Sunday, August 22, 2010

Unprecedented: Thad Allen Joins Fran Townsend

It's fitting National Incident Commander Thad Allen put out his op-ed near the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It has much in common with Frances Townsend's whitewash, also know as the White House Lessons Learned Report.

Both cite the unprecendented nature of the disasters, despite government and private corporations drilling on the very events prior to their occurrence.

In both cases, key safety systems, levees and a blowout preventer (BOP) failed.

A "fail-safe" system had failed.

Data on blowout preventer failure shows such systems to be anything but "fail safe." Even the two relief well BOP's had problems requiring intervention.

Despite the mobilization of countless resources from the start
Resources were anything but countless the first two weeks. BP had few of the defense mechanisms it outlined in emergency plans.

We now know that 53,000 barrels were likely escaping each day from the well
When did Allen know this? He's told two different stories. Thad said he knew this number in June when he sent a letter to BP on designing a system to capture the oil spew. Yet he wasn't telling the public this fact in July.

We employed 7,000 vessels of opportunity, a waterborne militia

That's the first time I've heard the 7,000 number relative to VOO. News reports haven't been that high. Is Allen counting the Coast Guard that acted like a militia, keeping people away from dead and dying sea creatures?

We mobilized the largest number of oil skimmers

Those skimmers didn't capture one day's worth of BP's promised (revised lower) skimming capacity in three months time. Dispersants sank the oil, making it unskimmable. A strategic decision was made early on to use dispersants.

The science team also got us a precise flow rate and an oil budget that estimates where the oil went.

Both of which have been challenged by scientists and industry experts. The precise flow rate revision process was patently laughable. The crack team won't share their Oil Budget methodology for peer review purposes. Allen promised well pressure readings, but they're as scarce as fish kill test results.

Yes, alot has been done and thankfully the oil spew is stopped. However, this well blew out concrete plugs before. Given the lack of well integrity, it could do so again. Macondo has at least three ways to blow, out the side, out the top, through the relief well or through a combination of these methods.

Thad Allen has not been honest with the American people. His op-ed drives that point home. Fran Townsend whitewashed a rescue response that led to the death of 35 patients in Memorial Medical Center. Her Lessons Learned report omitted this key fact. I trust the plethora of Deepwater Horizon investigations to do better than Ms. Townsend. However, we're off to a rough start.

Update: BP's Lessons Learned report says it had over 5,000 Vessels of Opportunity. They later stated it was nearly 3,500. Was that for one week or a shorter period? It also claims it went from skimming 450,000 bpd to over 1.2 million bpd. Given the final skimming numbers of 150,000 barrels, this claim is almost laughable.

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