BP Oil Spill. Documenting the Crisis in US Gulf Coast


Essay, 2014
372 Pages

Excerpt

CONTENTS

Preface

Introduction

What this Book is about
Issues of Public Concern
Arrangement of the Book
Questions from the Experience

II. Chapter 2 - Challenges of Prospecting for Carbon-based
Energy Resource in the US Gulf Coast (April – May, 2010):
a) Unbounded Natural Resources prospecting leads to disaster: what we must learn from British Petroleum mistake in the Gulf Coast
b) Managing through the tipping point in the British Petroleum’s Environmental Mayhem in the Gulf Coast
c) Environmental Consequence of Off-shore oil extraction: lessons from BP’s Disaster in the Gulf Coast.
d) Monthly Oil Spills, busted oil and gas pipelines: how do we save our environment from off-shore drilling mishaps
e) Quantifying the cost of damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast
f) Energy Security for the United States: navigating through public relations mines inflicted by British Petroleum
g) Compensation Game in the British Petroleum Oil Spill Debacle
h) Verifying the truth in British Petroleum’s effort to manage the pace of leaks into Gulf of Mexico
i) Credible Leadership in time of disaster: what companies may learn from British Petroleum’s failure in the Gulf Coast
j) Shaggy Defense from three musketeers: British Petroleum, Transocean and Halliburton
k) Virtual data analysis and oil spill mapping: do we need to know more from British Petroleum debacle
l) Oil Disaster: taming the gushing beast in the Gulf of Mexico
m) Deep Horizon Disaster and the politics of environmental diplomacy: why Cuba and US are suddenly talking
n) Will the British Petroleum brand survive after the Gulf of Mexico fiasco
o) Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana rips into BP in a press conference over its sluggishness at attending to the oil spill crisis
p) Making British Petroleum seal the Deep-water Horizon well, now
q) The battle for balance in the Prescient’s Press Conference and Visitation to the Gulf Coast
r) Coping with the catastrophe of oil pollution in the Gulf Coast after the President’s Visitation to the Accident Site
s) Practical tools to help residents of the Gulf Coast survive the current clean up after the failure of the ‘Top Kill’ strategy
t) Can BP turn Negative Results to Positive Change on the Deep-water Rig in the Gulf?

III. Chapter 3 (June, 2010): Risk of Oil Spill in Carbon-Based Energy Exploration: the Case of British Petroleum
a) Preparing for change in oil and gas industry: what the BP accidental spill means
b) Envision the possibility of a capped well: when everything else fails in BP’s effort to stop the spill at the Deep-water Horizon Rig
c) British Petroleum Ecological Disaster in the Gulf Coast: when logic and intuition tell us.
d) Are Internet gatekeepers attempting to benefit from BP’s misfortune od id British petroleum attempting to abridge the citizen’s right to know?
e) Failure in Management: what organization managers can learn from BP Debacle
f) Human Angle of the British Petroleum‘s Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?
g) An open letter to Critics of Obama’s Administration’s response to the Gulf Coast Disaster
h) How President Obama attempts to cultivate an upbeat outlook to BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
i) When Silence is better: Republican Joe Barton’s apology to British Petroleum
j) Testifying in Context: Why BP’s CEO deposition on the hill fell short of expectation
k) Scenario planning: how BP could have saved itself from the oil spill mess
l) Branding BP anew in the midst of Oil spill debacle: wither the Board of Directors
m) Moratorium on Deep-water Drilling: sticking out your neck for common sense.
n) Psychological and psychiatrist challenges in the aftermath of British Petroleum Oil Spill
o) Visualizing and processing seismic data in oil extraction: Did British Petroleum fail on this while prospecting in the Gulf of Mexico
p) Art Gallery: philanthropic donation by British petroleum: Is this the right thing to do now
q) An immeasurable matter: British Petroleum’s past monetary contribution to American politics

IV. Chapter 4 (July, 2010): Public relations, advertisements, rhapsody, chemical toxicity and the effort to manage the aftermath of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
a) Selling an Environmental Disaster: When British petroleum gets into online publishing to counter criticism of its handling of the Deep-water Horizon rig disaster
b) Assessing BP costs so far in managing the oil spill experience in the Gulf of Mexico
c) Provocative Rhapsody in the confusion of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
d) Chemical Toxicity data, marine biology tests and the coming litigation against British Petroleum
e) Can advertisements influence public perception of the impact of British Petroleum oil rig blowout?
f) Stick around you may just get to see the next BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico
g) What is the hullabaloo about the off-shore drilling Moratorium
h) British petroleum oil spill Disaster: the politics of jobs in the Gulf Coast
i) Hail Mary: using high pressure, high stake method to test the integrity of the Macondo well
j) Cautiously Promising: stop-gap engineering feat to halt the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico.
k) Developing optimists in the time of doubts: how to reassure the public that all is well on the Macondo well
l) Let’s talk about consequential impact of dispersed oil from the Macondo well
m) Mathematical Modeling and Data Analysis: compelling tools for understanding ocean floor activities since the capping of Macondo well
n) Emerging Humors from British petroleum’s liability in the Gulf of Mexico
o) Of Storms, disabled rig alarms and the optimism to proceed with effort to manage the disaster in the Gulf Coast
p) Exit of CEO Tony Hayward: the new dynamics in the BP’s saga in the Gulf of Mexico
q) Bob Dudley to replace Tony Hayward at BP’s helm: OMG, tell me it’s not true.
r) Bub Dudley: An American Executive enthroned king of a British Flagship Corporation.
s) Oil Spills: the case for a raining day fund revisited
t) BP’s contribution to the idleness in the Gulf Coast: Reason why BP cannot just begin to cut back on the cleanup efforts yet
u) Better Fuel Efficient Automobiles revisited in light of the disaster at the Deep-water Horizon rig

V. Chapter 5 (August, 2010): The End of BP Oil Spill Nightmare: Closing up the leaks and the future of litigation
a) Day 104 of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico: Can we agree on progress yet.
b) Comparative perspective of collective redress under an American versus British Legal System: Implication for litigation against BP in the Deep-water Horizon Debacle
c) Is BP jumping the gun with its assessment of progress today at the Deep-water Horizon rig
d) Transformational British petroleum: the long walk from oblivion
e) Building a better Business Model or Drilling Environment: the future of safety on BP oil rigs
f) Machiavellian Plotting and the real Cost of BP Spill to the Gulf Coast
g) Revisit the Off-shore Drilling Moratorium Now: Do we really have to.
h) BP: Poster child of all that is wrong with workplace safety violation in American Petroleum Industry
i) BP vs. State of Alabama: the continuing saga on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
j) The case of a relief well and bottom kill in the effort to manage the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
k) Unlocking the secrets of the fishermen Crockpot in the Gulf Coast: what the President’s weekend getaway mean
l) Oil spills data storage, parallel file systems and sharing of information after the Deep-water Horizon Explosion
m) Gulf Coast Oysters, Shrimps and Crabs: changing cognitive association with BP Oil spill
n) Figuring out events leading up to the BP Oil spill: a firsthand account of the Chief Electronic Technician on site
o) When hope is not enough: Whereabouts of the spilled BP oil?
p) Figuring out events immediately after the explosion at the Deep-water Horizon Rig; what some insiders are now saying
q) A Deliberate act: the optimistic talk about BP Oil Spill
r) Why is a Democratic Party Senator from the Big Easy Calling for the lifting of moratorium on offshore drilling?

VI. Chapter 6 (September, 2010 and After): Rebuilding, Restitution and Civil and/or Criminal Litigation after the BP Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico
a) Working together to redeem the Gulf Coast Water: lessons from BP Oil Spills for Southern Governors
b) Operating Oil and Gas Production Platforms without an accidental explosion
c) BP attempts to influence reform in off-shore drilling through blackmail...
d) Digging into BP’s threat of Congress on reforming off-shore drilling: implications for the Clear Water Act
e) Redefining workspace safety in off-shore drilling in light of British Petroleum Debacle on the Deep-water Horizon Rig
f) Need to know on a Labor day: Questions for US Justice Department Regarding the blow-out preventer
g) Keeping Informed: Scientific research Investigation Standard in completing federally funded researches into BP pollution of the Gulf of Mexico
h) Keeping you informed II: BP releases its internal investigation report into the Deep-water Horizon fiasco
i) Plugging the BP Well for Good: Cautions Restraint Desired.
j) BP’s UK parliamentary testimony on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI visit: Why Tony Hayward continues to miss the point on the Deep-water Horizon Disaster
k) Offshore oil drilling moratorium, unemployment and Obama Administration’s Agency Staff Comments
l) End of Macondo well: Fear and Misery of what’s next
m) Rehabilitating Multinational Corporation: When BP attempts to join the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC)
n) Cultivating leaders after a Disaster: how BP could take advantage of in-house leaders to refocus its objectives on workplace safety
o) John Wright and Mitt Simmons: two men to celebrate in different ways with regard to the Deep-water Horizon disaster
p) BP Spill: US Coast Guard rear Admiral Paul Zukunft meets retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen

VII. Chapter 7 : Summary and Epilog

VIII. About the Author

PREFACE

Introduction

WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT

The United States Department of Interior recently issued two new regulations impacting drilling and workplace safety in offshore drilling. This move was necessitated by the recent experience from British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There are indications that other regulations will be forthcoming in the future. The coming revolutionary change in prospecting for liquid gold and the new guidelines are expected to make offshore drilling safer. Many environmentalist, public policy experts, and scientists have wondered why these regulations had taken so long to come, considering the huge risk associated with offshore drilling. This book attempts to provide some answers to this question. In a thread close to day-to-day cataloging of experience and analysis of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the book shed more light on possible issue of negligence on the part of the multinational corporation in what is now considered the largest environmental disaster in the history of oil prospecting and drilling in North America.

Cataloging and analysis of the events that led to the introduction of the new regulations and guidelines are best articulated in the daily occurrence of actions and or inactions of British Petroleum during the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Prior to the Oil Spill on April 20th 2010, discussions in the Oil and Gas Industry have surrounded how to better monitor Oil and Gas drilling so that fewer accidental spills occur. The experience with British Petroleum at the Deep-water Horizon rig gave more credence to the need for change in public policy regarding what oil and gas companies, or other prospectors, may or may not do, in the aftermath of an accidental spill.

The dire experience of the nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico for over six months begs for more responsive workplace safety policy on the part of oil and gas industry members. Leaders of the industry got a better perspective of how a project may go afire, if a major oil drilling firm fails to take necessary actions or precautions to ameliorate the possibility of an accidental explosion. What this book does, is create awareness of those environmental consequential issues that are often ignored by industry operators. By cataloging the events surrounding the explosion at the Deep-water Horizon rig, the book contributes to the ever continued debate of workplace safety and deaths in the Oil and Gas Industry. The book identified the most crucial issues that are often ignored or neglected, debated issues that could make or break offshore oil and gas drilling and exposes possible workplace debacles that results in spills or deaths on defunct oil rig.

The damaged Deep-water Horizon rig not only led to deaths in a workplace, it exposes the failure of a company that probably put profits before people. The unconscionable decisions of a multinational corporation in oil and gas prospecting, its contractors and associated partners led to the deaths of innocent workers. The analysis of events surrounding the accidental explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on the Deep-water Horizon rig added new knowledge to the understanding of risk involved in prospecting for oil and gas in deep and shallow water: that contractors and owners of a rig have shared responsibilities when it comes to workplace safety; and any denial of corporate responsibility by any actor or partner on a huge project like that at the Deep-water Horizon rig, would hardly hold water before the court of law. To prospect for oil and gas without proper and adequate hedging of associated risks is hardly tenable especially, when it comes to workplace safety.

Readers of BP OIL SPILL: Documenting the Crisis in US Gulf Coast may come to appreciate that events surrounding the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have been averted if the oil and gas Industry members had better policed themselves. The defunct Minerals Management Services had a responsibility to have continual oversight of all activities of partners involved in oil and gas drilling, even after approval of licenses and all associated papers. The Bureau, even before its defunct could have done better considering its mandate; whatever British Petroleum and its contractors failed to do, wasn’t completely out of reach of mandated regulatory obligation of the bureau. Notwithstanding though, it behooves the major actors in the industry to work hard to maintain a high standard in operation of oil and gas rigs and probably compel its members to adhere strictly to this standard when drilling for oil and gas in any waters, shallow or deep.

The American public for some time wondered why the Federal Government had not quickly stepped in immediately after the April 20th explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. It is believed that had the federal environmental and emergency control bodies or groups stepped right in, the level of environmental pollution might have been limited or constrained. However, many oil and gas industry experts and policymakers maintain that British Petroleum has the initial responsibility; or right of refusal to take control of the runaway well, since it owned it and had contractors working under its auspices to manage associated events of prospecting for oil and gas.

Outsiders to the oil and gas industry questioned the veracity of the actions of British Petroleum after the second week of daily gushing of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Some in State and Local governments demanded that Obama’s Administration take control of the oil spill management, jettison British Petroleum and its cohorts of oil spill managers, as it had become evident that the company and surrogates were overwhelmed by the Deep-water Horizon disaster. This kind of suggestion introduced the relevance of public and private partnership in the course of managing accidental oil spill, especially one of this magnitude; an issue hitherto not contemplated because we have neither been at a crossroad where an accident had developed into a nightmare and the government been asked to step into the clean-up effort because of the probable ineptitude of the operators and owners of the well, or found the whole nation completely enthralled with the events surrounding the accidental explosion. The debate was however settled when it became crystal clear that British Petroleum and its contractors were over their head with the defunct oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico; and, only a federal government intervention could save the day. As you will read in subsequent chapter entries, British Petroleum and its contractors had failed so woefully as to require government intervention in managing the aftermath of the clean up after the oil spill.

The argument that British Petroleum had brought the entire nightmare to the nation because the multinational corporation put profit before people became more evident when it was publicized in the press that at the early part of the accident and deaths, British Petroleum’s senior officials had accosted bereaved family members of the dead oil rig workers to sign away their right to litigation. Some top British Petroleum officials were also washing their hands off the mistakes leading to the disaster; and the Chief Executive Officer, Tony Hayward, was quoted as wanting his life back! Now, here is a company in a free-enterprise market, which was overwhelmed by the dramatic oozing of oil and gas from a running away well that could have been prevented raising both hands up and crying for help because of his inability to appreciate his duties; or understand the degree of incompetence. Why should the Federal Government step into a mess created by a negligent firm, which knew things could go overboard if care was not taken while drilling for oil and gas; yet, went ahead with some unconscionable business and engineering decisions that led to workplace deaths? Does a company as this nature have an option to be rescued by taxpayers?

Although the accidental explosions, deaths and size of the aftermath of the oil spill were heart wrenching, British Petroleum has the initial obligation to ensure that his drilling activities are safe. If appropriate cautions had been taken, it is rather unlikely we would have had the degree of marine habitat pollution, gradual destruction and deaths of marine life, birds, fishes, oysters, crab and more. The inadequate preparedness of the owners and operator of the Deep-water Horizon rig made the accidental explosion a nightmare.

Now, one can debate if the cost to the environment of British Petroleum executives’ incompetence or operational inadequacy calls for quick response and action from an independent and or federal agency? However, this is not necessary so or required in light of the free-enterprise market arrangement of our economy. I know a few environmentalists will baulk or disagree; and, advance that looking at the drenched oil plumes and marshes for several weeks and months demanded direct immediate action from the Federal Government. I further contend as well that the argument begs for a deference, since responsive environmental stewardship does not necessary demand a commitment to undertake clean up in the event of an accidental explosion from the negligence of an oil and gas prospecting firm; and a quick federal government response would have been a waste of taxpayers’ money for an event or activity that is purely a private initiative or enterprise activity. A contrarian argument may shed light on this missive: Isn’t the federal government responsible for safety of life and protection of our nation’s waters and environment? A further denial is appropriate here: Does a subtle shout for help anytime a poor or bad decision is taken by management of a private enterprise necessitate direct involvement of the federal government and expenditure of taxpayer’s money? On would get answers to some of these questions and more by the time one is through reading the book, BP Oil Spill: Documenting the Crisis in US Gulf Coast.

ISSUES OF PUBLIC COCERN

Each chapter of the book represents individual discussion point, yet part of a facet of documentation of events surrounding environmental pollution and degradation from British Petroleum’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The deaths of eleven workers and hospitalization of two oil rig workers, from what is now considered as the worst oil spill in recent memory and probably the most cruel workplace safety violation on an oil rig in borders of North America, articulate the argument for the retooling of oil industry standard in off-shore oil and gas drilling and the dissolution of the former United States Minerals Management Services. The discussion of the environmental implication of the oil spill and the political, sociological and psychological ramification of the subsequent events since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows policymakers why essentially the process of making public policy surrounding workplace safety and exploration for oil and gas must remain dynamic. The associated risks with the industry’s exploration activities demand this type of status-quo.

If you wonder why some of the discussion points in the entries bother on policy issues and debates that are long standing with respect to oil and gas drilling within continental United States, it is because they are meant to be that way. The confusions in press releases of events surrounding the oil spill and environmental pollution and or degradation in the Gulf Coast, necessitates continued discussions of issues that seem to have been ignored in prior debates, and probably by industry members. The experience of the British Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, to say the least, necessitates that discussants of the experience proffer new solutions to ever nagging and long standing problems surrounding off-shore drilling in America.

Hopefully, the new look or evaluation of activities of the oil and gas industry will help us sort out those thorny issues that continue to lead to oil spill, both in Shallow-water and Deep-water Offshore drilling. It is not just enough to criticize British Petroleum for all its failures in the event at Macondo well; it is also the responsibility of the oil and gas industry insiders to profess solutions to the perennial problem of oil spill in prospecting for oil and gas in North America. At the time of the Deep-water Horizon debacle, everyone wondered if anything could have been done differently to help British Petroleum get hold of the runaway well, or help stop the long oil leaks in the Gulf of Mexico.

The mounted engineering effort to stop the constant leaks from Macondo well after the accidental explosion, failed severely; and, the strategies mounted to ease the leaks were meeting other setbacks, with nearly all oil and gas industry experts and engineering departments in the nation’s top universities debating what else British Petroleum could do to help stop the insistence oil leaks. The Federal Government put together a National Incident Response Command to help dampen the very challenging and explosive nightmare that the Deep-water Horizon rig disaster had become. The Federal Government was given the flak for holding on too long before stepping in to take over the management of the disaster from British Petroleum. These types of actions and criticisms formed fertile ground for solution prescription and probably, further debates regarding how oil and gas industry members conduct their business in prospecting for oil and gas in North America.

Additional purpose of this book is to answer questions from the public regarding what they must be worried about, especially those residents of the Gulf Coast, who had lost loved ones, livelihood and way of life. Including questions from parents and business enterprises that depend on marine life for survival or those whose business are directly or indirectly associated with the process of extracting oil and gas. The explosion at the Deep-water Horizon rig had not only affected workers and families; it had also affected many of us far away from the Gulf Coast, ordinary people like you and me, teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, housewives and more, who watched the BP’s accident in the Gulf Coast unfold. For those of us who cherished consumption of sea foods from the Gulf Coast in our local restaurants around the country, the accident was an animated nightmare that could hardly go away for close to five months or the whole duration of the leaks. We all had a shared interest and concerns in seeing the oozing oil stopped, that our source of seafood is not polluted, that our friends and neighbors get a lease of life as they go about to their places of work, and their family members assured that their breadwinners, who make their living working on offshore platforms, are safe for the duration of time they remain on those huge oil rigs and platforms.

ARRANGEMENT IN THE BOOK

The book is divided into five chapters, with each chapter documenting, cataloging and or analyzing relevant developments surrounding the arrest of a runaway well and cleanup efforts at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. It is not the intention to criticize or castigate efforts made to bring a closure to the oil leaks from the Macondo well after the explosion on April 20th, 2010; or, the omissions that characterized the cleanup effort. The effort in the book was to reflect on the day-to-day activities of US government’s involvement in arresting a runaway well after what is now considered the largest offshore oil spill in US history.

Further, it is worth considering that the discussion shifts from documenting, cataloging and analysis to drawing inferences from the daily developments surrounding the oil leaks, addressing British Petroleum strategies in averting more financial or legal damages, bringing the oil leaks to a stop and the federal government engagement in the process to avert or bring to an end the worst environmental pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, readers may take some issues with the shift in discussion and analysis; however, the facts are, we all experienced the disaster in one way or the other and individual perception of the events surrounding the explosion and cleanup efforts may affect our analysis and debate of the issues. What I have done here is to see this disaster from the prism of an environmental economist, cataloging librarian and policymaker; and probably, an activist.

In addition, the environmental policy implications of government effort to re-organize the Minerals Management Services consequent to the experience of the British Petroleum oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, made for good reading and sometimes humor in a work like this, especially knowing that some oil and gas industry insiders are already complaining that the minerals management service reorganization effort, and associated Federal environmental management policy changes with respect to offshore oil drilling, are already stifling their business. While documenting some initial litigation in court regarding ultimate responsibility for the accident and potential resolution of some contractual obligation of drilling oil and gas from the Macondo well, the book alert the reader to the implication of continued dependence on carbon-based fuel; and the essential or needed additional regulations, to hold the big actors in the oil and gas industry responsible for their actions and or inactions in offshore oil drilling.

QUESTIONS FROM THE EXPERIENCE

At the individual level, here are some challenging questions associated with the experience of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Associated with each documented analysis and catalog is a light bulb question for the reader to ponder over. These questions are found at the end of each entry and are supposed to make readers reflect on their contribution to environmental pollution due to continued and increased demand for carbon-based energy source:

1) Can America benefit from further exploration for oil and gas in offshore places, seas and oceans?

2) Can we share with you some of the very remotely thought of impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

3) Consequent to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, does British Petroleum have a reason to be threatening regulatory agencies or the government?

4) Are Internet Gatekeeper’s selling out their soul for money in a matter of National Environmental Concern?

5) Can we believe the Chief Electronic Technicians account of what probably led to the Deep-water Horizon rig explosion?

At the Corporation level, here are some questions associated with British Petroleum’s effort to shore up its public image at the peak of the oil spill and Deep-water Horizon rig disaster:

1) Can British Petroleum make everyone whole after the accidental oil spill and public relations debacle?

2) Can British Petroleum encourage its in-house image writers or managers to stay with the facts?

3) Can BP Salvage its brand after the Gulf of Mexico fiasco?

4) Can British Petroleum Executive Board read between the lines in their proposed replacement of Tony Hayward with Bob Dudley for CEO?

5) Can the Law Courts compel British petroleum to make restitution for damages to the environment?

At the Federal Government level, here are some questions that continue to influence citizen’s perception of the Federal Government’s response to the runaway well issue with British Petroleum:

1) Can the reorganization of the Minerals Management Services prevent another blow-out similar to the British Petroleum’s at the Deep-water Horizon rig?

2) Can the federal Government salvage the Gulf Coast environment after British Petroleum’s oil rig blowout?

3) Can the US President singularly right all the wrongs about British petroleum’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico?

4) Can the US President’s visitation to the accident site, smoothen out some roughened feathers in the Gulf Coast States after the British Petroleum’s disaster?

5) What is the fuss about British petroleum’s past monetary contributions to America’s Politics?

Not all these questions have a right or wrong answer. The effort here is the quest for answers to a problem that has dogged in oil and gas industry for decades; and some of which have arisen again due to the experience of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The suspected lackadaisical attitude of British Petroleum towards workplace safety and response to the aftermath effect of the defunct Deep-water Horizon rig has been burdensome to the public. The Corporate Executives at British Petroleum have given policymakers and public a lot of concern regarding the management of disasters concerning their exploration and refining of oil; the experience of the Texas Refinery Explosion being one; and now, the explosion at the Deep-water Horizon rig. The failures of Management at British Petroleum after the accidental explosion of the Deep-water Oil rig and deaths of eleven workers make one wonder if the multinational corporation must not have criminal liabilities added to its civil liabilities regarding the environmental disaster and nightmare.

For some while, executives at British Petroleum, America, remained docile regarding issues leading to the accidental explosion and for an instance, completely denied its corporate responsibility for the accident. The discussions, catalog and analysis in this book open up new consideration of extent of liability, civil and criminal, of major and subsidiary contractors on an oil and gas exploration effort offshore. The more pressing issue of concern to many in and out of oil and gas industry is the issue of workplace safety. Hopefully at the end of the book, readers would have come up with better ideas on how to ensure that prospecting for oil and gas does not have to be a death sentence for oil and gas rigs workers and creative ideas on how the federal government may compel the industry actors to follow regulatory agencies’ and industry standard regarding safe ways for drilling and workplace safety

Now, here is the layout of the book: each chapter has at least twelve discussions and topics of analysis, cataloging and discussion, some short, some long. Each chapter represents experiences of events surrounding the BP oil spill; and, federal government involvement to arrest the runaway well and bring somewhat of a normalcy to the largest offshore oil spill in US history. Readers must expect five chapters of analysis, cataloging and discussion in the book: “B P Oil Spill: Documenting the Crisis in US Gulf Coast”. The seventh chapter is a summary and epilog of the work.

Chapter 2 - Challenges of Prospecting for Carbon-based Energy Resource in the US Gulf Coast (April – May, 2010)

Friday, April 30, 2010

A. Unbounded natural resources prospecting leads to disaster: what we must learn from British Petroleum mistake in the Gulf Coast

The environmentalists argument to corporations regarding natural resource exploration is very simple: cautiously map your prospecting activities off- or on-shore for oil, gas, coal or other natural resources, paying attention to safety rules and you do not have to deal with the head aches of managing a cleanup or environmental disasters. The environmentalists argument to the government is: allow for unbounded prospecting for oil, gas, coal or other natural resources off- or on-shore and you find out what excessive risks corporations are willing to take to plunder resources and the environment. For corporations, safety rules handed down by MSHA, OHSA and EPA are just too complicated and costly. The twist and turns of these rules and regulations add too much to overhead and as entrepreneurs, we do not have room to stomach these costs. We will rather devise short cuts to get around these regulations and hope for the best!

However, what experience tells us is this, whenever prospecting corporations attempt to cut corners we end up with loss of lives, humans and mammals, loss of other resources, and endless contamination of the environment. For example, how is British Petroleum explaining the estimated 210,000 gallons of oil spill a day? How is the company going to manage its horizontal drilling efforts, a stop gap strategy, to prevent potential nightmarish marine life destruction in the Gulf of Mexico?

The eclipsing magnitude of the spill in the Gulf Coast is probably the second largest environmental disaster in the history of oil exploration in America. The disaster is probably only surpassed by the Exxon Valdez disaster by a squint. With the pace of the oil spill, British Petroleum probably could not say for sure, the extent of pollution or damage to the environment. As the problem continues to evolve, the Federal Government is probably not sure if the environmental pollution problem could be contained to the Gulf Coast. Probably, that is why the Administration has sent two high powered Administration Secretaries and the Environmental Protection Agency honcho to the Gulf Coast to see the extent of the British Petroleum effort to manage the current disaster.

Further, the Obama’s Administration that had contemplated an open wide off-shore drilling in the coming year(s) as a way to deal with the energy security issue, is probably taking a second look at that decision. For the oil companies that had lobbied hard and held tight on the need to get into America off-shore drilling for oil and gas as means of making extra profits, this British Petroleum disaster couldn’t have come at a worse time. For the eye and ear of the Obama’s Administration in Congress and the hardliner Republicans that had routed for approval of off-shore drilling, this is probably public relations mayhem. David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was quoted by Seattle Times as saying: “I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling.” Mr. Kennedy was reacting to the pace of oil spill in the Gulf coast from British petroleum mishap.

The highest rate of oil spill today, 210 gallons a day, is probably going to get worse, at least with respect to the consequence to the environment. British Petroleum is shooting for a change in weather to help curtail the extent of pollution and preventing it from engaging in a second burn off of oil at sea. The Navy’s support to curtail the mayhem, including 66,000 feet inflatable containment boom is probably not going to do much for the daunting cleaning challenge that will ensue at the end of this experience. Prospecting corporation executives who have always said the EPA, MSHA and OSHA rules and regulations are too much cost must be invited to contemplate the magnitude of the cleanup cost that will fall on British Petroleum, for this carelessness!

Another factor that has to be contemplated is the number of endangered species of marine life, including sea turtles, migrating song birds and marine mammals that will be lost from this mishap. The National Audubon Society identified Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, Mottled Duck, Royal Tern and Snowy Plover as just a few birds that are vulnerable to this mishap. Marine Animals that may be at risk include Oysters, Blue fin Tuna and Sea Turtle, among others. There is pressure from the Federal Government to see that things do not get out of hand with the challenge posed by the spill. At the same time, the government is worried about the political fall-out that this mishap will cause. For now though, the Obama’s Administration is putting a keen eye on the problem to see that its initial policy of allowing for off-shore drilling does not become a casualty of the problem.

In thinking about the dynamics of this oil spill and the workload for managing the oil slick, the government must be specific as to their expectation for British Petroleum obligation. The Obama’s Administration must be specific as regard the extent of the cleanup and the added load of public relations that British Petroleum must shoulder. The company would probably attempt to wiggle out of some of the expectations for proper clean-up of environment and the Gulf of Mexico; however, the government must be persistent and diligent in making British Petroleum deliver. The appropriate level of cleanup must be defined and British Petroleum made to live up to all agreements signed to that effect with the Environmental Protection Agency. If British petroleum fails, financial penalties must be levied or added. Companies only respond to problems when you hit them in their pocket. That’s the only language they understand!

What can we learn from this current mishap? There are so many damages going on now in the coastal states around the Gulf of Mexico. The cleanup that will be needed must reflect the highest standard expected from a huge spill like this; the cleanup must be commensurate with the size of spill and the necessity to keep the environment precinct and safe. The cleanup may not just be a onetime effort, it must take a couple of years to ensure that sea life are returned to their former state before the spill. The cleanup arrangement must take control of the demand of the occupational restoration for many who make their living from the waters in that area, fishermen, oyster and tuna processing firms and downstream companies that benefit from exploiting sea lives. This is where the challenge comes in, when the government officials and British Petroleum are designing a clean-up regime, the cleanup must involve resident of those areas that are directly impacted and the effort must take cognizance of preventing future mishaps as this in that same area.. The regime must meet not only the need to return the environment to a stable habitat, but also ensure that similar events does not repeat itself in many oil drilling decks littered around the coastal areas of America.

Beyond the arrangement for cleanup, the government must now revisit the guidelines and safety records of all oil and gas prospecting firms. There is some oil drilling safeguards that are predominate in other countries, both in Europe, Asia and Africa that is currently excluded in the operation of oil and gas drilling in America. It is about time, we catch up with all equipment and processes that help save lives as oil and gas corporations’ prospects in our waters and land.

Finally, with regard to the safety standards and guidelines from our regulating organizations as MSHA, EPA and OSHA, it is now time that we give them the teeth to bite. We cannot allow the corporations to continue to dictate issues of safety for our citizens and sea lives. We cannot continue to look away because of the need for energy safety as many of these corporations take advantage of the loop holes in our laws. We must continue to build safe guard for human and animal lives as we allow for off-shore drilling in the coming years. That is, if the current congress follows through with the earlier pronounced administration requests for off-shore drilling in water after 125 miles from the shore.

Light Bulb Question: Did we learn anything from the massive oil spill in the Gulf Coast by British Petroleum?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

B. Managing through the tipping Point in the British Petroleum’s Mayhem in the Gulf Coast

There will always be need to drill for oil and gas off-shore, if we are going to meet our energy security goal. Drilling and prospecting for oil and gas don’t have to be risky or polluting, tough. Drilling and prospecting for oil companies are great opportunities to leverage for expansive profits in an industry lately known for making zillions of dollars in profit. However, the whole process doesn’t have to be polluting and damaging to the environment. Many oil companies conduct the drilling and prospecting process haphazardly and pay little attention to safety issues on their rigs and that is why we have the disastrous environmental nightmare today; and, we have the British Petroleum Corporation to thank for the damage to wetlands and beaches in the Gulf Coast.

Some oil company executives would deny that their safety records are not something to be proud of; however, the public know better after seeing what happened with Exxon in Valdez, Alaska and British Petroleum in the Gulf Coast of the United States. Interestingly, the latter company is about to suffer the fate of unintended consequence for its shoddy handling of the management of the catastrophic accident of oil spill in the Gulf. At the onset of the accident, British Petroleum Chief Executive Officer assured the government that the oil plume was manageable and not catastrophic. A day later, British Petroleum was calling the Federal Government for help to save the day. The company was seeking the help of the military to provide protective support and containment boom to help protect the shoreline in the Gulf Coast. This was a belated request, especially when the government had earlier sent the first responders in emergency cases and offered protective support immediately after the accident. The fact that British Petroleum earlier professed that they had the situation under control, only to resort to asking for help when things had spawn beyond manageability, is deplorable.

The purveyors of environmental pollution from their exploration exercise are no stranger to the current mayhem happening with the pollution in the Gulf. There are several examples of accidental spills all over the nation everyday with the activities of this industry. Some of these spills are reported as required by law; others are covered or denied to protect the purse of the oil companies. British Petroleum is not oblivious to this fact. British Petroleum should not be let go Scot free on this one. We are suffering extensively today so that British Petroleum could continue making its obscene profits. Many of our endangered species of mammals, birds and fishes are being killed or suffocated to death because of British Petroleum mistake.

British Petroleum must be made wholly responsible for whatever damage that result from the rupture of their deep water drilling rig. No matter how they portray their safety records or how they want the public to perceive this current explosion, the reality is: we have to deal with another disastrous environmental mayhem consequent to the actions of another oil and gas prospecting company. If you are one of the residents of Southern Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, whose livelihood had depended on the rich fish and oil reserves of these areas, you must be thinking twice about the coexistence of both industries, and probably more concerned about the safety records of the oil and gas industry, whose activities have been dangerously risky and environmentally damaging.

The current effort to stop the oil spill from reaching the beaches is tethering on an environmental disaster, no matter how sugar coated this effort in some quarters. The residents of Chandelier Islands, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi would gladly tell you that they preferred their beaches the way it was before the British Petroleum’s spill. No one should be attempting to rehabilitate British Petroleum because they are trying to clean up after their mess. The full consequences of this spill, in terms of environmental pollution, coastal and beaches damages, are probably difficult to assess at this time. What is known now, is just a drop in the bucket. Let’s wait for six months down the line for us to appreciate the real damage to the environment from this precarious event.

Collaboration and accident management efforts are ideal for emergencies as these. The impact of accidents of this magnitude is often difficult to assess; however, the heroes and heroines of this moment are often forgotten until another accidents like this happens again. This is probably true of many emergency events like this in our nation. However, the unique experience of oil spills are often overwhelming and that is why the government and the people often demand that oil companies take seriously the issue of safety on their rigs or exploration environment. Whether these companies are going to do so is still up in the air. What is known is that the off-shore drilling activities by oil companies are on an increasing trend so also is accidents like this spill.

Obama’s Administration is proposing increased off-shore drilling and had just released a moratorium on drilling exercises because of this recent accidental spill. The President is heading to the Gulf Coast to assess the degree of damage from this accident. The fast and strong winds that have been spreading the black goop over the wide area to the extent that the spill threatens animals in the open seas would baffle the President and show him how unpalatable this accident and experience has been, especially for residents of the Gulf Coast. This accident should show the government how important the issue of safety is in the oil drilling activities and why oil companies must be compelled to follow the regulatory agencies’ safety rules, not theirs regarding the exploration and drilling of oil and gas.

Following safety rules of federal regulatory agencies, is not a punishment or a way to cut into the profits of the oil companies. It is not a means of making it difficult for the oil companies to prospect into difficult areas and terrains. Rather, the safety guidelines are meant to help companies control their excesses and manage many of the environmental mishaps that have nearly tipped level of repetitious oil rigs accidents to an unbearable nongovernmental disaster and nightmare. If only the oil companies will realize this and work with the agencies and the government!

Light Bulb Question: Can we save the Gulf Coast from more damages of British Petroleum’s oil spills?

Monday, May 3, 2010

C. Environmental Consequences of off-shore oil extraction: lessons from BP’s disaster in the Gulf Coast.

The oil and gas industries are killing our wetlands and taking away the ecosystem. Migratory birds, traveling from North to South hemisphere, are being killed by chemicals dispersed from exploding oil rigs; and, toxicity in bodies of water adjacent to the rigs are causing mayhem for marine life. Added to these are networks of environmental damages consequent from excessive spills in many coastal habitats, damages that are probably rendering most of the habitat in those areas, useless. Many Oil Companies, including British Petroleum have earned millions of dollars from the drilling activities that have greatly harmed many of the habit. For those who understand the usual blame game in corporate America, you would probably not be surprised that British Petroleum is shifting blame to Transocean, in the usual characteristic of corporate deceptions and lies!

The recent experience with British Petroleum in the Gulf Coast is just one of the many damages to the environment caused by oil extraction. The Chief Executive Officer of British Petroleum attempted to shift blame on the NBC Today Show indicating that a different company, Transocean, not British Petroleum, caused the current disaster in the Gulf Coast. He followed however, that British Petroleum will take responsibility for the cleanup. In this context, you are tempted to ask, why would British Petroleum be willing to take responsibility for another company’s created mayhem?

The possibility of expansion of habitat destruction in the Gulf of Mexico, consequent from British Petroleum drilling activities, has been on the mind of the public since their oil spill accident last week. The challenge of curtailing the extent of damage is taking a new turn; with engineers proposing and implanting solutions: 1) fabricating a box-like retainer to help collect or clamp down on the oil ooze or tapping the oil gush in incompressible volume for now, so it doesn’t do more damage; 2) Piping a concrete seal through a conduit to help seal permanently the oil gush. Either of these options would not suffice and probably a combination of both can bring the much needed relief from this nightmare.

Despite the enormity of the problem created from this huge oil spill, one probably considered as second only to the last by Exxon, the British Petroleum experience in the Gulf Coast is just a reminder to the public that the challenge of off-shore oil drilling is huge; and, no brilliance from one individual or corporation can manage the resultant effect of errors in the drilling process. Advancement and infrastructure of oil drilling activities by oil companies in the United States have been criticized for lacking safety regulations necessary to completely put a stop to oil spills; and, some of the safety requirements found in other parts of the world are somehow lacking in our drilling processes and for the level of oil drilling activities in some regions of North America. The convolution of all these challenges have made it difficult for off-shore drilling processes to avoid spills.

Some critics of the oil industry blame the palpable safety awareness in oil drilling process as a result of excessive lobby efforts by oil companies to exclude some equipment in the drilling process in America. The added result of this is the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Further, the failure to adopt some safety regulations by some oil companies during the drilling process have been criticized as consequential from the lackadaisical attitude of oil companies to regulatory requirements of OSHA and Environmental Protection Agency. Finally, the current oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico has demonstrated that when corporations do not contemplate all possible scenarios of potential failures in the extraction process or, do not follow guidelines of regulatory agencies regarding the drilling processes, unfortunate accidents or events that precipitate unfathomable damages to the immediate habitat, can and often happen. Although British Petroleum indicates that it is doing all that is possible to curtail more extensive or expansive damages, there is evidence that shell-fish and oyster harvesters in the Gulf Coast are already decimated by the current disaster and are probably looking forward to a dire summer business.

Petroleum Engineers familiar with off-shore drilling and extraction indicate that immediate response predation is crucial in helping manage the consequential problems of oil spill as the one currently experienced in the Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Regulatory Agency’s officials are telling us that we are probably experiencing a disaster beyond our wildest imagination and the public policy to encourage off-shore drilling in parts of the country by the Obama’s Administration may have to wait. The British Petroleum disaster has not only created dicey and difficult problems for the policy phase of this initiative, it has created a challenging environment for people whose livelihood depends on marine life in the Gulf Coast, to thrive. While it is difficult to completely comprehend the extent of the current disaster in monetary value and habitat destruction, the extent to which this mishap will transform lives of fishermen and seafarers just recovering from the pangs of the Katrina disaster, is rather heart-breaking. Many of them interviewed by the News Networks indicated how financially devastating this British Petroleum spill experience has been for them since last week. One can only imagine what it will look like if efforts are not made to halt this disaster in the next few days!

To prevent this size and scope of accidental oil spills during on- or off-shore drilling, companies have to do a number of things that are not necessarily part of their current repertoire in oil prospecting and extraction. First, they must understand that one cannot be too careful in the process of drilling; the process is endemic with risks and uncertainties, some of which are not easily deciphered. No two oil well drilling activities or processes are alike and no two geological terrains are similar, no matter what petroleum geologists or your insurers tell you. Not recognizing this major fact causes the numerous spills that happen on daily basis on the numerous oil rigs, whether reported or not by prospecting companies, around this country.

Not every oil well has all of the required characteristics, to make it safe for drilling without the potential problem of a spill. Oil prospecting firms must therefore:

- identify the risks involved in the process and get teams of project workers familiar with such risks to work a rig, paying attention to other challenges characteristic of certain geological and geomorphology regions;

- Ask and brain storm with other oil companies and share experience with managing the drilling process, information and risk management on drilling oil wells should not be considered a trade secret, as accidental spills happen with all oil rigs and companies and all can learn from each other's experience;

- Encourage instant access to decision making by project workers with support from the control decks and encourage reflective management of drilling activities;

- Make clear your position on accountability with respect to each process activities and discuss the consequence and cost of accidental oil spills, if contracting out the oil drilling or prospecting to another firm;

- Encourage a passion among your project workers on the rigs and the essence of safety constantly if doing the job by yourself;

- Use all possible emergency responder opportunities in case there is an accident, do not pretend or anticipate you can readily manage the spill or explosion, even if you can;

- Inform engineers on deck regularly of what to do and how to go about it, in case there is an accidental events;

- Provide boundaries, workers on the rigs need structure and discipline – sufficient enough to allow them to conduct the steps of drilling according to the acceptable industry standard, but with boundaries that help them focus efforts on activities that prevent accidents or spills;

- Talk straight and encourage your engineers to flourish as leaders with confidence about the expertise in managing oil drilling risks and accidental havocs; and

- Conduct and connect with workers on the platform with a remote control center monitoring each step and processes away from the drilling deck.

It appears that many of the accidental spills fall into the category of unexpected poor choice in the drilling process or, a choice to farm out the drilling process to another contractor like Transocean, without close monitoring or risks assessment by the awarding oil firm. Oil prospecting and drilling are difficult and unpredictable; and, the whole process must not be left alone in the hands of a contractor, even if the contractor is an experienced one. Avoid creating chaos after an accident or covering up the potential consequences from regulatory authorities. Do not be afraid that the regulatory authorities will unleash all their power of conformance or punishment, if they find out you made mistakes that lead to a leak or loss of life. The regulatory authorities are there to help you help yourself do a better job, so you do not have to deal with the headaches of a clean up after an oil spill or attending burials of you close friends and employees on the job. Light Bulb Question: Can Oil Companies do a better job at managing risk during oil and gas extractions?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

D. Monthly Oil spills, busted oil and gas pipelines: How do we save our environment from off-shore drilling mishaps?

There is probably no more bad news for oil companies and their contractors than last week’s oil spill in the Gulf Coast. In the world of oil prospecting, the problem of oil spills, busted oil and gas pipelines are so rampant that very few like the one from British Petroleum via Transocean ever get noticed or reported. The regularity of oil and gas spills have turned out to be one of those things that you expect from oil exploration and drilling; and, only when spills are so daunting and disturbing that they render a larger than expected size of our habitat and environment useless or wasted, do we bat an eye. If you are in doubt, here is a current news log from my favorite Workboat magazine of May 2010:

"It has been a tough start to the year as far as oil spills and busted oil and gas pipelines is concerned. In late March, a ruptured pipeline spewed 18000 gallons of Crude oil into the water in the Delta National Wildlife refuge, located about 10 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana. Oil was floating in the water near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and a 12-mile wide oil slick had pushed 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, It is the second pipeline rupture in south Louisiana in as many months".

Roughly one month after the spill reported above came the British Petroleum fiasco that continues to baffle all of us. In March, the culprit was Berry Brother’s General Contractors, doing dredging work for ExxonMobil, just the way Transocean was doing contracting work for British Petroleum on their off-shore rig, got into trouble. Late April is the current mayhem where busted oil pipes and wanton nightmare of a spill that may take another nine to twelve months to clean up, have become the talk of the day. Our concern and dilemma as a people now is: Do we have to have repeated monthly spills before the regulatory agencies call the oil company executives to their office for a campfire pep talk? Not necessarily.

Oil and gas prospecting has evolved from a simple process to a multi-level and multi-functional process, involving sometimes, sub-contracting that may involve three or four outside companies working on the same exploration and extraction. What used to be a labor intensive task performed with a help of a single line of workers is now being carried out by many contractors and sub-contractors. Some of these contractors and sub-contractors are competent; others are not so competent, hence we have to deal with the repeated oil spills that continue to be a pain in the neck for environmentalists and probably a thing of concern for the Mineral Management Service, OSHA, EPA and other regulatory agencies.

Oil companies have failed to prepare comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement as required by law and where they have done so; many of the required information on the potential impact of their production processes are either left out or not thoroughly explored. The Minerals Management Services (MMS) involved in oil and gas leasing program often call for public comments, but rarely do we show up to document our concerns about the processes of oil exploration on leases. The public only realize the importance of making our concerns known or making comments during the open public comments period, when we suffer a mishap as the one recently consummated by British Petroleum and its contractor in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you are really concerned and irritated by the continuous and repeated oil spills, busted oil and gas pipelines that result in endangering many bird, mammals, and humans, or if you are concerned that some of our wildlife refuge is being deprecated by the activities of oil exploration, it is now time to speak up. There is no one going to speak for us, except us! Obviously, we are not going to expect the oil companies or their contractors to stand up for us, whenever there is a spill of the magnitude that now threatens our waters and marine life in the gulf.

As a public service, this blog is repeating an advertisement put out by the Minerals Management Services on a Notice of Intent to prepare Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed period of 2012-2017 on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas leasing program. The notice calls for public comments on the scope of the Environmental Impact statement (EIS) for the five year lease period. The notice solicit information regarding issues and alternatives that should be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement. The comment period is opened through June 30, 2010. A comprehensive content of the advertisement may be found on the Website: www.ocs5yeareis.anl.gov. The EIS will evaluate all offering or portions of eight OCS planning areas for oil and gas leases, including the Western, central and portion of eastern Gulf of Mexico, Cook Inlet off the coast of Alaska, Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Meeting schedules of public comments period in the month of June, 2010, could be found at www.mms.gov.

So you may ask why a contribution to a public hearing as this is so important. You guessed it: so that we do not have to deal with the headaches of having to ask belated questions regarding why there is an oil spill or why a leased tract of drilling area to the oil company was bastardized or polluted from their exploration activities. This is the time to speak up, before we end up having to pick our endangered species of birds and mammals with gullet full of oil, wings tarnished by those slimy oil residues on the body of the birds, fishes and oysters. Yes, it is the time to have our say! We cannot keep on looking away as if we are completely handicapped or bystanders, before another oil spill that has now gulped up the coastal areas in the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas and more, becomes a problem or national news item.

One of the key importance of having our say during the open comment period for an Environmental Impact Statement, is that we not only get to have our say, we get to review the contents of environmental impact statements prepared by interested lessor of the oil and gas tracts, without prejudice. We get to understand and quiz the presenters on their plan for management of emergencies and their assessments of the potential emergencies, including oil spills and their consequential impact on the environment. Such assessments in many cases, allow us to assess the chances of human errors in the drilling and prospecting process and affords us to demand that oil and gas lessor, drill and prospect for oil and gas with efficiency, which is probably the best known measure of doing it right without excessive damage to our environment.

Light Bulb Question: Can we change the tide of oil spills on the oil rigs?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

E. Quantifying the costs of damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast?

This morning, British Petroleum shifted its attack on the endless oil gush from the three wells that have continued to be a source of concern for all of us. The plastic booms are proving not to be enough to retain the oil gushing out of the wells. Although often helpful, the fear that if the sea gets violent the boom might not just be enough to retain the oil that has now practically become ubiquitous in the Gulf of Mexico is real. British Petroleum is adopting an acoustic device to replace the current effort and equipment, to help stop the activation of oil from one of the three wells. Further, it is lowering a dome of metal to cap the oil rising from one of the wells and channeling it through a funnel to a standing ship for storage. In addition, a relief well is also being dogged to help reduce the pressure of oil gushing out to sea and damaging the environment. This strategy has not been tried before and no one knows if this can curtail the volume of oil going out to sea from the wells.

Since last week, the pace of the oil spill has been rather overwhelming with estimates varying by the day, of the number of gallons of oil gushing out from the three active wells. Some estimates had put it at 20,000 gallons per day, while others have speculated that it is close to 25,000 gallons per day. A Professor from Florida State University estimates that a life well, that is, one that has nothing to do with a spill, which is functioning very well, should be able to put out 30,000 gallons per day. For many of us observing this current nightmare, it does not make a difference if the gush is at 20,000 or 30,000 gallons, per day; we are just scared that the combination of oil and water in the Gulf of Mexico has the potential of having an irreversible damage to the Gulf Coast shoreline. The question on our mind is, can we salvage the shorelines of states like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Texas now with the pace of oil spread on the waters in that area? Until someone gives us a candid answer to this question, we will remain skeptical about whatever pronouncements that comes out of British Petroleum and its executives.

For now, this is what is well known: the jagged shoreline of the gulf coast states are becoming an environment of wasted oil spills which is generally hazardous to residents, marine habitats, wildlife habitats and the ocean water surfaces. The range of oil spills per day had led to some marine scientists, geologists and lawyers to wonder, why in the first place, practices that could have allowed British Petroleum to quickly conquer this type of accident, which are used in Brazil and some European drilling sites, were absent from the drilling operations conducted by British Petroleum and some other oil prospecting firms in American off-shore drilling. When you ask this question directly to those in the know, the answer you get is, there is a plan in the way to adopt those equipment or practices; however, the law does not require oil companies prospecting in our waters to adopt the equipment or process. In other words, even when oil prospecting firms like British Petroleum understand that there is a technology out there that can prevent issues of accident that may become behemoth as we now have, the oil companies would not adopt the equipment or process in drilling or prospecting for oil in the USA. Is that not weird? Is British Petroleum or other oil prospecting firms being good corporate citizens by excluding equipment and processes that may minimize accidents on rigs, while prospecting for oil, just because the law does not demand that?

Well, Mr. British Petroleum or any other oil firm doing business on or off-shore in our waters, we do not believe in your position that except a law requires an equipment or process in your oil prospecting, you will not be compelled to adopt them. This is like asking to be scolded before doing what is right! Are oil companies prospecting in American waters teenagers that have to be reminded to watch their manners every time we go out of the home or are in a public arena? It is rather bewildering to imagine that an internationally operating firm like British Petroleum would exclude safety equipment and processes that can save lives and damage to our environment, because the law of the land does not require such. Many of us, including 'non-tree huggers', would like British Petroleum to consider itself as a responsible international corporation; and as such, to do whatever is possible to prevent accidents in its prospecting activities. As opposed to visualizing its operations within the context and boundaries of what a domestic country law demands, on issues of safety and accident prevention, British Petroleum and all oil firms doing business in the USA, must take it upon themselves to do all that is ever possible to prevent accidents and damage to our wildlife habitat and environment of their wells’ operation.

Our expectation is that, British Petroleum should have developed comprehensive oil prospecting practices with the greatest safeguards against accidents, where its leadership are not only concerned about making profits, but also the lives and safety of the people doing their work and living in the immediate environment of their Oil Riggs and vociferous operations. The corporate executives must insist on safety, communicate it through the rank and file and make it a focal point of their concerns in whatever country they are doing business and refrain from hiding behind the fact that the law of any country does not compel them to do what is right and appropriate in ensuring that the way they manage their oil drilling and prospecting is above and beyond board. Relying on 100,000 gallons of chemical dispersant to break the oil spills on the ocean water is just too belated a remedy to rectify the degree of the current damage and hardly seems a part of a comprehensive strategy to conquer a mishap of the current magnitude.

A corner stone of any corporation prospecting for oil and gas must include the promotion of safety cautiousness. The promotion from the corporate suites of oil prospecting and drilling firms must not be restricted to finding new oil reserves or potential oil and gas deposit, large enough to attract huge corporate investment. The philosophy of oil drilling and prospecting must go hand in hand with public and environmental safety. Promotion of safe practices must be the major driver of how these firms manage their operations, including the development of people managing the drilling process on and off-shore. You must not only rely on the demands of the marketplace or the provisions of the law of a country as you prospect or drill for oil and gases, if you are an international prospecting firm. You must require of yourself, the highest possible standard of operation in the field and your corporate suites that make it possible for observers to see you as a responsible corporation, which cares about it business and production practices. To do less, is to be a slacker!

No one can adequately contest the argument that the current accident in the Gulf Coast is going to be a financial and public relations disaster for British Petroleum. Corporate and civil defense lawyers are probably salivating as we speak. They are watching closely what British Petroleum is saying or not saying; they are keenly observing the effort to prevent further damage to the coastal shoreline and some are probably talking to the governors of the gulf coast states regarding what best direction to take in the coming class action suit that may run into billions of dollars. So whatever British Petroleum contends right now, it may be best for it to connect with the people suffering from their current mistake and avoid any duplicity. Hearing from the grapevine that some workers who were on the rig on the night of the accident were being asked or compelled to sign away their rights, is just going to compound their problem. If indeed, any staff of British Petroleum or its agent Transoceanic, had been involved in this underhanded behavior, all I would say is, sayonara..! You may end up being owned by the corporate attorneys and the Gulf Coastal States, at the end of it all.

Light Bulb Question: Can we salvage the Gulf Coast after British Petroleum blow out?

Friday, May 7, 2010

F. Energy Security for the United States: navigating through public relations mines inflicted by British Petroleum

Many of us are keen on having a strong energy security for the United States. It will generally impact how and what sources of energy the nation patronizes and what progress is made to ensure that we achieve energy security within the shortest time frame without mortgaging our souls. Lately, it seems as if the domestic energy market has been relatively stable and market prices haven’t been as volatile as it once was, when we had to gas up at four dollars per gallon in our neighborhood convenient stores.

One component of energy security is the oil market; with stable oil flow either from the usual Middle East sources and or additional domestic increased output, we have been able to hold down the prices of energy over a longer period than in the recent past. There are a few energy policy experts who will tell you that we may not be able to maintain this stable energy prices much longer, except we change our focus on the nature and sources of energy used in America.

Since the 2007-2008 ‘yo-yo’ petroleum prices, we have enjoyed a somewhat longer period of stable prices at the pump and many of us adduce this partly to our energy policy. However, some in the industry have some questions regarding our sense of security regarding the stability of oil prices. The question of independence from our usual sources of energy and the nasty business of dealing with enemies that do not like us as sources of our energy, is one area that many Americans are in agreement with and one, which they will like their government to do something about.

Further, some offshore oil industry officials maintain that we could enjoy a better oil price stability, if Washington can get our nation’s energy policy in the right direction. Toward this sense of reasoning, the Obama’s Administration had supported an oil exploration public policy in the arena of off-shore drilling 125 miles away from some of our coastal cities and states. The groundwork for instituting this energy security policy and the plan to nudge the congress to do something about the initiative was still under consideration both in the White House and in the Congress, when the recent oil spill fiasco engulfed the Gulf Coast. Notwithstanding though, these offshore oil industry officials maintain that the British Petroleum accident is unfortunate, but we must not let it torpedo the overall objective of the national energy security.

Incidentally, arguments abound in some quarters in the past few days that the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may become an albatross on the neck of the energy bill; and may work indirectly against the recent pronouncements by the current administration to champion an energy policy that will save us from the tyranny of our usual sources of energy. They maintain that yes, the British Petroleum fiasco may not have come at a very bad time, the environmental pollution and habitat destruction that have followed from the accidents may have been unwelcome and inconveniencing; however, they should not prevent us as a nation from forging ahead with our plan of having energy security. As bad as the pollution from this incident is, our determination to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil must not wane if truly, we are going to maintain our freedom and lifestyle. The truth is the world is not as hunky dory as it once was. We now have enemies willing to do us harm at any cost and we must be cognizance of this fact and adjust ourselves better to handle some inconsequential of the times.

For a while, after the pronouncement that the Obama’s Administration was in favor of off-shore oil drilling as one of the pillars of our goal of energy security, many oil prospecting and drilling professional associations, including the Offshore Marine Service Administration (OMSA), had begun to see a better prospect in the future of their industry and had clamored for total support of this initiative from every of their member and congressional lawmakers. Before the administration’s pronouncement, OMSA had been very frustrated by the downturn in the economy and had seen its ripple effect on their industry. However, since they learned that the Obama’s administration was in favor of off-shore drilling in some coastal areas of the United States including the Gulf Coast, they had doubled their effort to ensure that nothing derails this initiative in the industry; and that, congress dances to the new beat coming from the White house. For example, some oil companies had shifted their focus from Gulf’s deep-water prospecting activities, to drilling deeper in the shallow waters taking advantage of new oil drilling technologies and helping increase production from many deep wells. One of the consequences of this decision is the current oil spill by the multinational British Petroleum, an experience that some are postulating may come to bite us in the behind in the future.

In addition, some oil industry leaders saw the Obama’s pronouncements on off-shore oil drilling as a sure winner for the goal of energy security for the nation. Further, many in the industry who had been itching to put to use new geological knowledge in the ultra-deep well drilling technology, had bade highly at the recent United State Mineral Management Service’s Central Gulf oil leases completed on March 17, 2010. The dastardly accident from the British Petroleum spills has the tendency of setting the hand of the clock behind. One of the example of holding down progress can be heard from the recent pronouncements from the Whitehouse that all bids on the coastal tracts of Louisiana, Mississippi Florida and Alabama, are temporarily suspended pending the time we are able to find solution to the problem created from the British Petroleum activities in the Gulf.

The suspension of bidding and the unconscious impact of the British Petroleum oil spill is the possibility of a challenge from residents of the areas that suffer directly from the impact of the disaster, a confusion that may lay several mines in the way of opening up some of our coastal areas for off-shore drilling and making good on our national goal of energy security. Compounding these issues is the possibility of counter-arguments from initial skeptics that the new Whitehouse energy policy is not well thought out before being pronounced.

The unfortunate impact of the British Petroleum accident is that the justifiable grounds for the policy on off-shore oil drilling, as part of the overall goal of energy security, can now be second guessed or questioned till kingdom come. To many supporters of the White House pronouncement on off-shore oil drilling prior to the gulf coast accident, it is frustrating to know that an opportunity to advance our energy policy of independence can now be subjected to second guessing because of an act of another foreign oil company.

For the Obama's administration, the strategy must now become how we can make a better case for our goal, despite the incident in the Gulf of Mexico. How can we reconcile the need to expand the hopes and aspiration of an industry that has long seen itself has been neglected for other foreign suppliers of energy? The administration must be brain storming on what possible alternatives are out there to advance the policy agenda to move beyond one disaster and to build consensus behind the new initiative for energy independence despite the potential risk of the new decision. Many great players in the oil industry had sworn to help America achieve energy independence, and hopefully, these great players are not going to be let down because of an event created by another foreign firm working on our grounds. No one should abandon a good cause simply because of an accident of the nature in the gulf coast today. The energy security goal is a goal greater than whatever infliction the British Petroleum disaster must have created for our nation and residents of our coastal cities in the Gulf of Mexico. No one in this administration must allow the British Petroleum mistake to torpedo our grand design for our country’s energy security and future.

Making a case for energy security by the current administration after the British Petroleum accident seems to be daunting because of the magnitude of the public relations nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico. To assume that this problem would soon go away is probably prudent in light of the overall objective of the nation regarding energy security. Yes, this problem is frustrating and may have given those in opposition better ammunition to kill the energy security bill; however, there is still a grander force to contend with if we back track at this juncture. The enemy is: dependence on foreign oil, especially from countries whose citizens are willing to do us harm. For this and other reasons, the expedited lease sale of 18 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico on August 18, announced by Interior Sectary Salazar must still go ahead, despite the current public relations disaster from British Petroleum. We cannot afford to look away now considering what has brought us to contemplate change in our national policy with respect to energy security, including all too troublesome Middle East oligarchs and their corral boys bent on getting even.

If the current interpretation of the British Petroleum disaster is going to make the Obama’s Administration backtrack on the energy security agenda, it may be necessary to implore the administration and the people in the Gulf Coast, who rightly must be upset with the current oil spill in their neighborhood, to see the bigger picture: 1) a country safe from oil oligarchs tyranny and despondency; 2) a country, capable of devising alternative sources for its energy needs while at the same time creating jobs for the millions of its people now out of employment; and 3) a nation proud of its heritage and can do spirit, that has helped us explore other galaxies and maintain our pride, integrity and freedom!

Light Bulb Question: Can we still focus on our energy security goal, despite the British Petroleum oil spill?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

G. Compensation Game in the British Petroleum Oil Spill Debacle?

In the past year, many oil vessels owners have felt the greatest pinch from the sluggish economy. Fewer oil vessels were being contracted out to oil drilling firms and for some time, it seemed the business of leasing and contracting out vessels for oil storage and movement to depot was going to totally fizzle out. With the glimmer of better economic times on the horizon, beleaguered vessel owners were about to start looking ahead. As you were aware, once the President of the United States pronounced the lifting of ban on off-shore drilling, many of these vessels owners were tempted to start forgetting the past. Now, there is going to be more business for the oil movers and shippers and the good times were about to start rolling again! Then came the oil spill by British Petroleum and the Presidential hold on further lease sale or, off-shore drilling and everyone in the industry are back to the sad and uncomfortable story all over again. Is this the de javu? Can someone in the administration come out with a statement and reassure these lonesome losers that better days will be here sooner than later?

To better understand the issues presented by the British Petroleum debacle, one must step two steps backward and one step forward and contemplate the problem that vessel owners are presented with, whenever there is an accident of the nature now experienced by the multinational corporation. Whenever there is an accident on a rig, the liability for cure and maintenance is often limited to the requirements of making good on compensation benefits for the oil workers by the prospecting firm. Much of the existing knowledge regarding the current accident and how British Petroleum had handled it is still unfolding. There was information, although contradicted by British Petroleum spokesperson, that British Petroleum had threatened workers on the rigs after the unfortunate accident to sign off their rights to sue the corporation. There was also information, now confirmed by some Gulf Coast State’s Administration, that the multinational corporation has offered twenty-five millions dollars to each of them, to do whatever catches their fancy. Do you suspect an attempt to bribe here? Maybe, however the question to British Petroleum is, how about the vessel owners who might have been lined up to move the oil if everything had gone well? Would they also be receiving a check for them to do whatever they please because of the loss of business?

With loss of business, can vessel owners be assured that the British Petroleum will have their backs, just as they are attempting to have the backs of the Gulf States, whose environment is currently being plundered? If British Petroleum is not trying to induce the decision makers in the Gulf States, it must be willing to find some form of compensation for any vessel owner and contractor that was scheduled to help move the oil from the rigs before the unfortunate incident. However, If British Petroleum believes it owes these vessels’ owners nothing; it is probably good to consult with its corporate attorneys. My suspicion is that just as the oil workers were entitled to maintenance and cure benefits, so also, are the vessel owners scheduled to do British Petroleum work, before the multinational corporation’s negligence. Well, I can hear some rumbling in the background; the liable company is Transocean not British Petroleum! Really?

The maintenance of obligation in this type of environment must include all the related businesses, initially contracted to do some work for British Petroleum on that rig. The maintenance obligations include payment for loss of business and holding down the vessels strictly for British Petroleum business. The vessel owners are probably capable of showing before a law court that an injury had been suffered, money and business lost, due to British Petroleum’s negligence. Although it may be a far stretch for the vessel owner to win maintenance and cure claim, except there was a clear case of fraud, a good liability attorney can still win something for scheduled vessels to do the work of British Petroleum prior to the incident. I have seen one before!

While British Petroleum is contemplating what to do with their maintenance obligation to the vessel owners, may I remind them that they are in the middle of a public relations disaster and they are probably not handling the repercussion very well? For one, if they had made effort to make those oil workers sign off their rights to litigation, the company may want to know that there are real penalties for inducement to negate obligation to maintenance and cure liability. The current circumstance cannot be ascribed to using preemptive declaratory judgment to forestall action from the oil workers. The truth in this case is that eleven oil workers on that rig died on that day, from causes of the accident. Further, there are probably enough living oil workers from that rig who were consulted to sign off their rights and who are probably willing to testify to that effect before a sitting judge. In addition, it may be a far stretch for the company to convince a jury that the 25 million dollars offered to the Gulf States’ governments are from the inner goodness of the oil company to be a responsible corporate citizen. Many observers, who heard of this offer, saw it as a way for British Petroleum to bribe its way out of this problem.

While waiting for damages from law suits that are sure to come, from families of oil workers, committed vessel owners by contract and the administrations of the Gulf states, and other groups who have been directly impacted by this accident, here are a couple of effective ways that British Petroleum should have used to help the people and states who were at the receiving end of this accident, deal with the immediate impact of the accident:

- The objective action should have been an attempt to debrief all the impacted groups from this accident; and so, British Petroleum should have sought to have these groups De-link the accident from a total failure of British Petroleum to uphold safe production practices. The effort should have been we made all serious effort to conduct our drilling exercises under strict and cautious safety rules; however, one cannot always be perfect in the business of prospecting for oil. The pronouncement from the British Petroleum’s Chief Executive Officer that the mistake was from Transoceanic is a no, no! Many people who heard him on the news saw his pronouncement as an attempt to shift blame;

- Conduct a debriefing of the press and the affected parties by using public relations incident response teams to attend to the disparate and somehow complementary concerns of these groups on the accident. Using an individual spokesperson to attend to an unfolding event that has multiple implications for multiple groups of persons may not be ideal under this circumstance. Remember, British Petroleum is a multinational corporation doing business in a foreign land or shore. There is always that hidden resentment that does not come to the surface until something as this happens;

- Attempt to diffuse embarrassment by providing low-key, genuine affirmation of the mistakes from the accident and the unfortunate loss of lives from the unholy event and experience;

- Respectful acknowledge the emotions from the people directly impacted by the accidents, including residents of the Gulf Coast states without focusing on the ramification of the size of the resultant problems from the spill. Without focusing excessively on the repercussion of the accidents to the environment and the lives of the people, you may be able to erase part of the memory of the impacted groups from the accident; and, be able to draw some people away from associating the accident with a negative experience;

- Avoid making the mistake of affixing blame on any one party, be it your contractor or representative, in a matter of this nature. Focus more on the lesson learned and use your carefully worded comments as a spring board to gain the confidence of the impacted groups, including affirming that you will do a better job in the future; and

- Present all factual accounts of the incident and the potential implications for the future gas exploration and employment in the area.

The objective of this strategy is to debrief groups of people who have suffered very dearly from the impact of the oil spill or accident. The communicating teams must help the people understand the magnitude of the problem from the accident. They must acknowledge the challenges ahead from the accident and move forward to identify appropriate ways to address the on-going repercussion, while at the same time acting in a constructive manner. When debriefing is done poorly as is the case with this accident, the resultant backlash is usually debilitating for the corporation and its contractors.

Light Bulb Question: Can British Petroleum make everyone whole after the accident and public relations debacle?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

H. Verifying The Truth in British Petroleum’s Effort to Manage the pace of Oil leaks into Gulf of Mexico

By now, you probably have learned that the experiment conceived by British Petroleum to lower a dome-shaped metal to harvest the oil leaks in the Gulf Coast is a failure. Yes, it was an experiment, no one had done it before and this was just a first time trial that no one was certain would yield the required result. The traditional method of harvesting oil from wells had failed due to so many reasons on that British Petroleum oil rig about three weeks ago, and no one actually know the full story or the real truth regarding the accident and the consequential oil spills. The last minute effort to cap the excessive oil spill led British Petroleum to the current experiment that went bad. Can we afford not to know the real truth regarding what happened that night that led to this current mayhem? Can we afford not to know what took eleven American lives, who were serving the multinational corporation, British Petroleum? Can we find out what exact effort has British Petroleum taken to ensure that a bad accident does not turn out to be worse?

Now, I am not talking about the oil spills or the fire and deaths alone. I’m referring to what step in the procedure of drilling or what safety regulations was missed that led us to this new challenge, where British Petroleum have had to resort to an experimental step to help harvest the crude oil and chemicals gushing out of the oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico. After all, the public has a right to know, why residents in four or five coastal states in the Gulf of Mexico, now have to deal with the environmental consequence of an oil spill by a multinational corporation.

The first step could have been to ask a few workers on that rig that were aware of what the process schedule called for and what directives the supervisory engineers on the rigs were giving, or had directed, before the spill that now constitutes a nightmare. After all, none of us absent from the accident site or who were not privy to all the information regarding the drilling process on that rig, can adequately provide all the useful information that can answer the question: what is the real truth regarding this accidental spill? Those who experienced the accident and who were part of the oil workers on that rig may have useful information that may allow us or a court assess punitive damage awards regarding this unfortunate event.

You may ask why discuss punitive damages at this point? Well, I try to be a realist, with the extent of oil spill that has flooded the seas, the coastal shores and environment, I’m defiantly certain that there are going to be lawsuits with regard to this accident. Further, knowing very well that a judge or jury may have to determine what punitive damages to award after evaluating the facts of the situation, it is probably logical to be discussing this question right now. A contemplation of this question would probably do more good than you may think when discussion proceeds on what British Petroleum did or did not do, after the accident to address the extent of damage to the environment.

Certainly somewhere down the road, a Judge or jury will have to determine 1) whether the residents of the Gulf Coast states, who were directly impacted by the oil spill are entitled to some cure benefits, 2) whether some employees on the rig that night are entitled to any death benefits and what big a chunk must it be, 3) whether British Petroleum has the necessary clause in the contract signed with Transocean to justify denial of benefits to some oil workers who testify against them in the potential litigation and 4) whether punitive damages and attorney’s fees are appropriate in this type of circumstance.

The Supreme Court in many cases in the past has stated that the courts can or must only award punitive damages that are no more than ten times the compensatory damages. The logic behind this past ruling was that judges and juries should not be allowed to issue awards that are beyond the scope of reason. The myth of this latter argument is that punitive damages must be commensurate with the offense. However shouldn't a judge or jury be able to set this argument aside considering that the issue of death, the totality of a life being gone for good has come to play? How do you quantify the cost of the death of an oil worker to his family in an accident on a rig operated by an oil company? For example, it may be possible for the judge or jury to award half a million dollars compensatory damage to each oil worker that suffer injuries from this accident and a punitive damage that is ten times the compensatory damage. However, with the issue of a total community or state, different criteria may have to be used to make the state or its coastal residents whole, with regard to the extent of damage to their shore line, loss of jobs and work related benefits. In addition, the judge or the jury may want to evaluate the extent to which British Petroleum insurance covers loss of life, wages and salaries, and what additional cost may have to be borne by the corporation for unforeseen damages, with respect to those who reside in the adjacent states to the oil rigs. It is well known public policy that judgment for punitive damages is rarely covered by insurance; hence, British Petroleum will have to dig into its deep pocket on this one.

Many oil corporations’ workers, including exploration engineers, project managers and rank and file on the rigs, feel removed from decision process regarding the insurance coverage of an accident of this nature. They either defer to their in-house attorneys, insurance department or their retainer, to handle this thorny aspect of oil drilling business. The platform workers are often engaged in managing the drilling, sourcing and transportation of the crude oil to their depot or a refinery. Many of them hardly contemplate an accident of this magnitude and if they do, hardly do they have all the necessary actuaries’ number to determine exactly what affected parties and or impacted governments in the immediate vicinity of the accident are to be paid for an unforeseen event as large as the current one.

Pulling the critical stakeholders together to assess possible cost of an accident of this size or delivering enough compensation that can have a meaningful impact on assuaging the annoyances of impacted parties, is often critical to help save face. This was probably one of the reasons that led British Petroleum to offer 25 million dollars each to the impacted Gulf Coast State’s administration to do whatever catches their fancy. The flaw with this thinking is that British Petroleum is not completely accepting guilt for this accident. Never mind the initial pronouncements from British Petroleum’s Chief Executive Officer, immediately after the accidental blow-out that the culprit in this case is Transocean.

Transocean is probably a contracting firm to British Petroleum on the drilling project or rig work. However, the evaluation of what compensation to pay aggrieved parties cannot be unilaterally determined; usually, a judge or jury is often saddled with this type of decision and often the aggrieved parties and defender do not come to this bridge until a law suit is filed by the aggrieved parties. Even at that, arbitration maybe entered into by British Petroleum to have someone determine what appropriate cost of the damages is and what ratio of the costs is to come out of British Petroleum’s kitty. This is essentially the second step after exploratory findings of what went wrong on that rig on that very unfortunate moment when eleven workers went to the sky to meet the face of God.

Pulling the critical stakeholders together from this accident, including workers, residents of Gulf Coast, business who have suffered either directly or indirectly from this unfortunate accident, becomes a third step to finding out what really happened that august night. This step is supposed to open the process to healing, healing of the body and souls of all persons and governments that have suffered from this British Petroleum’s or its agent’s ineptitude. Although the governments of the Gulf Coast states seem to have been the beneficiaries of the immediate largesse of British Petroleum, their current payoff, seems to have been tainted by the assessment of the observing public of the way the payment was made and probably the reasoning behind British Petroleum’s action. While no one in British Petroleum can adequately answer the question of what actually happened on that rig that night, a subpoena by a judge of the records regarding their operation of the oil rigs, events leading to the accidents and management of the repercussion of the accident by British Petroleum, will help us shine some light on this huge puzzle before us. A puzzle that can only help us decipher some of the problems regarding our interest on this blog today: what step in the procedure of drilling or what safety regulations was missed that led to this accident and the failures that has befallen the multinational corporation in its effort to manage the after impact consequences of the accident.

Light Bulb Question: Has British Petroleum’s effort to stem the tide of oil flow from its damaged rig to sea fallen short of expectations?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I. Credible Leadership in time of Disaster: What companies may learn from British Petroleum failure in the Gulf Coast?

The recent oil spills in the Gulf Coast by British Petroleum or its agent reinforce the importance and relevance of credible leadership during a company’s misfortune or mistake. When there was ruptured pipeline, fire, deaths and explosion on that British Petroleum rig, the management of the company failed to behave in what is considered as credible and ethical in business management. Consider the statement credited to the Company’s chief executive that the mistake or the onus for whatever mistake took place that night, which led to the floating of oil slick in expansive areas of the Gulf of Mexico, was not of British Petroleum making but Transocean, the contractor working on the rig. New information coming out of interviews of oil workers on that British Petroleum rig in the waters of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida indicate that these men were encouraged to sign off their right to sue for any reason regarding the accident after cording off these men in a hotel with restrictive access to their family members or attorneys.

It is up to corporate leaders to lead their workers through times of crisis in ways that inspires and build credibility in their company’s processes, performance, commitment or associations. Whether in ways the company manages sale of products or how it deals with workers who expend their time developing or drilling for the product. Corporate leaders have to be credible, consistent, accountable and inspiring. They are expected to bring to whatever situation, the highest level of ethical behavior consistent with the dynamics of their business arena. To fail to do this, to negate to hold up to responsibility for mistakes and deal with their workers ethically, is to have failed in the task of leadership. To point fingers without getting all the facts of the situation or accident may have helped the company save face at the breaking news of the accident, but it creates greater challenges down the line, when the repercussions of the accident becomes glaring or overwhelming even for the corporate suite.

When the Federal emergency responders stepped forward to assist British Petroleum at the on-set of the accident, British Petroleum gave them the notion that the accident from the three wells was minor and it was a situation they had under control. As more information regarding the accident surfaced and the obvious magnitude of the oil spills became unfathomable, British Petroleum began to backtrack on their initial position regarding the accident. The Coast Guard estimated about 20,000 - 25,000 gallons of crude oil gushing out of those wells while British Petroleum was dragging its feet, laying blame on their corporate partner. This is not credible leadership!

It is the leader’s responsibility to act immediately during an accident, to engage in the process of managing the crisis, to seek for all possible and feasible help, no matter how competent it may believe it can manage the crisis. Especially, when it concerns worker’s lives and potential destruction of environment and shore line with respect to oil and gas prospecting, a leader in the company has the obligation to engage in the process to ameliorate further damage to the company’s brand. Leaders that are effective do not wait for the ramification of the problem to hit them in the face, before seeking help or finding alternative solutions to complex problems. Credible leaders stay active and find exit strategies to impending problems and when they arrive, unexpectedly, ensures that no stone is left unturned until solution is professed to the problem.

Leaders of corporations are expected to act with character and integrity. When the news of the accident broke, the executives at British Petroleum were not holding themselves accountable in ways consistent with the values of their organization. If one was in place, those values were expected to guide them through the thorny problem of the oil leaks and management of information spewing out to the press regarding their efforts to manage the crisis. Sadly enough, they were unwilling to accept responsibility and account for the actions of their organization, claiming that responsibility for the spill was that of their contractor, Transocean. The result produced duplicity of who exactly to speak with regarding the effort being made to stem the tide of the excessive oil leaks. And when it seems that the professed solution to the problem was failing, British Petroleum still did not see it fit to go to a plan B that is if they were cautious enough to have dream of that. This again, is shaggy leadership!

To drive better performance, leaders were expected to have in place successful strategy to guarantee that the process of crisis management is in place and ready to act determinately. The workers on the rig were supposed to be aligned with the strategy of the organization and when accident occurs, those strategies or correctional indicators were supposed to set into motion, so that a small problem does not balloon into a big one. To remain credible, leaders at British Petroleum were expected to identify priorities, consensus and analyze the gap between the organization’s safety guidelines and what had recently occurred in the accident. If this had been the case, the company could have been better prepared to manage this current or other impending crisis surrounding this accident. The lingering uncertainty regarding what was being done to manage the oil leaks, made it difficult for anyone to believe that British Petroleum knew what the problem was and what best solution option to take to resolve it.

The leaders in the company failed to build trust and show they value their employees. How do you imagine that while eleven of British Petroleum’s workers were still missing, executives of the company were busy imploring their workers who made it alive off that rig, to sign off the rights to litigation or representation in a court of law? Creditable leaders are professionally and personally incline to their workers, no matter the circumstance. Leaders at British Petroleum failed to be professionally inclined to their employees and shacked in their responsibility to build trust among them, immediately they engaged in underhanded behavior regarding the rights of the workers. British Petroleum leaders, whether out of negligence or oversight, failed to show that they had a plan to manage an accident of this magnitude, had the clear initiative to implement this plan or valued their employees and partners in the business of exploring for oil.

Leaders are expected to implement their organizational strategy with respect to particular business counteraction. They were not expected to be fixated on who should take the blame for the accident. Here was an accident, which is not foreign to the task of oil prospecting, which most oil corporations have the capacity and capability to manage with some outside help occasionally, allowed to balloon to mayhem without anyone knowing or implementing a strategy to confront the challenge. The executives at British Petroleum failed to prioritize critical steps and analyze the root cause of the accident immediately it occurred. Neither did the leaders of the company articulate the best approach to take to confront what is now probably, the largest oil spill since ExxonMobil spill, twenty-one years ago.

What can leaders in similar corporations learn from this mistake? A lot, including the fact that when challenges arise, corporate leaders are expected to quicken their pace of decision making, never overlook all potential help out there in case of a disaster and never take anything for granted in terms of safety issues on any oil rig, whether directly managed by them or sourced out to another contractor or subcontractor. British Petroleum executives should not have engaged their employees to sign off their rights as workers but demonstrate trust by reassuring them that in this circumstance, their interest and safety are sacrosanct. Further, the executives should have created and recommitted themselves to the values of their organization and most especially during this time of crisis to show example of highest integrity in management. Finally, they should have shown the employees that their leadership and management practices are up to snuff; and that they hold it very dearly to make all people who have suffered from this accident whole, to the extent permitted by law. This is what credibility and ethics in business are all about.

Light Bulb Question: Can other business leaders learn anything from British Petroleum Failure in the Gulf

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

J. Shaggy Defense from three musketeers: British Petroleum, Transocean and Halliburton Executives

The title for today's blog is credited to Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. To surmise his take on the finger pointing exercise engaged in by the three companies called before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to provide answers to questions on the Deep-water Horizon Gulf spill: "BP says Transocean, Transocean says Halliburton … I can see the liability chase." The exasperated senator made this statement after watching British Petroleum, Transocean and Halliburton run up minutes, rig marrow around the questions and provided no credible answers to various questions put to them by the committee. The Senator caught the three musketeers, flat-footed and unprepared for the committee members’ questions, just the way they were about the explosion and what really went wrong that night on the rig. The three executives in the hearing, representing their various organizations, are Lamar McKay, British Petroleum’s President and Chairman; Steven Newman, Head of Swedish Company, Transocean; and, Tim Probert, Chief of Health, Safety and Environmental Officer for the American Company, Halliburton.

Here are some snipes called from comments of the three musketeers at the hearing:

Lamar McKay, British Petroleum President:

“BP is one of the lease holders and the operator of this exploration well. As operator, BP hired Transocean to conduct the well drilling operations. Transocean owned the Deep-water Horizon drilling rig and its equipment, including the blowout preventer Only seven of the 126 onboard the Deep-water Horizon were BP employees Blowout preventers are used on every oil and gas well drilled in the world today. They are carefully and deliberately designed with multiple levels of redundancy and are regularly tested. If they don't pass the test, they are not used. The systems are intended to fail-closed and be fail-safe; sadly and for reasons we do not yet understand, in this case, they were not. Transocean's blowout preventer failed to operate.”

Steven Newman, head of Swedish firm, Transocean:

“The cementing process is dictated by the operator's well plan, and the testing of the cement on the Deep-water Horizon was performed by the cement contractor (Halliburton in this instance) as specified and directed by BP [T]he one thing we know with certainty is that on the evening of April 20, there was a sudden, catastrophic failure of the cement, the casing, or both. Therein lies the root causes of this occurrence; without a disastrous failure of one of those elements, the explosion could not have occurred.”

Tim Probert, Chief of Health, Safety and Environment, American firm, Halliburton:

"We can't possibly make any opinions on what might have happened at Deep-water Horizon rig until all the facts are known. Except that if the blow-out preventer (BOP) had worked none of this would have happened." From the written testimonies from these three musketeers, you get the perception that:

- Each corporation articulated its position and represented itself appropriately, wanting you to believe that they were not at fault for the accident that have killed heads of families and damaged our waters and environment. How would you respond to what the first musketeer said, Lamar McKay of British Petroleum: "Transocean’s blowout preventer failed to operate." In other words, we will not be here if the blowout preventer installed by Transocean, had worked as we expected;

- The senators listening to the read testimony were frustrated from the blame game going on between these three multinational corporations’ representatives and their responses to the shirred was, are these people real, do they understand why this deposition is convened and are they part of the solution not the problem?;
- Probert, the Chief of Health, Safety and Environment, American firm, Halliburton, was more interested in blaming the well owner, British Petroleum; For them, British Petroleum sought to drill here, if they hadn't we will not be before congress trying to justify our concrete pouring deal! Transocean drilled the well;
- The three musketeers, representing the big corporations were singling out each other for responsibility after the explosion on the Deep-water Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. They are seeking to absolve themselves of any blame from this accident, hoping the world would forget and forgive them till kingdom come;
- Halliburton, which provided cement for the oil well, is contractually obligated to follow the directives from British petroleum. Did they follow BP directives or did they create their own little house on the Prairie? Only Halliburton can tell us that.

In summary, the #1 musketeer (British Petroleum Chief) tried to lay the blame for the accident on number #2 musketeer, (Transocean Head, operator of the sunken rig). While doing this, #2 musketeers has some few choice words for musketeer #3, (Halliburton, the company responsible for doing the concrete work and installing the rig). Transocean was attacking from both ends of the front: first against British Petroleum and second, against Halliburton. What a way to go!

When men who are supposed to help us get to the bottom of the problem that has destroyed lives and damaged environment, resort to the game of finger pointing, you cannot but wonder, whether there are any honest men left in the corporate suites of these companies. If anyone can find one, let him call me or email me, I’ll be more than interested to take him or her to lunch! For now, they all remind me of clowns parading themselves as executives representing multinational corporations before the United States Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. You cannot but find humor in all their theatrics!

Light Bulb Question: Can anything good come out of the Deep-water Horizon rig debacle hearing before the United States Committee on Energy and Natural Resources?

Friday, May 14, 2010

K. Virtual data analysis and oil spill mapping: do we need to know more from British Petroleum debacle?

Almost as soon as the British Petroleum spill occurred, experts have been spilt on the pace of oil spill per day from the Deep Horizon rig. Initial estimates ranged from 5,000 gallon per day to 6,000 gallon per day by the United States Coast Guard. Subsequent projections by some academics and scientists raised the estimate to between 20,000 to 25,000 gallons per day. Some other environmental and oil spill tracking websites indicated that the spill was in the range of a million gallons per day, based on the digital spatial diagram of the flow of the oil on the ocean waters, basing the initial spatial assessment on 30,000 gallons per day for a normally functioning well, i.e., one without a fault and having a general flow or harness into a storage retainer, whether on a ship or tanker.

Recent, as of yesterday, the estimate of oil flow from the well into the sea was estimated at close to 1.2 million barrels per day. These alarming and horrendous estimates are now opening up debates regarding whether adequate spatial data and analysis of the flow of the oil from the well has been conducted since the on-set of the accident to help estimate the degree of oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico. There are some observers who maintain that British Petroleum had not focused its attention on estimating the degree of the oil flows from the three wells, because they hardly understand the reason(s) behind the accident or its effects on environment, including the coral and oyster reefs, fish and marine habitats. From all indications, it does not seem that British Petroleum, Transocean or Halliburton had done any adequate job at assessing the extent of oil flow from the wells since the accident.

In fact, it appears that British Petroleum does not have adequate information as to the cause(s) of the accident and as such, has been unable to provide credible information or data to the first responders, who were seeking to assist the corporation in managing the spill. NASA that had done a better job of providing pictures of the spill from space had no regulatory control over Oil spills and was not in the position to make prescription as to why the spill had taken over such a wide expanse of sea or the environmental consequences of the spill. Our concern is: If we are not in harmony with the cause(s) of the accident or the rate of oil gushing from the Deep Horizon wells, how can we be able to determine the extent of the oil spill or be able to arrange for the level of clean up that is required in the aftermath of the accident? How can we maintain leadership in global accidental oil spill mapping, if we are unable to agree on the extent of the oil flow from the damaged wells? Can we adequately make tentative assessments of the extent of the spill and damage to the environment by a general or pictorial observation of the gallons of oil oozing out from the wells? Without answers to these questions, is it feasible for a regulatory agency as the Mineral Management Services and the Environmental Protection Agency to actually assess the dollar value that will be needed to clean up after the mess from an accident that is currently estimated to be in the neighborhood of what we experienced during the ExxonMobil Valdez debacle twenty-one years ago?

There were those who embrace using virtual data of changes in the drift of the oil on the Gulf of Mexico waters as an anecdote answer to some of the questions that were raised regarding the unfortunate accident. However, is this necessary and sufficient enough to meet the requirements of a cleanup that can restore the marine habitat or sea level temperatures to what they were before the accident? Some marine engineers and petroleum geologists seek the use of robotics to assess the degree of the oil flow; they maintain that robotic and simulation data from the damaged wells may provide better alternative solutions to the entire current problem at the Deep Horizon rig. In addition, the simulation data may become a predictive solver of what is probably wrong with the blowout preventer and or the well. Providing scalable data solution to the expansive damage from the oil sludge seen on the waters is additional avenue to tail the problem and provide useful information to solving the current havoc.

Advances in computer aided engineering (CAE) makes it possible for us to combine both robotic and virtual data mapping of the extent of the spill. We can automatically formulate a tier of changes to the bed of the sea, right close to where the gush of oil is oozing by using the robotics technology. Further, if we call to a 3D data presentation from the well, we can be able to rapidly increase computer processing of up-to-the minute data processing at a higher bandwidth that will offer us a virtual 3D representation of all the functional aspects of the well that can allow us prescribe immediate and responsive solution to how to stop the well form continuing to spill oil. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a situation where the oil company has been cut too much slack, with monitoring and testing of its well’s pressure, subject to inconsistent criteria.

In comparison to the excessive hype surrounding the initial efforts by British Petroleum to combat the excessive oil spill, there is relatively little widespread of seismic data gathering during an oil spill around an accidental well. The data collected manually on some of the past accidents has not given us enough information regarding how to better manage an accident of the current magnitude. The secrecy of oil companies regarding oil spills under the pretext of business propriety information has made it difficult for us to estimate the best option or alternative solutions to recommend helping manage a spill with an environmental consequence as that of ExxonMobil.

The vision of exploring virtual data analysis and oil spill mapping as means for determining extent of oil spill on an exploded rig are not mutually exclusive, but may be combined with other industry practices to help us figure out the extent of oil spill from a damaged well or the nature of the causes of an accident of this nature. One very difficult information coming out of this accident that is very troubling for many of us is that, British Petroleum or its agents have not been proactive in having in place controls or checks and balances technologies that can provide data in the time of accidents to help us draw conclusions and inferences from activities observed around the accidental well and to better understand the how to edge against the risks of drilling off-shore. With the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration announcing the coming onshore of the oil from the spill on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana, maybe it’s time for us to begin to look at more radical solution to bringing the wells to a dead stop.

P.S.

The Mineral Management Services, which has received criticism by congress and some environmental groups, is said to have approved over 30,000 wells to be drilled in the vicinity of the current accident in the past 40 years. Unfortunately, it has not kept proper records of the level of spills that had occurred on any of those wells and is currently getting a lot of flak for its past regulatory activities. According to Kieran Suckling, Founder of the Center for Biological Diversity: “Mineral Management Services is the most corrupt, inept [and] industry-dominated agency I have dealt with in 20 years... They are incapable of regulating the industry. Maybe it’s time to put them out of their misery.”

Many outside observers of the agency insist that it was about time that the agency’s regulatory framework is changed. A few of these observers maintain that the agency has allowed oil pumping to trump safety and environmental concerns among oil companies. As the second highest cash machine for Federal Treasury, the agency might have lost its bearing with its goal to cash in more while overlooking many of the accidents on many of the wells dug around the country. Based on these criticism and the current British Petroleum accident, it may be necessary for the Obama’s Administration to take a long hard look at what is happening at Mineral management Services and put in corrective measures, so we don’t have to deal with a similar accident in the future.

Light Bulb Question: What may virtual data tell us regarding the extent of oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico?

Monday, May 17, 2010

L. Oil Disaster: Taming the Gushing Beast in the Gulf of Mexico

British petroleum joins the elite team of oil companies that communities in five southern states would remember as “contaminant-in-chief” of their shores. With the contaminated loop current coming in, British Petroleum has achieved the unenviable, most illustrious height of contaminating the waters of Atlantic Oceans, Gulf of Mexico and destroying marine habitat around what were initially considered, precinct environment.

For a while, British Petroleum felt overwhelmed with the rate of oil gushing out of its Deep Horizon wells, it attempted to leverage technology and eventful strategies to curtail the rate of oil flow into the Gulf and nearly gave up hope that it may be able to control the rate of the spills until the company was finally able to pipe a riser insertion tube within the damaged Deep Horizon well to help collect the leaking oil from the deep-water blowout in the last 48 hours, channeling between 750 to 1,000 barrels of the oil per day into a standing storage ship. It hopes to shut off and seal permanently with mud the source of the oil spill as soon as possible to help rectify a problem that many industry observers have indicated may be adduced to British Petroleum’s failure to follow its own safety rules and directives as it explore for oil and gas. Can the company tame the gushing oil from the wells, permanently?

It depends on whom you talk to. The oil company executives even agree that the current strategies being applied on the field are just mitigating tools, they probably would not be able to stop the oil spill. Hence, the probable answer to the question whether British Petroleum can tame the oil spill may be found in the application of some subsea solutions that can afford for a “top kill” stop of the oil flow.

There are blogs and wikis about British petroleum efforts at stopping the spill that communicate that the company does not have a clue as to the best solution to arrest the beast in the ocean waters. Leveraging technology, brain storming with other oil drilling insiders and changing the way the company is evaluating the oil spill problem, have become baby-steps in the long and arduous challenge of sealing up the wells. Alternative strategies contemplated to solve the problem last two weeks failed because they were probably not well articulated. For example, when a dome-shaped metal was lowered to the button of the sea to cover-up the well, the company was not even sure if it will work, since this was an experimental initiative and it took about three trials before the dome was successfully placed on the oil leaking well.

There are some engineers who maintain that, but for the dome, which contributed to the formation of gas hydrates, which in turn prevented more water from contacting oil and gas, it would have been impossible to manage the extent of the spill experienced today. The ideas sharing between industry giants and the team of oil drilling experts in the academe and private exploration companies have helped implement the current strategy that the company is proclaiming, has changed the tide of oil flow from the wells, and probably saved time until a more permanent solution is found for the current mayhem.

Instructively, the Company has a plan B, a containment option called “top hat” to help prevent leaking oil and gas from contacting water, which is sitting at 5,000 feet of sea level. In the wake of additional approval from the US Minerals Management Services for the company to use methanol to prevent formation of hydrates, British Petroleum may get a better handle on the current confusion regarding its effort to manage the crisis. Are there other perceived challenges ahead?

For oil companies like British Petroleum to have managed their oil drilling operations without adverse incidents like this, a blue print of the drill strategy, developed and prescribed by operational engineers with British Petroleum, would have been a good first step. Unfortunately, the US Minerals Management Services, the federal agency that should have served in an oversight capacity to the operations of the oil prospecting companies had literally compromised its leadership role in the industry to the extent that some environmentalists and congressional lawmakers had called for the defunct of the agency. The key qualities of leadership, control, respect and trust had disappeared in the relationship between the US Mineral Management Services and the oil companies. With the absence of control, respect and trust, the ability of the US Mineral Management Services to supervise the safety requirements of the oil companies as they prospect on and off-shore for oil, were simply lost. The oil company executives paid little attention to safety issues once they knew that they had the agency that was supposed to provide oversight to their oil exploration activities in their pockets.

Oil industry observers say if there are going to be some laudable oversights to prevent accidental spills as oil companies’ prospect for oil and gas, there is going to be a need to split the mandates currently bestowed on the US Minerals Management Services. Current observers of the events in the Gulf Coast say they are happy the Obama’s Administration is listening. The Secretary of the Interior, under whom the US Minerals Management Services is an agency, had just taken the initiative to break down the agency into two: one arm to issue the oil platform leases, the other to perform the oversight function. This way, the collusion problem that has plagued the agency would henceforth seize. As if to go for a fresh start, the agency announced that Chris Oynes, Associate Director of the Offshore Energy and Mineral Management Program is relieved of his post this afternoon. A former Regional Director of the Minerals Management Services, Mr. Oynes, who had served in the Gulf of Mexico OCS Region in New Orleans for 12 years, is the first casualty of the British Petroleum debacle in the current dispensation.

Ironically, the best way to ensure firm solution to problems created by British Petroleum in this oil spill could have benefited from the experience of Mr. Oynes. However, it seems that type of experience is least essential when you consider the level of criticism swirling around the British Petroleum mayhem. The fishermen and other who heave their living from the oceans in the Gulf of Mexico are not faceless names, who want direct answer to their suffering from this current accident. And while it is commendable that British Petroleum had hired some of these people to engage in the cleanup, the current havoc have only set these people behind several years in their business of fishing or oyster clamping. It is much harder to ignore the fact that many of these people would be out of a job or business for a very long while, even after the temporary clean-up that follows in the wake of the accident.

The accident that British petroleum is involved in can happen to any oil company prospecting for oil, if strong and firm oversights are not carried out over their operations. Breaking up the functions of the agency that is to provide oversight to the oil companies is an appropriate step, if we are to address the collective challenge of prospecting for oil on and off-shore in America. It is not wise to allow the agency that issue license to drill to be same that control for potential accident in the oil prospecting business. Thus, the new agencies under the US Department of Interior can concentrate on the respective mandates that would help save the nation the current embarrassment. Hopefully, with the new dispensation, oil companies would be appropriately supervised and they probably will be in a better position to tame the oil spill, if there was another incident.

Light Bulb Question: Can we tame the gushing beast in the Gulf of Mexico?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

M. Deep Horizon Disaster and the Politics of Environmental Diplomacy: Why Cuba and US are suddenly talking?

In politics you hear it said nations do not have permanent enemies but, permanent interests. It seems the Deep Horizon disaster is fostering communication between two nations, who till now, are probably the best known sworn enemies in the Americas. Not since the Bay of Pigs’ crisis have we seen some warm communication between Cuba and the USA. The high level officials from the State Department and some environmental policymakers from both the Environmental Protection Agency and the potentially defunct Minerals Management Services are meeting today to contemplate possible solutions or best advice to share in case the remnant of the oil that has been chemically dispersed into smaller golf-sized sledges reaches the shores and recreational sites in the Americas.

Unlike in the past, the current shuttle communication arises out of the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and not the immediacy of addressing the long awaited lifting of travel ban to that island nation, if only for cultural proposes. With thick oil gathering at the site of the British Petroleum rig in the gulf, blue waters of the ocean speckled with copper oil and possibility that the lustrous glassy sheen on the surface of the waters in the Gulf of Mexico may reach the Atlantic ocean and pollute the shores of island states in the Americas and the coastal states in the continental USA, there are no better time to start talking about the potential consequence of this disaster. One reason for this is the prediction that a huge polluting mess is in the horizon and it may take more than a nation’s status or relationship to combat the impeding environmental doom. Second, this is probably another opportunity for the nation to engage with Cuba, in light of some fresh review of the cold war relics that has somehow made talking directly with authorities in Cuba a forbidden or difficult enterprise. The unlikely event that is bringing us together to talk with that tiny island nation is: environmental pollution from an oil rig spewing unlimited amount of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and cascading into shores of many lands in the Americas through wave currents.

In the words of Shakespeare, in King Lear, these kinds of knaves, which in this plainness harbor more craft and more corrupt ends than twenty silly duckling observers, speaks to the current diplomacy to avert more corrupt ends. If the leaders of our nation choose to look elsewhere, to pretend that this problem is only in our waters and the cascading effect of ocean waves are not important, we probably will end up with some unlikely challenges including the possibility of being dragged to the international court to answer to questions about an accident, we had very little information on as of the night of April 20th, 2010. Not that we are shy of addressing the concerns that may be raised in the courts, but for the sake of good neighborliness, we have chosen diplomacy; call this one the politics of environmental diplomacy. Using diplomacy to avert future trepidation is one course we have chosen to address the vortex of activities going on around the Deep Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Until three nights ago when British Petroleum finally put to work about fifteen vessels, giant cranes capable of lowering remote censure vehicles to do repair work under the sea floor in the proximity of the gushing well and other vessels to serve as storage for harnessed oil, no one had thought things were going to get this bad. Recent estimates by independence scientists put the gush from the well at eighty-four thousand barrels and counting per day into the waters. At a pace like this, it is not far fetch to expect the shores of Havana, Cuba, New Harbor Islands, Breton and Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Louisiana and more, to be deluged with blobby molasses-like oil spill.

The meetings and talks being held by the government agencies’ officials are in response to a desire to actively get involved in fixing a problem that may balloon out of control and cause some diplomatic rift. It is the desire of the government to protect not only the shores and residents of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, but also, islanders in places as Cuba , Trinidad and Tobago, who may be directly impacted by the migrating oil that are estimated to be within 25 nautical miles of many shores and recreational sites in the Gulf of Mexico. The US State Department and other government officials have chosen to engage in pre-emptive talks with the foreign officials of Cuba hoping to establish an understanding of the problem and possible solution to correct for the unexpected impact in case the drifting oil reaches their shores. The diplomatic shirred not to recognize Cuba or its government is being set aside because of the implication of a larger than expected pollution of the ocean around that island and many of our gulf states.

There are few people who contend that opening up talks like these are not necessarily beneficial, because the ultimate problem is, how are we sure we are getting the right partnership in Cuba? The nation operates a brand of politics that does not catch our fancy except for some ‘do-gooders’ who will want us to re-engage with Cuba after over five decades. This latter group argue that the time has come for us to let by-gone be by-gone. However, there are so many disenfranchised Cuban-Americans in little Havana in Florida, who are the old stalwarts or enemies of Fidel Castro’s brand of communism, who would want nothing to do with Cuba, until some appreciable changes are made to that island’s brand of politics. With both groups still at logger heads, we may want to be careful regarding how far we would like to take this initiative of addressing the environmental problem which the Deep Horizon well explosion.

An important argument that must not be lost today is that, the Gulf Coast shores are at the mercies of thousands of blobby oil floating from the damaged rig in the Gulf of Mexico onto the surface of waters in the sound. As a nation, we cannot look away when more than acceptable volume of oil flows into our mashes and ocean outlets. A responsive action has to be taken to address the thick oil floating away from the disaster site to the shores of our lands. Much of the discussions with that Island nation are probably strictly related to combating the potential environmental damage to its shores. Yes, this is a significant change from our past policies toward that island nation; however, our choice right now is to influence the leaders of that nation by extending efforts to help them understand the impending environmental debacle and better manage the probable damage to the habitats and shores. The new flexibility and willingness to work with the nation Cuba, is not to condone their brand of government but to explore a real opportunity to open up discussions on other issues that many of our Cuban Americans, who want a favorable status of relationship with that nation, have alluded to.

The embargo against Cuba is now going to fifty years. A few of these years have been diverted to completely barricading the nation from any trans-American relationship. The government in Cuba today may not bring to the table any of those things that we appreciate as a Democratic state, however, the talking that we are engaging them in this time, can be alluded to or accommodated on humanitarian grounds: if their shores get polluted, we may get some flak for that, courtesy of British Petroleum! If we extend our embargo another half a century, that does not still say, the environmental repercussion of the Deep Horizon well, would be taken cared off, by the time it reaches the shores of Cuba. For now, this is just a policy that is designed to address and august environmental problem and this is how we should see our current talking efforts with ministerial officials from Havana.

Light Bulb Question: Is it necessary to be in talks with Cuban officials on the potential environmental pollution problem from the BP disaster?

Friday May 21, 2010

N. Will the British Petroleum Brand Survive after the Gulf of Mexico Fiasco?

Fixing the mess in the Gulf of Mexico is not going to be a simple task for British Petroleum. The reason is simple but paradoxical. Until lately, British Petroleum had not been forthright on the extent of the problem and had been busy attempting to cover up the extent of the oil gush and the potential impact of the explosion on the environment. For three and a half weeks after the accident, British Petroleum had remained elusive concentrating its effort at diverting the blame to one of their contractors. What was more mystifying was, British Petroleum kept data collected and video of the damage on the rig to itself, probably on the advice of corporate liability attorneys. Until the federal government gave British Petroleum a moratorium to release these information about 72 hours ago, the company sat on this vital information as to the extent of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and doing damage to the marshes and marine life in the environ.

Uncomfortably, British Petroleum may be keeping much of the data to itself for some underhanded business reasons, which many of us fail to buy. And because of British Petroleum deviousness on the accident, the company has become so unpopular; it had to retain a public relations company to brush up its damaged image. This is all the more paradoxical, since British Petroleum had recently flaunted itself as a clean energy company. After the Deep Horizon accidental explosion and spill, no one is buying the 'Beyond Petroleum' slogan from British Petroleum.

Its last effort (Year 2000) to replace its former “Green Shield” logo with the “Beyond Petroleum” characterization, British Petroleum image had been on a decline. With the company's brand taking further beating in the past month, it is time once again, to get the marketing gurus back to the drawing board to find another sales’ slogan or logo for the battered brand. For those familiar with the British Petroleum Retail Brand in the West Coast, it is probably a no-brainer to expect “BP”, “AM/PM”, “ARCO”, “BP connect” “BP Express”, “BP Shop” and Castro, to take a hit, once the public get to know that all these brands belong to British Petroleum; and, are just marketing gimmicks to help rake in more millions. Several states in the Union, including Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia and Florida, have one form or the other British Petroleum retail outlet, either in form of an ARCO convenience store or an AM/PM.

As investigation into the accident continues under the auspices of the Federal Government convened commission to investigate the root cause(s) of the British Petroleum disaster, British Petroleum is likely to receive more tongue-lashing by both the government and the public, especially from the environmentalists. Three challenges stand out, apart from others unknown at this time: what to do with the imminent oil that is gushing non-stop from the well, this is probably the singular problem that is taking all the attention by both the public and British Petroleum executives; what to do with the continuing difficulty faced in sealing off the oil wells that has refused to cooperate despite the lowering of the dome-like structure over the three wells; and finally, how to convince the public that British Petroleum meant well for the environment, when it began attacking the problem of the oil leaks and covering up very alarming information regarding the damage to the environment from the oil spill. The criticism will deepen even more, if it is discovered that gross negligence on behalf of British Petroleum was involved in this unfortunate incident, courtesy of the British Petroleum CEO!

The next off-shoot agency from the US Minerals Management Services that is going to have the mandate for safety and supervision on off-shore and on-shore drilling would have to deal with violation of safety rules by oil companies that may lead to similar disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, aggressively. The current way of doing business by oil companies that has dominated the industry and has led to the uncomfortable accidents must now seize. The new off-shoot agency can help enormously by setting out newly incontrovertibly guidelines on oil and gas prospecting that must never be violated and attach real and humongous financial penalty that will make the oil companies think twice before taking unnecessary risks of violating any of the guidelines.

As we go into the new phase of having to deal with the consequences of the current spill, the problem before British Petroleum executives is quite clear. On one hand, they need to find an effective and permanent solution to sealing the three wells once and for all. Depending on untested methods to seal off the wells is now past. The nuclear option, where a submarine bomb is effectively detonated to effectively destroy the well and stop the spill may be the last solution. As grand and very destructive this concept from the Russian oil producers may seem, it is tested and would yield the desired result: stop the oil from leaking out to sea and destroying marine life and the environment. On the other hand, attempting to brush over the real environmental impact of the accident and the cost required to clean up after the mess, is a recipe for further damage and unpalatable experience for the American public as well as the brand of British Petroleum. The company must commit to a huge sum of money to help return the immediate habit of the Deep Horizon rig to its prior state before the accident.

Holding back on any of its commitment to address the environmental consequence of the accident, will leave out the question of British Petroleum’s authenticity and commitment as initially proclaimed, to deal comprehensively and completely with the repercussions of the accident. The company must refrain from doing this because of the implication for the British Petroleum Brand. American consumers are very easy to turn against a brand, and when they do, it is often more financially damaging to a company than for them to do the right thing and pacify the consumers at the first go. If you are in doubt, ask Toyota, Audi, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum and Tiger Woods!

Although some corporate liability attorneys may be advising against acceptance of guilt, any misstep in the order of ensuring that this accident does not liquidate British Petroleum’s ability to remain the fourth largest oil exploration and marketing company in the world, may be a recipe for financial and corporate disaster. Attorneys are trained to help companies avoid liabilities, and when they have to pay, they work toward payment of minimal penalty by their client and maximum commissions for themselves. The beleaguered British Petroleum brand must not be forced into a corner because of this disaster and with prudent ownership of the problem; the company may be able to regain its balance in the American market. If anything, British Petroleum must realize that a mistake has been made and waging any public relation war or battling the Federal government on this one would only rob the company more than its brand; the good fervor of the people towards British Petroleum products would be next.

British Petroleum executives have some very difficult choices to make in the coming weeks, if their objective is to minimize the damage from the accident to their brand, it is probably wise to listen to their customers, especially those directly impacted by this accidents: residents of the five American Coastal states and the Islands in the Americas that are having their shores polluted. Next behind these groups are British Petroleum’s customers in all the states they currently do business, other groups may follow. If one of their organization’s objectives is to develop a new brand for the company and stretch its likely acceptability, it is probably wise again, to consider if a contemplated brand denies the impact of this accident and if its consequential impact is worth the costs to the company’s bottom-line.

Light Bulb Question: Can British Petroleum salvage its brand after the Gulf of Mexico fiasco?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

O. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana rips into BP in a Press Conference over its sluggishness at attending to the Oil Spill Crisis.

With the vigor of thunder and a determined state, Governor Jindal rolled out three strategies to combat the on-going damage to their coasts and Islands from the oil spill from British Petroleum. In a dramatic twist from where we were last week, the state of Louisiana is saying enough is enough! The governor called for a greater sense of urgency to fight the oil Spill. The government of the State of Louisiana cannot tolerate the sluggishness of British Petroleum to respond to the use of booms and other equipment to curry-off the oil sheen on their waters. The delay of BP from covering up the Deep Horizon wells is ratcheting up anger on many fronts and it does not seem British Petroleum will be let go Scot free.

According to the governor, many of the oil spewing out from the Deep Horizon rigs are now being found in many of Louisiana’s marsh lands and coastal islands. The governor is in a marathon to protect Louisiana State’s coast lines and hold BP accountable. The 7000 mile coast line of the State is in trouble and the coast line provides foods and jobs that are currently being threatened and or destroyed. The failure of British Petroleum to fix this problem is strangulating the livelihood of millions in that part of the country. The state would like its coastal sands and water in the lower tributaries to be free of floating oil sheen. The governor is attempting to put pressure on Washington to take drastic action to stop the continued oil flow and the damage to many of the coastal shores in the Gulf of Mexico.

In the midday Press Conference held at Venice, Plaquemines parish, Louisiana, the governor was flanked by government officials, Presidents of some parishes in the state, state environmental and emergencies figures and University researchers from the state calling for responsive and more directed actions on stopping the leaks. The governor rolls out three strategies to effectively halt the oil spills. The advanced strategies are: 1) Louisiana State’s emergency teams conducting daily coastal surveys of the extent of the oil pollution in the state’s waters and shores; 2) Louisiana’s State’s Parish officials identifying equipment and resources, including skimming boats and workable methods for quick and rapid coastal waters and shores clean ups; 3) Calling in harder booms and helicopters to secure several miles of Tiger Dams and other forty locations which are in imminent danger of having the oil sheen roll them over. The state of Louisiana does not believe that British Petroleum understands this problem and how to resolutely address the ever increasing oil that is gushing out of Deep Horizon wells. The government is not going to wait for detailed plan from British Petroleum or US Coast Guards to prevent the continued oil flows. They see the potential of this disaster damaging their coastal sands extensively to the extent that it may lead to a loss of their tourism industry for many years.

The ten by twenty nautical mile spill is too huge and probably unfathomable for anyone of us to comprehend. The real issue is how did we get this far, how did British Petroleum get us to the point where we are all very nervous about what environmental damage may result from this accident. The oil spill is now so complicated that the problem has probably taken over the ability of anyone Oil Company to profess effective solution.

Last week, the debate on this blog was on the question of showing leadership in crisis mode, while the oil company was busy pointing fingers as to who to blame for the disaster. Today, the attention is shifted towards completely and rapidly addressing the consequential effect of the spill and changing the perceived non-chalet attitude of British Petroleum towards the problem. Unlike traditional oil spill management practices, where site engineers and geologists generate project completion reports, arrange for containment platforms to manage the oil flow, the current spills is just too unrestricted and no one believe the estimated gallons of oil that is spewing out of the Deep Horizon wells from any quarters. Some oil drilling experts indicate that although British Petroleum seem to have the technology to drill and measure oil flow rate, it seems their past inability to institute and enforce good safety routines has made it difficult for them to swiftly address the current challenge of unrelenting spills; and from all intense and purpose, it seems British Petroleum has been unable to convince even itself that it can handle this problem.

To permanently devise a solution to the current oil spill, British Petroleum is now called upon to align with other oil companies in the country and if feasible, those in faraway Middle East who have managed similar problems, oil rigs explosion and control emergency operators, and the United States Coast Guard, to match their expertise in managing crisis of a similar size including:

- Accelerating British Petroleum employee’s response time in emergencies as this one;
- Increasing information sharing strategies with emergency response groups, experts and public officials who can directly provide support to manage the crisis;
- Improving press releases regarding accidents of a huge nature and promote consciousness in pronouncements regarding accidents once they happen;
- Increasing the number of emergency response teams on all their rigs, including those contracted out to other companies; and
- Launching instant and practical initiatives to stop the oil from leaking and managing the environmental pollution dilemma.

The current criticisms of the effort made by the company so far, as lacking substance and effectiveness, may be as a result of the company’s failures to address the above recommendations.

The call on Washington to act drastically now to address the failure of British Petroleum to stand up to its responsibility, is in fact, too belated. I could recall the Federal Emergencies officials acting immediately after the accident about a month and half ago, and British Petroleum balking at the idea that the spill was huge and horrendous. At the initial go in the accident, Washington acted responsibly offering help and whatever support is necessary to bring the accident in control. However, British Petroleum continued to give the impression that it had the situation under control. From what is now obvious, British Petroleum has this problem over their head and their initial refusal to accept help from government emergencies officials was unwise and probably negligent. In the past week, we have all found that British Petroleum either do not know what to do anymore or, is unable to effectively deliver results from its attempt so far to seal up the wells that are doing tremendous damage to the environment.

British Petroleum must embrace a new reality; the communities adjacent to the spill are frustrated and unsettled with its effort so far. They are rightly justified to cry out to the Federal Government to directly step in and stop the gushing oil to sea from the Deep Horizon wells. The time to nurture the acceptance that British Petroleum has the knowledge and technology to address this problem are all but, over. The different solutions to temporary cover up the wells cannot be looked upon to evolve as it seems over the past three to four weeks. Regardless of British Petroleum’s pronouncements, it is now time for the Federal Government or someone else to step in, to ensure that the solution adopted permanently address the ever growing spill from the three wells.

Light Bulb Question: Can we always depend on the pronouncements of a company’s officials as to its ability to manage a crisis as big as the current British Petroleum oil spills?

Monday, May 24, 2010

P. Making British Petroleum seal the Deep-water Horizon well, now!

It’s time for the Federal Government to have a heart-felt conversation with British Petroleum Executives. It’s time the Interior Secretary Salazar ask them to step aside and let those who understand how to manage real disaster handle the ceaseless gushing of oil from that Deep-water Horizon well. The time for ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ is over and the people are itching to see this deplorable situation brought to an end. Tell British Petroleum executives, whose containment and somewhat clean-up effort at the Deep-water Horizon explosion has yielded very little, the Federal Government is ready to take all actions necessary to bring the nightmare to an end. Enough is enough and the backlash of the current oil spill may have political implications for the Obama’s administration. No one should forget what the Katrina eye-sore did to President Bush’s administration: It made that administration look heartless, indecisive and probably incompetent!

We all appreciate the confidence that Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen has reposed in British Petroleum and the oil sector to resolve this problem. However, if you are at war and many of your coast guard cadets are wounded, you would call for the medics right away or take the nuclear option to end the suffering of many of those cadets that maybe in dire situation. Yes, that is the calamity that the British Petroleum oil spill has turned out to be. And, as you would imagine, without a radical and immediate action, the current inability of British Petroleum to plug the gushing oil from their wells, would continue endlessly.

Just this morning, the contemplated “Top Kill” option scheduled for Tuesday by British Petroleum engineers was shifted to Wednesday. Imagine if that strategy, which many in the ranks of the company are still unsure would give the desired result, fails. We will be back in square one.

One driver for the present position of this blog comes out of the strategy to cut your losses when the market situation or the tide of a choice picked is leading you nowhere. According to observers of the British Petroleum oil spill, the company probably never contemplated an accident of this size and was caught flat-footed 33 days ago when this one occurred. The result: a looming permanent damage to the Gulf Coast habitats, including deaths of marine life, contamination of the coastal sands, extinction of some species in and out of water and death of the tourism industry. If the British Petroleum executives are not seeing the resultant effect of their incompetence, several residents of the Gulf Coast states are starting to make connection between this disaster and the probability of the wiping out of their tourism industry and life style; a life style that has survived many generations.

In the past one and half months, British Petroleum had failed to show leadership in handling the repercussion of the explosion. In the past week, multiple ideas to shut the well have failed and no one is certain that the idea being toiled with by BP would work come Wednesday. The American population is wondering: Is British Petroleum competent enough to handle this nemesis of theirs? Today, Governors in the Gulf States are no longer content with the efforts that BP is making and can't really stomach the perceived inaction coming from the Obama’s Administration. Frankly, it is time to demand from British Petroleum keys to the store house and allow a new shop keeper to take over the business of the people: cleaning up our damaged and polluted environment and sending the tab to British Petroleum.

An investigative commission is a great idea; however, the work of the people cannot wait for another commission’s report to show up on the shelf to gather dust. We need someone in our government to stand up for us and stop this nightmare. Against this backdrop, the Federal government may want to take into consideration that going into partnership with other oil companies to help resolve this challenge by British Petroleum has created more complicated bureaucracy and is not providing faster and more effective action to stop the oil leaks on the rig. In addition, it is becoming apparent that British Petroleum has just been experimenting with many methods to siphon the oil and probably not to seal the well. Sealing of the well needs to be serviced by a responsive professional group, a scope beyond the capacity of British petroleum.

At the core of the new vision, one in which the US Navy must now be part of, is the call for an operation that may require the use of underwater bombing of the well to terminate its misery. Bombing the well will deliver a “quick win” rather than the contemplated “top kill” by British Petroleum. The goal is to better align the desires of the people for a permanent solution to the unending oil leaks from British Petroleum well, to see that the Gulf States do not remain at the mercy of British Petroleum and to assert the authority of the Federal Government to preserve the liberty of the people; a liberty that has been abridged or restricted by the accident from a British company in modern day America!

Light Bulb Question: Do we have to wait forever before the Federal Government steps in to bring the nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico to an end?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Q. The Battle for Balance in the President’s Press Conference and Visitation to the Gulf Coast

The President of the United States attempted a balancing act this morning at his Press Conference. However, his balancing act must extend beyond the Whitehouse East room; and, this is probably why he is heading to the Gulf States to commiserate with residents of that area regarding the British Petroleum oil spill disaster. In his Press Conference, the President exhibited confidence and authority as he reiterated that the buck stops at his desk. The balance of this risky acceptance and the potential fall-out may not be so obvious now.

What is obvious is that the President has the responsibility to pursue the interest of the residents of the Gulf Coast States, whose livelihood and environment have been battered for thirty-eight days. There are some political observers, who claim that, the balancing of political risk and reward from this accident cannot be readily measured now; not until the full report on the disaster or its impact is appreciated. I have my personal reservation regarding this. However, going by comments of residents of the Gulf States and employees of British Petroleum, who are giving testimony in congress this morning, this oil spill disaster may turn out to be a Waterloo for this White house. This is probably one reason why the Interior Secretary Salazar asked for the resignation of Liz Birnmaum head of MMS safety control; a position that is reverently denied and officially represented as a resignation.

The argument that the handling of the British Petroleum oil spill issue may lead to loss in political capital for the President does not seem much of concern right now; however, if British Petroleum is unable to actually resolve the issue of sealing up the Deep Horizon well within a permissible period, there may be some political costs to pay; and, those clamoring for the initially pronounced policy to drill oil off the coast of some eastern and south eastern shores may be disappointed. For now, the President has asserted the right of his office by extending the moratorium against off-shore oil drilling for the next six months. This may be a breather for the push to drill off the coast, 125 miles away from the shores. To exhibit sensitivity to the plight of the residents of the Gulf Coast States, you heard the President slightly denounce the “Drill Baby Drill” slogan, a slogan synonymous with groups in favor of oil extraction within United Sates.

Aside from all the Press conference drama, some legal experts indicate that no one in his right senses can claim that the White house could wield a bigger stick to make British Petroleum stop the leaks. Further arguments abound that, in his capacity as the Chief Executive of this Nation, the President may hold British Petroleum financially liable for the accident to the fullest provisions of the law; however, he may not be able to physically force the multinational corporation to stop the leaks currently going on in the Deep Horizon well. The President himself appreciates this position and this is probably why he reiterated that there are no officials in the Federal Agencies who have better information and understanding of the problem created by British Petroleum in this accident; therefore, he is relying on all the experts and academics already gathered by British Petroleum to solve the current challenge and profess some immediate solutions that will help stop the oil leaks.

In addition, what the President has said in the Press conference is that British Petroleum is completely liable for the cleanup, including the attendant costs and making whole those who have suffered in any way or form, from the accident. The President recognizes a full range of Gulf Coast residents’ needs, especially those who have lost their means of livelihood and are currently unemployed due to the accident. Further, the President has articulated the connections between those residents’ needs, the financial consequences of the accident to British Petroleum and the need for a viable tax base for counties, parishes and Sates in the Gulf Coast. Drawing the interconnectedness of these needs and the possible occurrence of another accident of this nature, happening so close to what we have in the Gulf of Mexico, probably advised the President to institute the six month moratorium ban on drilling; and, inaugurate the commission looking into the root cause of British Petroleum accident and to prescribe some recommendations that may help.

From hindsight, one can easily infer that on April 20, 2010, British Petroleum probably failed to recognize the early warnings that led to the accident and that, the associated skirmishes between British Petroleum and its contractor, Swedish Transocean, should have rang the big bell that there was trouble on the Deep-water horizon rig that led to the deaths of eleven Americans and close to one million barrels a day of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Others may allude to the fact that the incompetence and corruption in the arm of the Minerals Management Services, Department of Interior, led to this imbroglios; as the officials of that agency compromised their authority by literally and physically getting in bed with staff of oil companies. Whatever it was, the reality is that this accident has shown us that there is need for an alternative to carbon-based energy source and there is need to reform the agencies of the Federal government that provide any form of oversight to the private and public sectors of our economy.

For the President: "there is enough blame to go around concerning this accident and the response to its repercussion". The failure to immediately act to ameliorate the impact of the accident, first by British Petroleum and second, by the safety oversight arm of the Minerals Management Services, have fueled the hard feelings among those directly impacted by the accident. The President’s visitation tomorrow hopefully will help smooth some feathers and build a bridge for a better relationship among many in that area that are upset with the current circumstance and British Petroleum.

In the context of building bridges, the President must attempt to reach out to residents and governors of the States in the impacted areas, including releasing some emergency disaster funds and relief supplies to help people deal with the impact of current calamity. He may want to float the idea of a lower subsidized Federal Government Small Business Administration loans under the recovery act provisions, for fishermen and others who etched their living from waters in that area. All these must be geared towards building a sense of belonging and being valued by the Federal government among residents of Gulf coast. Nourishing physical and emotional wellbeing of the residents of that area is essential for helping them cope with the impact of this disaster. British Petroleum have failed to provide this type of nourishment after the disaster, the Federal government may make a positive impact by showing that the last thirty-eight days have not been in vain.

So, what effectually must the President visitation to the Gulf Coast attempt to accomplish?

- Promote feedback to the Federal government regarding expectations of residents and how best to achieve balance between support desired and those offered by the Federal government during an emergency of this nature;
- Promote warm relationship between the White house, Gulf Coast State governors and residents who are directly impacted by this mayhem;
- Encourage personal counseling for bereaved family members and their dependents through a public health emergency response program; funding of this initiative maybe defrayed by British Petroleum. This initiative should be floated at the President’s private visitation with family members of the eleven oil workers that died on that rig.

Light Bulb Question: Can the President’s visitation smooth-en some roughened feathers in the Gulf States after the British Petroleum accident?

Friday, May 28, 2010

R. Coping with the catastrophe of oil pollution in the Gulf Coast after the President’s visit to the Accident Site?

The promise that a pile of mud forced down through one of the oil wells that has been oozing out millions of gallons of oil per day, can help control the oil pollution and environmental nightmare, seems to be a promise that even the President of the United States of America cannot guarantee. British Petroleum, the multinational corporation in the middle of the nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico, is quickly discovering that this oil spill is not as minor as initially introduced thirty-nine days ago by the company’s Chief Executive Officer. Sadly, even veterans of oil spills are saying we have not faced a spill with this magnitude and to that extent; it is just difficult or rather disingenuous to characterize this catastrophe as a picnic!

Further, any pronouncements by British Petroleum regarding the rate of flow of oil from the wells, must be taken with a grain of salt. No strategy can guarantee that we are going to have a complete sealing of the wells and reversion of the environmental habitat to what it was a month and a quarter ago. To profess otherwise, is to be threading on deadly assumptions regarding the spill and effort to reverse its impact.

After the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, it seemed that we learned some lessons, or that oil companies exploring off-shore, especially in the deep sea, are able to design and contemplate alternative solutions to disasters rapidly. However, it seems the oil spill in the Gulf Coast is more damning than ever has been. If ever there was an accidental spill that required instant attention and swift reaction to curb the environmental consequence, the current BP Deep-water Horizon rig explosion qualifies as one. In a bid to be responsive, British Petroleum has implemented a strategy that has not been tested before and is quickly realizing five things:

- Success in shutting off an oil spill from a rig is less about engaging experimental technologies and more about engaging people, especially those who are familiar with huge oil spills and environmental disasters;
- The idea of using a pile of mud or golf balls to stuff the well before cementing it permanently, may end up to be an illusion;
- The way you conduct drilling and manage the safety issues on an oil rig can make all the difference even after an accident has occurred;
- The notion that you are a big oil company and you can handle all the safety issues surrounding your prospecting is a killer, when a disaster of the magnitude experienced by British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico happens; and,
- The complexity of oil and gas prospecting can be overbearing and sometimes, downright dangerous for oil workers and the environment.

With more than ten multinational corporations prospecting in American waters, the mistake of British Petroleum in the Deep-water Horizon well provides a good example of the challenge and complexity involved in prospecting for carbon-based fuel; and, the potential consequence of accidental spill, when a company fails to follow, even its own prescribed safety guidelines. Numerous safety issues have been identified with British Petroleum prospecting efforts and past accidents seem to be rather meager when compared with the nightmare the company has to deal with in the Gulf of Mexico tonight.

The challenges of adopting unproven field solutions for riser less drilling accidents, evaluating complex formations, drilling complex well trajectories through salt layers, completing wells in high pressure/high temperature reservoirs, managing pressure in deep wells, assuring flow in wells and flow lines, and providing boosters to increase production rates from sub-sea wells, have basically complicated the process of deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. No matter what the presumption in the oil and gas industry, deep-water oil rigs are very challenging to manage and those who have taken this enterprise as the next frontier in prospecting for oil, may want to learn from the mistakes of British Petroleum in the current dispensation.

After spending close to 500 million dollars to pacify the current outrage from the Coast Gulf State, executives at British Petroleum are realizing that you cannot buy the conscience or the displeasure of a public that understands its rights to a safe environment. Leaders in the oil and gas industry are realizing that the problem with what is happening in the Gulf Coast with British Petroleum cannot be adduced only to the choice of depth of prospecting, but the failure of an oil company to provide necessary support to their contractor as they prospect for oil and gas. One of the likely problems of this accident is the choice of British Petroleum to give close to complete autonomy to the contractor drilling the well at Deep Horizon. There were indications that there were some disagreements between Transocean site workers and the British Petroleum project overseers just before the accident. Who can tell what the fuss was all about; and, essentially can the resolution to whatever fuss it was, have averted the accident?

It is probably safe to say that British Petroleum was attempting to play a supervisory role in the prospecting processes adopted by Transocean on the rig and that some mis-communications ensued between BP and the contractor just before the explosion occurred. Whatever it was, it does not seem all was well on the Deep-water rig when all hell broke loose thirty-nine days ago. It is also safe to assume that the future of the contract with Transocean on this rig is probably going to be jeopardized by this accident and the deftness of the current criticism of how British Petroleum had managed the rigs explosion and its aftermath.

From what is well known in the oil industry, there is plenty of deep-water oil in the Gulf of Mexico and about one third of these are being extracted by numerous companies including Chevron, British Petroleum, Shell and others. With the increased activities in oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, should we be expecting similar accidents to the British Petroleum’s? No one can predict an answer to that question. However, the presence of the President in the Gulf Coast today and the allegation of both government officials, public and the press, that British Petroleum is playing a wait and see game, make it all the more difficult for any oil company to continue to take the issue of safety lightly on the rigs or in the explorations and extractions.

Furthermore, the aggressive posturing of the Governor of the State of Louisiana, Presidents of some parishes in the state, a well-known Democratic Strategist and CNN political contributor, have made the case of the disaster in the Gulf an emotional and difficult issue. According to James Carville, several actions of British Petroleum are somewhat criminal and beg for an opening of criminal investigation into the activities of the British Petroleum executives since the accident thirty-nine days ago. Like other residents of Louisiana affected by this disaster, Mr. Carville is alleging that British Petroleum is kicking the can down the slope as it attempts to buy time for itself regarding the experimental effort of using mud to seal-off the wells through the so-called “top kill’ initiative. Like some other residents who are completely frustrated by the ongoing in the gulf with this catastrophe, the CNN political contributor says that if BP’s current experiment with the top kill fails and the American public finds out that we will have to wait for another two months before the alternative wells that are being drilled to divert the oil or salvage the situation will come upstream, then there is going to be a political price to pay for this Whitehouse. It is his contention that the Whitehouse staff is good people and that they need to come and visit their state to appreciate the ruins and devastation that the British Petroleum oil spill have wroth on their people.

In addition, Billy Nungesser, President of Clackamas County, Louisiana, who had the privilege of discussing with the President during his visit to the Gulf Coast today and had the opportunity of voicing his position to Anderson Cooper on his 360 degree program, says he is going to hold the President to his promise to help and will be waking up tomorrow to continue cleaning up with his neighbors. He indicated that they need help and they expect no less from the Whitehouse. To put it sarcastically, Mr. Carville indicated on CNN Anderson Cooper's 360 newsreels, residents of Louisiana are going to be in the face of the Whitehouse like gravy on rice!

Already, Louisiana Fishermen and oyster harvesters, who are contemplating increasing migration of oil into their waters and the possibility of a determination to make their waters off-limit to activities, are impatiently increasing their harvesting activities in the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly, David Matting was informing Anderson Cooper tonight that BP seems like a company not used to answering questions from the press. They are being very careful in talking about even optimistic projection of their underwater experiment to salvage the oil that is oozing out of the well. Would anyone blame the fishermen and oyster harvesters under such a scenario?

Light Bulb Question: Would the President’s visitation to the Gulf Coast change the tide of British Petroleum’s efforts to bring this catastrophe to an end?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

S. Practical Tools to help residents of the Gulf Coast Survive the Current Clean Up after the failure of the 'Top Kill' strategy

Many residents of the Gulf Coast have a grasp of how to manage minor crisis on the home front. However, when it comes to the largest and most devastating oil spill in American history, they will tell you their efforts are falling short of optimal, for reasons that may not be adduced to their own fault. Yes, it is the job of British Petroleum to clean up after its mess; however, Gulf Coast residents that are directly impacted by the oil spill catastrophe will need the support of everyone, including the Government of the United State of America and the main culprit, British multinational oil company, BP! We’ve all heard it, and we all know in our bones: State of Louisiana has suffered the impact of natural and manmade disasters in the last decade and no one will wish them worse. In the aftermath of the British Petroleum spill, residents of the region are worried to death, about another hurricane season meeting the current oil spill disaster, words may not be enough to describe the potential impact on the people, their lifestyle and their environment. Yet, when we measure the resilience of residents of the Gulf Coast, one cannot but wonder where on earth, do those people draw their energy to push on, in spite of all odds. Like that singer said: “The red stripes on our flag do not run”! In the words of President Obama yesterday: “Now, our mission remains the same as it has since this disaster began, since the day I visited Louisiana nearly four weeks ago: We want to stop the leak; we want to contain and clean up the oil; and we want to help the people of this region return to their lives and their livelihoods as soon as possible.” Many Americans share the same conviction and only pray that the Federal Government would assist very rapidly before the hurricane season descends. All too often, a region of our country is impacted by devastating events and we fail to respond to the emergency in a fashion laudable enough to temper the disaster with mercy and hope. Our government must recognize that we all have vested interest in every part of this nation, no matter how small. Many of our country men have fought ceaselessly and unrelentingly to preserve this land from seas to shinning seas. Their sweats and bloods have run on the chins of battered faces in hot sun, colder than cold temperatures, on battle grounds and in high seas. That is why it always seems we are impatient when our government does not respond quickly enough to save us, our land, our environment and the little we have as a people when disasters as the British Petroleum oil spills or the Katrina eye-sore, strikes or occurs. We always want to believe that the people we put in the office of our nation’s management share the sense of urgency that we always have during the times of emergency. Before you begin to start weeping for us, my people in the shores of the State of Louisiana have gone through two major whammies in the last six years; they are about weary and tired. That is why you hear the frustration in their voice as they respond to how quickly British Petroleum or the Federal government has responded to the current disaster. No one is out to get anyone in government, no one is out to discredit federal officials or elected men or women, all we have always wanted is for those in position of power to realize that the same red blood that runs in the veins of those experiencing unfathomable disasters anywhere in America, runs in the elected or appointed officials'. If only they can put themselves in our shoes, maybe they will realize why we always seem impatient and frustrated at times like this! During a period of disaster, Americans want the goal to counter the effects of the disaster to be quickly and rapidly defined. They want our government or emergency support agencies to be precise as regards the type of help we may expect and who and whom will deliver and receive such support. We want our emergencies support agencies to be specific, stay engaged, feel the same sense of urgency that those of us impacted by the disaster feel; and, want them never to leave any stone unturned, until the required help is delivered or until the people are made whole, again. That is the brotherhood or sisterhood found in a nation that cares and never leaves its own alone on the battle grounds. A simple subjective press conference hardly meets up to these types of sentiments. That is why it seems rather complicating and confusing, when people in power or close to power are unable to figure out why the people are not seeing all the effort they are expending to help out in times of disaster. To our President, Mr. Obama, his secretaries, political advisers and press secretaries, our apologies this time around! We know you guys are doing something to help, but those things are not coming fast enough or we are not seeing the impact as fast as we expect. So, if it seems we are belligerent, please forgive us. This is like a battle, and we do not want to die in the battle front thinking that no one cares about us! The oil industry is known for its malfeasance and based on their past records in times of disasters; no one in his right senses will believe that they or their subset, British Petroleum, has the best interests of the people in the Gulf Coast at heart. Never mind the touting of the more than half a billion dollars that British Petroleum is claiming to have expended for containment, grants to the Gulf states and cost of the spill response. The fact is no one on the grounds in the impacted area has felt the size of their claim with respect to how much burden their expenditure has lifted the pains of their mistake or oil spill. Maybe, it is because the goal to save the environment, animal and sea lives or the people resident in that region right after the explosion was not properly defined; or, appropriate measures taken by the Federal government to see that swift actions were taken by British Petroleum immediately after the accident forty days ago.

[...]

Excerpt out of 372 pages

Details

Title
BP Oil Spill. Documenting the Crisis in US Gulf Coast
Course
Environmental Policy/Environmental Economics/Environmental Education
Author
Year
2014
Pages
372
Catalog Number
V274371
ISBN (eBook)
9783656673798
ISBN (Book)
9783656673767
File size
1586 KB
Language
English
Notes
Tags
spill, documenting, crisis, gulf, coast
Quote paper
Christopher Adekoya (Author), 2014, BP Oil Spill. Documenting the Crisis in US Gulf Coast, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/274371

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