer for the company to finish the well — with rig costs running at $533,000 a day and additional personnel and equipment costs that might have run the tab up to $1 million daily.

Although the motive was more money quicker, a BP spokesman contended that the casing-only method is "not uncommon." At least, as Bush 43 apologists always claim about the air-borne attack on the World Trade Center, "no one could have known." Except that the company did:

Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.

The problems involved the well casing and the blowout preventer, which are considered critical pieces in the chain of events that led to the disaster on the rig.

The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of “well control.” And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer.

On June 22, for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.

“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”

The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards. The internal reports do not explain why the company allowed for an exception. BP documents released last week to The Times revealed that company officials knew the casing was the riskier of two options.

Though his report indicates that the company was aware of certain risks and that it made the exception, Mr. Hafle, testifying before a panel on Friday in Louisiana about the cause of the rig disaster, rejected the notion that the company had taken risks.

"Nobody believed there was going to be a safety issue, Hafle testified, no doubt because if there were no accident, no one would have been the wiser- hence, no safety issue.

And so there he was, BP Managing Director Robert Dudley on Sunday's "Meet The Press" declaring of his company's CEO "I think Tony's doing a fantastic job" and asserting that Hayward should stay in his job. But then, as Mike Gallagher would put it, it's only "the blame game" for anyone to assume any responsibility for what some would like us to believe was a mere act of God.

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