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Engineers At Odds

August 29, 2010
More on the quibbles over engineering that led up to the BP oil spill. As I spoke about last time, a Halliburton engineer spoke out about recommendations he had made that he felt were ignored by BP. Now a BP engineer testified to the same committee despite two other BP engineers taking the fifth and not testifying. To quote the Coast Guard Captain Nguyen, the Co-Chair of the committee, “You’re a very brave man for showing up today.”
As engineers, especially ones who argued additional safety measures weren’t necessary, it’d be easy to just not say anything. Pass the blame up to executives who likely made the ultimate decisions here. But the fact that the Halliburton engineer is still out there saying in his best judgment they needed more centralizers and now the BP engineer is saying he felt the cement was poured straight and that additional centralizers weren’t needed, makes me believe they both believe strongly in what they’re saying. It’s very possible this whole incident was not responsible for the eventual blow.  And engineers often have their own styles. Many want more and more safety mechanisms that actually accomplish nothing. It’s not a clear judgment call. Like I said before, if we listened to every concern we probably would have never gone into space or to the moon. I don’t think that clears BP or Halliburton of ignoring safety concerns of their own engineers. But it does make this a more interesting investigation. The emails they keep quoting I could see coming out of any major company involving any big project or test. I’m sure those that sent the emails never anticipated they would be read, re-read and scruitnized word by word by an angry public or focused investigators.
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