children drillers

Charlie Petit:

What’s lacking is the obvious.

Which is that if BP and the oil industry and the Minerals Management Service has been acting like grownups for the last 20 years or so, there would have been developed a blow out preventer with a fitting for a backup on top, without customized on-the-fly engineering, that could be added to finish the job.

Think about it. All a B.O.P. does is to act like a faucet.

That means there is no reason to think good engineering would not have found more than one way to replace the tap should it go bad. Or entirely different strings of valves, some at depth, to turn off a runaway well. The deep kill drill mud method may be the one that shuts it off forever and forget it.

This good news is, in reality, the scandal. It underscores the laxity of imagination and penny pinching that got BP and the gulf coast into this mess in the first place.

That’s the story: it is not fundamentally difficult to turn off an oil well. One has only to invest time and money up front in the way to do it.

There is much talk about failure of the press to get the ultimate reason for the disaster right, our “addiction” to oil and other energy that is cheap to produce. That’s a fine, philosophical position. But just as important is to report why the technology failed and whether it had to be that way.

I’d say the press and gov’t regulators alike must demand immediate development of smart, 21st century hardware that gives oil drillers a whole set of proven, robust hardware for rebuilding the top of an oil well, complete with shut-off systems and backup shut-off systems, to start deploying the day a major leak begins.

These guys practically started from scratch. If they came up with this in a few months of near-panic conditions, think what could have been done over the last few decades had there been proper leadership and oversight.