Analysing BP Gulf Disaster
EXPLOSION on April 20, 2010 killed 11 workers. Well was not finally capped until September 19.
Meanwhile oil kept flowing, killing marine life amd polluting coastline. By 9 July 2011, roughly 491 miles (790 km) of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida remained contaminated by oil. US government blames BP, and relatives of dead men say drilling company ignored warnings.
A LEADING British scholar who investigated the Piper Alpha oil disaster has published an analysis of the Gulf of Mexico disaster examinining what BP should have known and could have done about the causes.
The author is Professor Charles Woolfson, formerly of the University of Glasgow, and co-author of the landmark study of offshore oil industry safety, Paying for the Piper detailing the reasons for the loss of 167 lives in the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster off the shores of Scotland.
Professor Woolfson's name was a surprise find uncovered when the files of the blacklisting Consulting Association were opened, showing the extent of blacklisting of workers in the building industry. It suggested that oil companies might try to put pressure on the University to cut his tenure short, possibly leading to other academic institutions closing their doors too for fear of losing funding.
Evidently Charles Woolfson has not let this frighten him from taking on the oil giants again. He examines the reasons for BP's safety failures in the Gulf of Mexico in a new publication in current issue of New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy.
Says Woolfson, "What's really startling and wholly depressing are the similarities not the differences in the basic causes underlying the two disasters, Piper Alpha and Deepwater Horizon. Although these events are separated by over twenty years, the global industry was supposed to have learned important safety lessons in the interim. Yet a major British oil multinational, BP, was seemingly oblivious to this previous catastrophic safety failure in 1988, to date the world's worst offshore disaster, occurring on its own doorstep."
Key among these similarities are attempts to create a business-friendly regulatory regime offshore, weak inspection and enforcement procedures, prioritization of commercial considerations over the safety and well-being of personnel and the wider environment.
"It's only when you look at the forensic detail of how a bad company operates in the real world that you see the true picture emerging. Then you can begin to ask questions about how this kind of disaster could happen, what can be done to prevent it happening again and, not least, who is to blame" said Woolfson.
BP faces new litigation in the Spring of 2013 following its guilty plea to US Justice Department charges which resulted in the largest criminal fine in US history. ,
The article, Preventable Disasters In The Offshore Oil Industry: FromPiper Alpha To Deepwater Horizon by Charles Woolfson, can be downloaded at the New Solutions web site: http://baywood.metapress.com/
New Solutions, Vol. 22(4), 2013