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Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 12:52 PM

It is becoming apparent that in the Deepwater Horizon disaster that a number of decisions made by BP's representative on the rig, the so called "Company man" were irresponsible and may have lead to the disaster. Decisions about continuing operations after an accidental movement of the casing while the BOP pipe rams were closed, causing damage to the sealing elements in the BOP, Decisions about opening the rams and replacing the heavy mud with seawater when pressure tests indicated that there was pressure on the wellhead side of the BOP when there should not have been any.

Now, deepwater offshore operations are extremely costly, and the Company Man is obligated to keep the schedule (or beat it) and this job was already overdue. But he should not be allowed to risk the ship or the crew (or the entire offshore oil industry as well as the fishing industry) in doing so. Currently the command structure is such that nobody on the rig can countermand the "Company man" and not expect to be summarily dismissed. I would suggest that there should be some way in which the Driller, or one of the other managers on the rig should be able to call a halt to operations and bring people from MMS and representatives of the companies to the virtual table (remember this is a costly endeavor so a conference call/video conferencing should probably be the mechanism used.) to discuss the commands of the Company man in situations where safety may be compromised without being in fear of losing their jobs.

Comments? Thoughts?

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#1

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 2:03 PM

It is very difficult to assign someone to a position to make and be responsible for a decision. The "company man" is in a position to make snap decisions, whether they be the right ones or the wrong ones. When he makes the right one, he is a hero, but if it's the wrong one, he is looking for a new job. This is the way it has to be done when schedules and costs are on the line. Replacing the "company man" with a group of "company men", may be better from the point of view of the right decision vs a wrong decision, but this approach will result in time lost, costs rising and schedules being missed. Although the success of the final decision may be better than a decision made by one man alone, management is inclined toward the one that promises the most profit. The final decision is up to management, based on what the "company man" tells them and what they WANT TO HEAR. The company man is always the scapegoat.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 2:30 PM

No I disagree, with the job comes responsibility. You hire some to fill a technical need, And if one does not take ownership of his project. Then why have colleges, Education, experience, training.

If the occurrence happens due to act of god or unforeseen issues, That is a different matter that can be sorted it out later, but if its due to a company yes man (which tends to cover their ass) and incompetence that person should be held accountable.

Otherwise he will have to answer for his actions and decisions, which if he is competent he will have nothing to worry about.

This is no different between this and that of the banking/investment (Madoff comes to mind) or Wallstreet losses due to poor decisions or corrupt dealings.

p911

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#20
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 11:44 AM

"with the job comes responsibility"

I agree with this statement completely, but there will and must always be one person who is ultimately responsible (aside from acts of God). That peoson is either the president of the U.S., the captain of a ship or the CEO of BP. Being at the top is one thing, but staying at the top is the real challenge. If the company man failed in his duties, it was up to the CEO to know this and take steps to rectify this. Others in the chain of command would be responsible, but it stops at the top where the ultimate decision has to be made.

"if he is competent he will have nothing to worry about."

In the world of accountability, there will always be a scapegoat. The only ones I can think of who confess to their lack of credibility are some Japanese businessmen who commit suicide because of their failure to perform that which was entrusted them; The ultimate expression of responsibility.

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#28
In reply to #20

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 1:37 PM

if he is competent he will have nothing to worry about."

After reflection, I agree, That I have to say is too much of an absulute statment that I did, some are victims of circumstance or other yes men, and having been in that type of a situation, and experience it personally.

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#3

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 7:34 PM

A ship can only have one captain.

As to:

" I would suggest that there should be some way in which the Driller, or one of the other managers on the rig should be able to call a halt to operations and bring people from MMS and representatives of the companies to the virtual table (remember this is a costly endeavor so a conference call/video conferencing should probably be the mechanism used.) to discuss the commands of the Company man in situations where safety may be compromised without being in fear of losing their jobs."

If you implement this, no one will ever have the necessary authority! This ship will have no captain.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 7:47 PM

But the Executive Officer may relieve the Captain of his duty if he believes that the Captain is failing in his duty. He will have to answer for his actions when a Mast can be organized and held, but he has a duty to the ship and it's crew to protect them from a Captain who fails to.

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#6
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 9:58 PM

That is a nice theory, but it only works if the senior members of the crew agree with him, otherwise they put him in irons.

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#7
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 10:04 PM

why wouldn't they? it is thier lives and their ship at stake too.

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#13
In reply to #7

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 6:15 AM

because if its the military, it could be looked at dereliction of duty and be held for mutiny.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 8:02 PM

Not sure how it is in BP, but where I come from anyone can shut down a job if they feel there is a safety issue. Now I am not so sure that happens all the time, and I am not so sure that any one person on board in this case really put all the pieces of the puzzle together to conclude that there was a hazard.

I suspect that like most accidents, there were a series of smaller issues that by themselves were no big deal, but in combination they built up to disaster.

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#11
In reply to #5

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 12:07 AM

"I am not so sure that any one person on board in this case really put all the pieces of the puzzle together to conclude that there was a hazard."

I suspect there is a lot of truth to that statement. As systems become more and more complex, it is difficult, if not impossible, to monitor all of the little details that can add up to a major failure. Furthermore, when working beyond known technical horizons, it is impossible to anticipate every possible failure mode. I am reminded of the brouhaha after 9/11 about the failure of the CIA to anticipate that someone might try to fly an airplane into a skyscraper- when no one had ever done that before. While drilling in deep water is not a totally new idea, the conditions are far enough from "ordinary" that there are going to be surprises. How do you predict that your fail-safe systems are going to perform in a situation that has never been encountered before?

There is, of course, a responsibility on the part of the Company Man to be aware of the fact that the unexpected will happen. There should also be an understanding that no detail is too small for his attention. However, there is no way to know what combination of events will result in a catastrophe that has never occurred before, until you actually perform the operation.

There is the possibility that there was inadequate attention to detail on the part of the Company Man, but, before handing out blame, one needs to know more about what actually happened...

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#8

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 10:13 PM

While there must be only one captain of a ship, that captain should not be interested in the profit or penalties of a company operation. The captain should be worried about the survival of the ship, crew and visitors. The company man should push for completion of the ship's hired task, but cannot override the captain, ever.

But this is not what I think is the actual root of this most recent disaster. What I think the root is that we think that we can eliminate failure. We try to eliminate failure by imposing fines, adding redundant systems, and continually pushing people until they snap. While failure should never be an easily accepted option, by attempting to eliminate failure the magnitude of a failure that does happen grows quickly to catastrophic proportion.

Now where and how we find a happy medium that accepts failure, I don't know. I did see a quotation the other day left on a whiteboard after a business class that I loved. It had three conditional results listed that may improve things:

Reward success

Celebrate failure

Punish inaction

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#9

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 11:16 PM

In situations like this, you often get socially-based failures that arise from professionals and others going along with authority.

I experienced this when I worked on Petrobras' P-36 oil-production off Brazil's shore. Yes, the P-36 that blew up and sank because they were finishing off the majopr retrofits that had been done to it at the same time as they were bringing it online.

Result: bam, glug-glug and that's all she wrote. Ten of my colleagues dead, shredded (someone saw the torn bodies), and with the SOuth Atlantic as their grave.

The reason? Schedule blown, budget blown ... and oil had hit $50 a barrel for the first time in 2000. That, plus the fact that Brazilians don't give a damn about safety, whether personal (the injuries I witnessed!) or systemic.

I backed down in the face of authority too .. I was an irrep^laceable and it was either me or someone elkse risking his neck. I stuck it out and the platform blew up seven months after I'd left.

Same damn thing happened at Chernobyl ... engineers said no to the testing and the method thereof, but a higher-up ordered that test go ahead. Bammo!

Never again for me ... If I ever wind up in a situation like that, even if I'M not the one to make a decision, I'll stand my ground and rat out the others to safety authorities if I have to.

DZ

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#12
In reply to #9

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 4:14 AM

You need balls to play football. DZ you would be welcome on my team.

It is way too easy to opt for "following orders" or your "wallet" as a justification for being part of a gang rape of the Gulf of Mexico. I agree that no one incident was a clear sign of the disaster to come, but that is just it: In all risk analysis models you will find that there is an accumulative effect. The higher (or in this case - the deeper) the level of unknown territory the greater the attention to detail..... that's 101 to management.

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#10

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/17/2010 11:27 PM

If I recall correctly from my ASME pressure vessel shop days, there was a designated person called the Quality Control Officer (or a like title). In the organizational chart, for pressure vessel decisions this individual possessed an arrow that went right to the top and pointed down on the rest of the pyramid. This was a mandatory feature of the registration as an ASME shop.

Borrowing redfred's analogy, this would be the Captain. That page of the book might be a good one to copy....

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#14

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 9:51 AM

Of course the Company Man is not always right, especially when the Company is in boisterous competition for the best financial performance in the world.

Another part that's missing is... the union:

Someone who's there to stand up for the grunts, who knows their stuff, and who can tell CM where to stick it when the order comes down to ignore this or that safety precaution. We've been defanging unions for decades, and have more dead miners, dead oilmen, environmental and other disasters, overworked grunts everywhere... AND substantially better profit margins. *I* have yet to see any of those massively better profits, despite busting my ass over the years (in an unrelated industry).

Company Man will cut exactly as many corners as he is allowed to under the law, within his actuarial and financial parameters. In this economy especially, but really, in any economy, for every ballsie take-no-crap Do-Righter Company Man who will not compromise just for a better financial quarter, there's a couple Yes-Men ready to take over.

We can't always expect an ethical Company Man - that's why they're called Company Men! We need to have better checks and balances.

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#15
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 9:55 AM

Those crickets you hear are an indication of what I think of unions. Actually they are the only thoughts I can express in a family friendly forum such as this. I have many others that would get me banned for language use.

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#16

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 10:06 AM

My thinking is that instead of having a single person in charge, you need a committee, and a small one at that so things don"t get bogged down. 3 or 4 people at most. The Capitan or the first officer depending on the watch, the Driller or his appointee for the specific watch, and the company man or his appointee, and a representative from the MMS. With representatives from the various contractors in a non-voting advisory capacity. Meetings should be held at least once per watch/shift and recorded and copied to the bosses onshore. And those four people should be joined at the hip even when the meeting is not in session. In that manner, all of the major constituancies get a say in the operations and the owner of the rig has the most say since he has two representatives on the committee. I'm not sure how a tie should be broken, I need to think about that a bit more, perhaps in the event of a tie the non-voting advisers should get a collective vote as a tie breaker. That way you don't have one person shoving things down everyone's throat and anyone who is risking the safety of the rig must do it in front of everyone, including his boss.

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#17
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 10:28 AM

I like it. It permits every side to be heard. It generates a continuous log. It looks like a good solution to this layman. It'll never happen then.

My only caveat is that if the Captain or First officer believes that something will endanger the ship/or crew, the Captain/First Officer trumps any decision.

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#18
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 11:19 AM

""company men", may be better from the point of view of the right decision vs a wrong decision, but this approach will result in time lost, costs rising and schedules being missed."

"My thinking is that instead of having a single person in charge, you need a committee, and a small one at that so things don"t get bogged down. 3 or 4 people at most."

This is a point I mentioned in my first post. If more than one person is involved, there will not be unanimous decisions. It will take time and in the case of the oil spill, time is not a luxury. A quick decision is necessary. Choosing the right person to make that decision is the challenge.

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#21
In reply to #18

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 11:55 AM

Ron the point is not what to do in the event of a spill, but how to prevent one in the future.

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#23
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 12:33 PM

I seem to recall watching a documentry about the Challenger disaster, they had a similar system. The decision to launch required a "yes" vote from 4 different people, a single NO would stop the launch. When it came time on that fateful day for the manufacterer to vote the "company man" was on the phone and he asked the engineer if they should go or not. The engineer asked "what was the temperature last night?" And when he was told that it fell below freezing again he shook his head and said no way can we launch. His boss picked up the phone again and said GO!

His decision was based solely on the money factor. If he called off another launch due to the design flaw there was a good posibility his company would loose the contract to build those multistage boosters and a whole town would be out of work. In fact in the after math when the engineer blew the whistle on the "company man" there were actual attempts made on his life.

Whether it be one man or a comittee, it will still come down to the integrity of the people involved. Now if you could legislate that we might be getting somewhere.

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 12:45 PM

You can not legislate ethical behavior. Most legislation sets the bar lower, and gives protection to the unethical- "I met all legal requirements".

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#25
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 12:48 PM

Unfortunately you are right.

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#26
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 1:14 PM

You can not legislate ethical behavior.

That seems a semantic quibble to me. If it's against the law, it's illegal. If it's just poor form, it's unethical.

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#29
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 1:41 PM

That seems a semantic quibble to me. If it's against the law, it's illegal. If it's just poor form, it's unethical.

The law can be interpret many ways, One needs a actually court case result to set the precedence.

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#19

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 11:30 AM

If the question ever arises:"Why don't they?---or Why didn't they?"

The answer is always:MONEY.

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#22

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 12:27 PM

Is the company man ALWAYS right?

Na!

Some are jerks in the larger meaning of the word, the majority are not

Some are stupid and uneducated, the majority are not

Some reached their level of incompetency many years ago, the majority have not

Some are worried about their jobs and feel insecure, the majority are not

I could go on...

The Piper Alfa was made worse by the refusal of the "Company Man" to shut down production on his rig pumping oil to the Piper Alfa, feeding the fire.

Why?

Because of the list I've just given you

The Cullen report highlighted the problems of the PA disaster..... no permit to work, no safety refuse for workers, AND the continuation of other platforms to pump crude oil to the PA although it was plain that there was a problem and requests made been made to cease production. If the "Company Man" had not been worried about his job, he would have shut down production to the PA and we MIGHT have a different story.

but it's ALWAYS those (take your pick from my list) who have the problems and they are the disaster waiting to happen, because they they fool everyone into thinking that they are good at their job .

I worked offshore, where the OIM, if you did not agree with him would take you somewhere quiet and beat the crap outta you to get you to think his way.

So in answer to the question.... No, not all of them! But he does have the LAST word

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#27

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 1:21 PM

To gamble on anything, you must be willing or able to afford losing the bet.

If you cannot afford to lose, don't gamble.

Someone decided that they could afford to lose.

And lose they did, and lose they will.Offshore drilling will suffer tremendously from this lost bet, as well as millions of sea creatures and the livelyhood of thousands of fishermen.

The only ones that will not suffer are the upper echelon of the oil and drilling companies.They will keep on going like the pink bunny.If they get kicked out, they can use their golden Regallo wings to sail away to a tropical island paradise, and live out their days in comfort and oblivion, never looking back at the damage they left behind.

Criminal charges should be filed against all of the top brass involved in the bad decisions that led to this unjustifiable roll of the dice.

An officer is responsible for the actions of his men, likewise it should be with management.

If safety was stressed as priority number one, and failure of the rig was not considered an option, from the top down, this would not have happened.

IMHO

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#30

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 1:52 PM

I have an idea for consideration.I do not have the ability to manufacuture it,but it should be doable.

To plug the broken oil pipe in the gulf:

Use an inflateable bag, constructed of kevlar,cover with chain mail, and add metallic ribbing lengthwise with backward pointing barbs.

The shape should be as compact and hydrodynamc as possible to minimize resistance to entering the oil pipe.A small leader could be used to guide the "oil stent" into position.

Once inside of the leaking pipe,the inflation must be rapid, to prevent being blown out by the oil.Using water pressure above the pipe(around 2500 psi), combined with additonal pressure from pumps,the "stent" should plug the pipe.

Does anyone have any reason why this should not be tried, or has it been tried already and failed?

I look forward to your comments and input.

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#31
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 2:05 PM

pressure and flow and the chance even if one can get it inserted after fighting the flow, it may get caught or hung up before it can get positioned......but I'm a pessimist today

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#32
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 2:11 PM

its a reasonable idea.... at least as reasonable as mine, where I suggested putting concrete-filled drill pipe back into the hole.

I'm told that the pressure is too great to put stuff into the well bore hole.. but then that would conflict with the notion of being ablet to inject 'junk' into the hole..whatever that is.

I think something has to be done below the bops, below the fractured casing, because secondary leaks are active below the bop's. so your stent would have to go inside the original wellbore, below ground level.

it would also work in the pipe laying on the seabed.. but would be trickier to get it in the holes.

Existing technologies for plugging pipes are used all the time.

good work.

Chris

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#35
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 2:29 PM

no the problem is that the pipe is laying on the seafloor and is all kinked up.

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#33
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 2:15 PM

Sounds like a good idea, but not hi-tek enough for these rocket scientists. There was a story at one time where a truck got stuck under an overpass because the load was too high. No one could figure out how to free the truck. A child who was observing the scene suggested to let the air out of the tires. Big brains, big salaries, advanced degrees; yeah right!

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#38
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/22/2010 7:13 PM

You remember what Jerry Clower (Yazoo City, Mississippi) said:"That boy is educated beyond his intelligence."

Plenty of them in the oil business.

HTRN

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#34
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Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 2:27 PM

what you describe is called a packer. and they've been making them for decades.

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#36
In reply to #34

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 7:18 PM

I thought they were all in Green Bay!

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#37
In reply to #34

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/18/2010 8:02 PM

A mechanical packer is used in oil drilling, but it is installed with the drill.

What I propose is a little different.

Imagine a deflated bag with rigid sides,tapered, like an umbrella folded up, but sealed on one end and an inflation tube on the other.

A guide rod is attached to the entry end, to assist in centering the device in the pipe.I realize the difficulty in hitting a bullseye from a mile away, but they did manage to get a siphon tube into one of the pipes, so it should not be any different.Once the device is inflated,a heavy concrete or mud could be introduced from the surface to complete the job.

I have seen tires, complete with rims, inserted into pipes and inflated to provide temporary dams in sewage pipes.The center holes were covered with solid plate, and the inflation tube extended to make inflation/deflation easier.The tire had a chain attached to prevent being taken downstream when the tire was deflated.Very same concept, but a slightly different shape and a higher degree of difficulty.

At this point, I would think they would try anything that has a chance of working.

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#39

Re: Is the "Company Man" always right?

05/26/2010 3:09 PM

In hearings, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the Company Man on the rig bears the brunt of the responsibility for the ill advised decisions leading up to the blowout. There were a number of peripheral issues that compounded the crisis that are within the purview of Transocean's responsibility, but the primary failure would appear to be be BP's representative telling the senior people on the rig that they were going to do things his way or else. This is in regards to the decision to use sea water instead of heavy mud between plugs 2 and 3 to help hold down the wellbore pressure while the cement cured. it would appear that the weight of the first interval of heavy mud plus the weight of the second interval of seawater was not enough to balance the forces on the cement plugs and they broke before they could set up hard enough to withstand the pressure by themselves.

Ultimately it was the ability of the Company man to dictate to everyone else without recourse or appeal that doomed this vessel.

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