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  • Energy Issues


    Dr. William J. Pike

    It was two years ago this month that BP’s Macondo well blew out, leaving 11 dead, a huge swath of pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and a stain on our industry that may take decades to erase. It doesn’t seem that long ago and, yet, it seems like years. In the interim, many things have changed. We have new regulations and operating procedures, voluminous reports, increased negative visibility, new oversight agencies and numerous additional things we did not have in our lives before. One is a new commitment to operational safety and stewardship. These are well and good. But, there is something else that we can’t shake. Any review of the numerous Macondo reports makes it apparent that the overriding, undeniable and ultimate cause of the event was human error. To be sure, equipment failed, but it failed only after being subjected to forces it was never designed for—because of human error. Some have called the cement job into question. Whether it failed or not, and how, is still a matter of debate. If it did fail, it was because of human factors. The rush to finish the well and move to another location meant that the cementing program was not fully examined and the risk of failure not fully weighed. Nor, for that matter, was the liner design.

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