Sunday, August 29, 2010

BP Blames Engineers for Misreading Results

In a yet to be released internal report BP blamed engineers for misreading pressure data. This was the cause of the blowout. While it is proximate in time, it ignores design and execution problems throughout the life of the well. Did BP's root cause analysis stop after the first "why"?

Three BP engineers refused to testify in last week's hearings. Two did show, one of whom had been promoted by BP into a higher position.

While I didn't catch every word of the testimony, I don't recall any engineer admitting they misread data. BP's attorneys, Wilmer Hale, dug up the Pentagon's Abu Ghraib defense. A few employees messed up, there's nothing systemic about what happened.

The seventh "why" points much higher than a few engineers. It points to leadership focused on cost cutting, regardless of safety or quality. I'll wait for the other seven investigations to run their course, but the first one is weak.

If a CEO truly believed the cause was "engineer misreading," would he say this:

Speaking to reporters today at the Southern Governors’ Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting, Bob Dudley said the extent of the disaster has been a "shock" that will force BP and the oil industry as a whole to re-evaluate their practices.

"What we need to do now as a company is go back and fundamentally look at deepwater drilling …and assure that we can drill safely again. I believe we can, but we need to rethink many, many things."
That sounds like more than hiring better engineers. Governors get the inside story, while the public is offered swill.

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