“Inconceivable?” It means you didn’t want to think about it

In perusing the news about the Gulf oil rig disaster, this statement caught my eye:

BP did not build the containment devices before the spill because it “seemed inconceivable” the blowout preventer on the rig would fail, Rinehart said. The blowout preventer typically activates after a blast or other event to cut off any oil that may spill.

In short, BP didn’t make plans to prevent – or deal with – a catastrophic failure on a deep sea oil rig, because it simply wasn’t “conceivable” that various emergency devices would fail.   Which is strange, since these particular devices have failed in the past.   In a study done by ExproSoft, there’s this particular paragraph:

A reliability study of subsea BOPs was performed in 1999. This is a follow up study focusing on the deepwater kicks and associated BOP problems and safety availability aspects. The study is based on information from 83 wells drilled in water depths ranging from 400 meters (1312 feet) to more than 2000 meters (6562 feet) in the US GoM OCS. These wells have been drilled with 26 different rigs in the years 1997 and 1998.

A total of 117 BOP failures and 48 well kicks were observed in these wells. The main information source from the study has been the daily drilling reports.

For something that was “seemingly inconceivable,” there’s quite a number of incidents to prove that it should have been quite conceivable.  Probable, even.   What this tells me about BP is that whoever was putting together their emergency plans – or who had the authority to approve them – didn’t want to think about it, or more importantly, spend the money to prepare for the chance it could happen.

It’s bad enough that many men lost their lives when the platform blew up.  It’s bad enough that there’s going to be untold damage to the environment from the oil coming from this well.    The damage that will be done will take years for many industries to recover from, and the environment in some areas may take even longer.   But for BP to tell us that they didn’t think that something would happen – when there was evidence to the contrary – is not just incompetence.  It’s a lie, and it’s criminally negligent.

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