Recklessness vs. professionalism

I read the following rumor this weekend but did not post because it had not been corroborated and I found it too shocking to believe. But after watching 60 Minutes‘ expose in which the rig’s former computer and electronics chief alleged several equally unbelievable safety violations, I’m more inclined to believe this rumor, which also fits with facts alleged by the rig disaster survivor concerning multiple failures in the blowout preventer. The broken blowout preventer would have rendered a Cement Bond Log test unreliable, and BP’s decision to save time by not filling the well with pressure-suppressing mud could indeed have caused the well to be “kicking heavily.”

Again, this is only a rumor, and it comes from an anonymous poster. But rumors have proven far more reliable than official information about this disaster to date.

BP contracted Schlumberger (SLB) to run the Cement Bond Log (CBL) test that was the final test on the plug that was skipped. The people testifying have been very coy about mentioning this, and you’ll see why.

SLB is an extremely highly regarded (and incredibly expensive) service company. They place a high standard on safety and train their workers to shut down unsafe operations.

SLB gets out to the Deepwater Horizon to run the CBL, and they find the well still kicking heavily, which it should not be that late in the operation. SLB orders the “company man” (BP’s man on the scene that runs the operation) to dump kill fluid down the well and shut-in the well. The company man refuses. SLB in the very next sentence asks for a helo to take all SLB personel back to shore. The company man says there are no more helo’s scheduled for the rest of the week (translation: you’re here to do a job, now do it). SLB gets on the horn to shore, calls SLB’s corporate HQ, and gets a helo flown out there at SLB’s expense and takes all SLB personel to shore.

6 hours later, the platform explodes.

Pick your jaw up off the floor now. No CBL was run after the pressure tests because the contractor high-tailed it out of there. If this story is true, the company man (who survived) should go to jail for 11 counts of negligent homicide.

If true, this is an astonishing example of professionalism (Schlumberger) vs. recklessness (BP) and the astonishing arrogance with which some can dismiss professional advice. It would also be a tremendous example of the critical importance of corporate culture. BP and Schlumberger are in the same industry, yet BP is obsessed with cost-cutting while Schlumberger emphasizes safety.

Posted by James on Monday, May 17, 2010