Likely sequence of events of BP Oil Spill

Posted: June 18th, 2010 by: h2

I came across this conjecture by bigmoose at forums BP Deepwater Horizon Spill thread.

There’s something so realworld about this time-line, and so nitty gritty, that I think it’s probably very close to what was really going on. Plus it fits with information coming from the congressional hearings: “the internal e-mail messages now show that BP actually rejected a safer plan that required installing more components because, as well team leader John Guide wrote on April 16, “it will take 10 hours to install them.””

Ignore all the technical analysis you’ll see going in front of the US Congress now in the hearings, this is the story before it hits the spin machines and lawyers, the story that probably happens every day in drilling operations across the planet.

I’m very grateful for the honesty and intelligent commentary I’m finding from most oil guys who are sharing their thoughts/views on this disaster, so without further ado, here’s the story in his own words. I ignored the other posters in these threads because there’s a lot of babble and weird speculation that really distracts from the simplicity and clarity of the initial explanation offered as a likely sequence of events.

bigmoose June 15th, 2010 11:23 AM
Default Re: Deepwater Horizon – Transocean Oil Rig Fire

My daughter came home from college this week, and asked me what was going on with the well, and how such a thing could have happened. I told her the following condensed story today. Said I have seen it many times in my life in my non oil industry…

The well gets started and runs into problems. Drilling slow, getting behind. Mr. Big gets briefed weekly. For a while he “keeps an eye on it”. Then he says, time is money, speed it up. So it filters down the chain. People on the drilling floor are pushed. Bit gets stuck, and BHA has to be abandoned. Then a hurricane comes up and swamps the first drill ship. Now when this well is briefed at the weekly meeting, the “stoplight chart” is showing red in cost; red in schedule; and still green in potential reservoir yield.

He gets a new team to “fix things.” The Deepwater Horizon has the job of redrilling the well. All the stoplight charts are rebaselined to green cost; green schedule; and green performance. The reports start coming in. Mud lost to circulation up high. Hard drilling. Casing problem. Stoplight charts change to yellow/yellow/green. More lost circulation. Designed for 6 strings of casing, now have 8 in the hole. Speed it up. Way behind. Now we are paying penalties on keeping DWH on station. How do we cut days out of the process to completion. Small tiger teams are drawn up as the stoplight charts change to red/red/green AGAIN. Mr. Big is pounding the table on Monday morning hammering at the “well manager” can’t you do your job, get that *$K@# well in, and I don’t want to hear about any more delays or problems.

Now it’s pedal to the metal, full cut every corner we can. Mr. Big is blowing his top. Get this thing in and get DWH off station and on to it’s next commitment. Men and machines will be sacrificed per Mr. Big’s directions. A cultural thing, one might say.

… and so the pins were pulled on the gernades. One, two, three….8, 9 and 10. They are basically described in the Waxman Congressional Subpoena to Tony Hayward that was described a few pages back. A culture that did not identify and take appropriate action with respect to industry standards and risk. All described in previous pages…

Where does it end and how do we reconfigure? I believe the aviation/aerospace industry can assist in precedent and philosophy. Similar dangers of operations, risks to personnel and equipment, and a loss risk that is not acceptable to society. I personally desire to see oil companies remain independent, and not nationalized to secularize the risk. The solution is prevention, with vigilant inspection.

CM gave a story of how he taught new engineers. Same by me. I was trained by the greatest chief engineer at our installation. Steve told me, BigMoose if you ever don’t know what to do; do the right thing. That is a statement I have shared for 25 years with every engineer, technician and project manager that I supervised/managed… Sadly, only in the last 2 years before my retirement, did I get questions back that said: “BigMoose, what IS the right thing?” … seems we always knew that answer for the previous 23 years… and it keeps me busy now a couple days a week being the grey beard conscience of the Program, and showing the new folks what the “right thing” is. I am blessed to be able to mentor them and note that the current Program Management in my industry recognized that the new personnel needed that mentoring, and not table pounding and corner cutting.

Q: from company man 1 June 15th, 2010 12:21 PM

A couple of questions for you Bigmoose. How big is Mr. Big in your opinion ? I hear you comparing the oil business to the airline business. I have heard the two compared before in this thread. There are three things I know about the airline industry. I am sure most oil executives know the same three things. 1) It is very safe. 2) It is unionized (scares the bejesus out of execs). 3) They’re all broke ( really scares oil execs ) . How does this industry go from where we are to where they are without the good old bottom line scaring every oil executive to the next third world country?

bigmoose June 15th, 2010 01:17 PM
I’ll give it a shot. Now my experience has been on the back end of aero propulsion and space systems, in hardware development and launch, I have not worked commercial airline operations. Our organizational structures will be different, and I’ll try to crosswalk, my titles may not be right for your industry, so feel free to adjust/correct them. For the new folks, this is conjecture based on an educated synopsis of released data and large corporations.

The VP of Exploratory Well Development would have been the top level with summary knowledge, and executive control. He would likely have been briefed monthly (if in our environment) for about 1 to 3 hours. Likely 40 to 60 charts. Cost, schedule, those blasted “stoplight” charts that I mentioned colored red/yellow/green based on how far you are off of plan. Charts on planned costs versus actual. Charts on manpower and overtime. Charts on technical performance showing well progression. Charts on problems found and solved. Ending with planned work for the next month and technical risks. The technical risks should have been crosswalked to cost and critical path analysis on schedules. His comments in front of a wide public audience would have likely been reasoned and muted. He will be placing his chess pieces.

Often after the “public presentation” the Well Completion Manager (again I am guessing titles) who is likely in a matrix division underneath the VP will have a private meeting with the VP with likely the Division manager present a few days later. The VP’s “staff enforcer” will be in the meeting. This is the “frank” meeting with all the plausible deniability caveats. No memos, all verbal from the VP level, likely no more than 4 at the meeting. Does the VP sign things, sure, memo’s that direct everyone to follow all industry guidelines and MMS requirements, you know those procedures needed for ISO certifications. The push would have been verbal, if it occurred. Limited audience, nothing written. The pressure will get more vocal, with more “public” risk taking the lower you go in the organization.

So the VP would provide strategic pressure. The Well Completion Manager the tactical pressure. The Division Manager is typically there to ensure “the deed get’s done” and the exec suite is firewalled.

Well Completion Manager (WCM) onshore lives the well every day, but isn’t on the drill floor. Feels the ever increasing heat and squeezes the line accordingly. If in fact that phone call from the rescue boat after the explosion happened, that is who I bet the call was to. The line folks were crushed by the pressure. The ultimate pressurizers typically insulate themselves.

On the other question, hell has no fury like a supersonic cruise gas turbine engine on a test stand under full afterburning/ductburning conditions. Yet it is typically, very safe. We test like we fly, and fly like we test. Procedures written and reviewed… all the usual stuff. Space goes to a higher level. Independent Verification and Validation. Performed by non associated contractors. In fact I am “enlightening” a project these days that wants to allow the prime to do their own IV&V, cheap and “effective” to the new guys; ineffective based on grey beard experience. If the project is mission critical on a $3 Billion mission, then it is worth independent IV&V, period. See “Do the right thing” in previous post.

Role of FAA in oversight of hardware, repairs and certifications I think will have the greatest applicability to your oil field situation. On the space side NASA/DoD have their own standards, conduct their own audits and contractor surveillance. They hire non aligned contractors to do IV&V, to review their prime contractor products with no holds barred. Some call the oversight contractors, “Beltway Bandits” after the beltway around Washington, but they do dig to the bottom independently once turned on. They are very thorough the larger the program gets to be. Ask any contractor that provided a bolt or O ring or transistor that was built into the space shuttle. The gent who posted a few days about forming his Offshore Drilling Oversight Firm, I think has a good idea that will be implemented shortly. The MMS will need independent contractors to do the due diligence and vigilance. Government folks are typically not that good in the field.

I don’t think you have to go union.

The airlines are broke because of oversupply and competition. The hardware suppliers are not broke. Look at Boeing for airframes and GE for gas turbine engines. I look at your industry as akin to Boeing/GE. In fact I think the operational side of your industry could learn a lot from GE, their 6 sigma quality program is pretty darn good. GE isn’t a low end supplier, but I am pretty sure you get what you expect and it works like they said it would. It sure looks like they supply a lot of oilfield equipment.

Sorry to have written so much… hope it helps. PS: DVIDS doesn’t appear to broadcast the investigation anymore in real time. Anyone know if there is any web brodcast during the day of the congressional investigation?

Sounds realistic and possible to me. Possibly even probable. There’s something about the way companies really work inside that just doesn’t fit our fantasies, but does fit the idea that they are run by real people with real weaknesses and failings.

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