When you deliberate on a disaster, it becomes clear that any such event has three phases to it. Initially, there are antecedents that lead to the disaster. When enough antecedents have accumulated, the disaster occurs at that specific tipping time. Finally after the disaster has happened the final phase of resolutions occurs. The resolutions are steps that the society attempt to implement to revert the effects that the event has produced. Consider the Deepwater Horizon disaster that happened on July 17th 2010. Upon critical review the group have identified series of antecedents that led to the disaster.
At the tipping point the disaster occurred, lives were lost and numerous crew members injured. After the initial shock of the disaster and evacuation of the crew engineers and BP staff attempted to close the well with numerous trials. Eventually policy makers were involved in development of the new safety policies. Numerous investigations and trials were performed to better understand the disaster and avoid similar events. At the end numerous antecedents have been identified, the disaster was resolved and the consequences identified. The Deepwater Horizon accident was found to have multiple antecedents that caused this tragedy.
Specifically, a sequence of eight safety barriers that were breached led to the explosion which killed eleven people and caused widespread pollution throughout the Gulf of Mexico. At first the annulus cement barrier was installed improperly and did not isolate the hydrocarbons coming from the well. The shoe track barrier did not isolate the hydrocarbons. As a consequence these two events allowed hydrocarbons to rise up the well and aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig. The negative pressure test was incorrectly interpreted. The influx of hydrocarbons was not recognized until it was too late.
Well control response actions failed to regain the control of the well. This led the well flow to be diverted to the mud gas separator causing gas to be vented onto the vessel rather than being diverted over board. Safety fire and gas systems did not prevent hydrocarbon ignition from the engine room. Finally, the blowout preventer (BOP) emergency modes did not seal the well due to the accumulation of previous seven events mentioned above. With these eight events leading one to another, it was much more difficult to seize the explosions and fire that damaged the MUX cables and hydraulic lines.
This resulted in failure of the emergency disconnect system. To conclude, it is clear that specific and identifiable antecedents can be discovered and that their accumulations to a tipping point lead to the disaster. The second phase of the Deepwater Horizon disaster deals with engineers and BP technical staff trying to close the well so that the oil spill is stopped. To reduce the oil spill the leaking oil is set on fire with the hope that the spill will be reduced. On May 2nd, 2010 PB starts to drill a relief well that should overtake that leaking site.
On May 5th one of the leaking sites is capped, however oil continues to leak from the well. On May 7th BP engineers use the containment chambers to close the remaining leaks. The idea fails and is abandoned. On May 9th a “junk shot” approach is implemented, the following day “top hat” approach is planned out. The attempt to reduce the leak continues, numerous other approaches and plans are implemented to either reduce the oil spill or completely halt it. On august 4th BP reports that using the latest attempt the “static kill” appears to be successful and attempts to permanently seal the leak are in the process.
On September 19th the Deepwater Horizon leak have been permanently sealed. The nightmare that happened on May 2nd has been halted but not fully resolved. The environmental affect that the disaster caused will hunt the future of Gulf of Mexico waters for decades. For example, seahorse populations in the region decline and the Hippocampus zosterae, dwarf specie of seahorses, is on the verge of extinction. The role of engineers in the Deepwater Horizon disaster is immense. During the accumulation of antecedents there are evidences that engineers knew about chaos that was occurring on the Deepwater Horizon rig.
However, due to poor management and lack of communication between companies involved in the project, engineers had little impact in correcting the antecedents. Eventually, when the disaster occurred, the BP engineers tried various attempts and ideas to close the opened well. Lastly environmental engineers are and will be involved in cleaning efforts of the Gulf of Mexico waters. Therefore it is important to consider the engineers as not only the antecedents in a disaster but also as proactive members of society that attempt fixing the environment to pre-disaster state.
Therefore, engineering is involved with all disaster phases. As a group, we plan to incorporate each disaster phase into the final report and discuss how engineering process have been aiding the future avoidance of similar disasters. It is important to understand that media reports cover just a few aspects of disasters and news in general. In many cases the scope of media reports is within political and economic spectrums. Therefore further research into documents released by various commissions and investigators that are publicly available will be looked at and analysed by the group and its members.
The group process is moving according to the milestones developed and outlined in the proposal paper. Despite this, new opportunities in scheduling allows for the group to have a few extra meetings and perhaps finish the final report ahead of the scheduled time. The comparison chart of milestones is outlined below. Over all there are a few challenges that the group have to work through. As mentioned above the group plans to analyze some reports developed by the investigators of the disaster. The challenging part is to read through pages of technical analysis and to identify related parts for the assignment.
Since there are new group meetings, it should be possible to accomplish this task in professional manner. In addition the group will do a presentation on the project therefore these two meeting dates will be allocated towards that time. The final paper will contain a more detailed and chronological outline of the disaster phases. The paper will discuss the causes, antecedents and policy developments that occurred as of the result of the disaster. The general breakdown of the parts has not changed since they were assigned during the composition of the proposal paper.
Courtney from Study Moose
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