Friday, October 08, 2010

BP's Sad Quality Story

The Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Board heard another sad quality story from a BP engineer.  The issue involved the cement plug and the number of stabilizers.  Whether 21 or 6 were required isn't critical, it's whether the cement formed a complete bond.  Nola reported:

Walz said he stood by his decision to use six centralizers because any problems they might have discovered by testing the cement's integrity could then by fixed with more cement.

But Walz and Guide, who also testified Thursday, were part of a group of BP leaders who subsequently decided not to run the definitive test of cement integrity, called a cement bond log. They had hired a team from contractor Schlumberger and flew them out to the rig to do the test, but it was never done.

The test itself would have cost another $128,000 and taken another two days or so, at a cost of about $1 million a day. Other testimony this week established the well was already $54 million over-budget, and Walz and Guide testified Thursday that BP employees are graded every year based on how much money they save the company.

Walz acknowledged under questioning that BP's own internal protocols require a definitive test of cement integrity, such as a cement bond log, whenever cement covers less than 1,000 feet above a reservoir of oil. He admitted the Macondo well had only 920 feet of cement there, but he decided that was close enough "to the intent" of the rule, and he said no definitive test of cement integrity was ever done.
This is evidence that leaders and organizational systems work against quality.  Close enough? This too, shall pass. The question is what we learn and improve.

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