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Chevron Got North Sea Contract Despite IT Safety Crashes

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the what-could-go-wrong dept.

Businesses 89

DMandPenfold writes "The UK government gave Chevron the go-ahead in September to drill in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland, in spite of the US oil giant's admission that its contractor's spill prediction software constantly crashed and was not a reliable predictor of how far oil could travel if an accident took place. The news comes in a week that US investigations into BP's disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill hit the buffers, after an IT contractor firm refused to hand over access to its software."

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89 comments

Unlike oil and water.. (3, Insightful)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497886)

Oil and government... do mix.

Re:Unlike oil and water.. (0)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497922)

Making the government all that much more flammable... hmmm.

Operation Guy Fawkes, anyone? ;)

Re:Unlike oil and water.. (1, Offtopic)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497966)

Look, what you want and vote for, and whatnot... They don't matter.

Laws? Keep you distracted. They are for little folk. Don't you break one! But they don't apply to OWNERS.

You see, they will do what they want and get what they want, anyway.

You do know what Guy Fawkes was fighting for? (5, Informative)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498426)

You do know that Guy Fawkes was fighting to replace one monarchy with another? That his intention was not to get rid of Parliament but rather to kill Protestant Christians and replace them with Catholic Christians and maintain the political status quo (a group of rich, landed members of Parliament serving a monarch), just change England from Protestant to Catholic rule?

I think a lot of people cheer Guy Fawkes because they think he was standing up for democracy and overthrowing tyrannical states whereas I am pretty sure the situation was that he just wanted to overthrow one religious authority with another. He wanted the same political system (monarch served by ineffectual unrepresentative MPs) just a different religious flavour.

His goal was to replace King James the first of England (and sixth of Scotland) with his nine year old daughter princess Elizabeth.

Re:You do know what Guy Fawkes was fighting for? (2, Interesting)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499004)

IMHO.... Guy-Fawkes-Anonymous guys should get smart, read, and analyze what they're getting into. Bombing parliament-type strategies might have been considered standard revolution practice when Fawkes was around (and make great movie scripts), but now it seems pretty widely considered counterproductive and obsolete. It seems that real wars now take place at the level of espionage, corruption, media manipulation, and legal-political cheating. Which is why WikiLeaks is effective. Violence is still widely used, but it has to be either covert, blamed on the other guys, or joined with public manipulation to justify it. Generally with some argument that's if for a "greater good" - preferably killing the bad guys, if not possible some non-verifiable non-visible concepts such as "protecting democracy", "national interests". But just using violence without those is hard to justify anymore. I think that strategy of militancy, and even for the military, is pretty much gone. Governments still use it because they can - they have greater firepower, and media power. But still, they always run the risk of creating even greater opposition, so try to hide/justify it.

Re:You do know what Guy Fawkes was fighting for? (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499680)

People like Fawkes because he tried to blow a lot of shit up. That's it, that's all the appeal.

There is no appeal to reason or intelligence with who Fawkes was or what he stood for, there's no ideological affinity. People get angry at government, for valid and invalid reasons, and fantasies of just blowing all of it to kingdom come makes Fawkes a folk hero in that way, and that way only. All people know is that he tried to bomb the whole government, that's good enough for them.

There's no analysis or intelligence to who Fawkes was or what he fought for other than: how many barrels of gunpowder was he using and what the fireball would have looked like. Its a visceral, emotional appeal.

Come to think of it, it would make the most awesome Mythbusters episode ever, to explore the potential/ lack thereof to the success of Fakes' scheme.

More precisely ... (1)

evanh (627108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499876)

People like Guy Fawkes because we get to stand in front of a bonfire, singe some eyebrows, and blow stuff up all together.

Re:More precisely ... (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499956)

hey, make the celebration more authentic

torture the dummy on a rack and with manacles, draw the dummy behind a horse on the ground, hang it, resuscitate it shortly before dying, get it up on a ladder (as not deserving of heaven or earth), cut off its genitals and burn them in front of the dummy's eyes to see, disembowel the dummy, cut out its heart, decapitate it, cut it into four pieces, then distribute the four pieces to the four corners of the kingdom to display in the air as a warning, and make sure the birds eat it all

ah you british and your quaint customs

Re:You do know what Guy Fawkes was fighting for? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34518492)

I think it's mostly because fire is cool and everyone can relate to wanting to blow up Parliament from time to time. Since they're not actually going to do it and (usually) don't actually want it done, the analysis stops there.

Re:Unlike oil and water.. (1)

Mordie (1943326) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498102)

Penguin 1: what’s all that black shit? Penguin 2: I honestly don’t have a fucken clue Wildlife observer 1: did some oil company just make another huge fuckup Wildlife Observer 2: time to pack the gear and head home before the penguins get pissed

Re:Unlike oil and water.. (1)

amnezick (1253408) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498414)

Penguin 1: what's all that black shit?
Penguin 2: I honestly don't have a fuckin' clue!
Penguin 1: Looks like your wife is coming out of the water...

North sea oil (2)

Nineteen-Delta (1892866) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497934)

Oil deposits in the North sea have been propping up the British economy for decades now. While the UK is facing a big deficit, and getting stung by other economies in the Eurozone looking wobbly, they'd probably overlook a few things to get their hands on the money. -So much for a 'greener' coalition!

Re:North sea oil (3, Interesting)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498064)

The positions that control contracts like this are all controlled by tenured bureaucrats, regardless of what "face" the rest of the government is wearing this election period.

Re:North sea oil (1)

rmstar (114746) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498264)

Oil deposits in the North sea have been propping up the British economy for decades now.

Did you know that the British oil industry is subsidized by tax money?

Re:North sea oil (2)

rapiddescent (572442) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498460)

Oil deposits in the North sea have been propping up the British economy for decades now.

which has rather annoyed the Scots themselves who have the odd situation where the Scots have elected a nationalist government [snp.org] (who support an independent-from-the-uk scotland) but cannot get independence itself because the English vote is 9 times the size of the Scottish vote. The UK won't let Scotland go because of the oil revenue but since the 1980's Thatcher government has moved as many national assets as it can out of Scotland, e.g. in the last 20 years (coinciding with the rise in strength in independence movement) military assets have been moved from Scotland to England losing over 200,000 jobs (out of a 4.9m pop'n).

There is huge mistrust [pressandjournal.co.uk] over the figures for oil tax receipts that the UK exchequer cashes in; and each year the UK run Scotland Office [scotlandoffice.gov.uk] (which is based in England!) tries to make a case that the oil isn't worth that much and Scotland could never survive on its own.

I spoke to a drilling engineer in the pub a few months ago and he was telling me that there are huge numbers of corked deep water wells in the north west coast of Scotland that they have found, assessed and are waiting for the right time to exploit.

Re:North sea oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498944)

Biased much?

You seem to have forgotten that the SNP is in minority government and that it deliberately stalls ever seeking a referendum because it knows it would lose.

Re:North sea oil (1)

magpie (3270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499012)

Erm....stalls? The unionist parties are the ones blocking it. The SNP are a minority government and when all the unionist parties (including the two how are for holding a referendum on the voting system in the UK and are in government) said they would not back it as it was the wrong time for a referendum, so there was no way the bill would pass. For some reason the unionist parties are hell bent on not having a referendum that they keep saying they will win easily. Kinda makes you wonder just how accurate the polls they keep troting out are.

Re:North sea oil (1)

augustw (785088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499040)

The SNP administration stalls "seeking a referendum" because it knows it would lose any vote on an enabling bill in Parliament (because it's a minority, as you said), and (more importantly) they know that they don't have the power to bring such a bill forward, as it's outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to enact legislation relating to independence (Scotland Act 1998 [legislation.gov.uk], s 29(2)(b), and Schedule 5 para 1(b), and also Hansard [millbanksystems.com], Lord Sewel at column 854)).

Re:North sea oil (2)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499056)

Oil deposits in the North sea have been propping up the British economy for decades now.

which has rather annoyed the Scots

Truth is, their policitians are quite happy with the current status quo, where most of the money comes from the rest of the UK to be largely spent as the Scottish parliament sees fit.

Re:North sea oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34499192)

Londoners on the other hand, who don't have a claim to oil revenue, really do get an unfair deal subsidising the whole of the rest of the UK. The tax deficit there is more significant, especially considering that London is bigger than Scotland (obviously not in the geographical sense!)

People like this will continue harping on about the oil revenues, even as it runs out, and will choose to cut off their noses despite their faces, ignoring that Scotland has much more serious problems that tax revenue won't resolve: a culture of social dependence, work-shyness and a health destroying "lifestyle"

Re:North sea oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34501096)

Oil deposits in the North sea have been propping up the British economy for decades now.

which has rather annoyed the Scots

Truth is, their policitians are quite happy with the current status quo, where most of the money comes from the rest of the UK to be largely spent as the Scottish parliament sees fit.

Sounds like a lot like Quebec (of which a decent, though winnowing, proportion of the population wants independence), and the money it gets from the rest of Canada. ;)

"Propping up"? (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498550)

Curious choice of words there. It sounds like you're not too happy about the UK drilling for oil off its shores? Green concerns, or other?

I suppose that oil is propping up the UK economy in the same way that agriculture props up the US economy?

Re:"Propping up"? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499530)

It's not a curious choice of words to use "propping up" in reference to a non-renewable, non-human-made, finite resource a country just happens to be sitting on. The UAE government will tell you all about that.

reasonably valid point (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34500606)

That's a reasonably valid point. Certainly true of the UK and many other countries as well. We all seem to be using up our mineral reserves at terrific rates.

I often despair that the UK doesn't invest in renewable energy research and development more, seeing as it is a windy set of islands on the edge of a huge ocean. Lots of challenges but potentially huge amounts of renewable energy always going to be available, waves rolling in from thousands of miles and fairly blowy at times too.

Re:North sea oil (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499030)

Yes but this concept that "humanity will perish" or "national security will collapse" or "the economy will collapse" if oil just disappeared is pretty pathetic, but apparently effective for the many people who grew up hearing about the rapture, the apocalypse and all that. Humanity has overcome quite a few much greater challenges. Replacing oil power will not exactly be the end of civilization.

Re:North sea oil (1)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499976)

Yes but this concept that "humanity will perish" or "national security will collapse" or "the economy will collapse" if oil just disappeared is pretty pathetic, but apparently effective for the many people who grew up hearing about the rapture, the apocalypse and all that. Humanity has overcome quite a few much greater challenges. Replacing oil power will not exactly be the end of civilization.
You're right end of oil power will not be the end of civilization, assuming you live in the tropics, near where your food is grown and don't mind having a couple million new cold starving neighbors. B/c that's what would happen if oil just disappeared.

Re:North sea oil (1)

randyleepublic (1286320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34520394)

Well, you are right, but only if we get started right fucking now.  But we won't because "market forces" don't support it.  Unfortunately, by the time that they do, there won't be enough oil left to build the infrastructure needed to replace oil with something else.  That's when the dying starts.  Hello?

Big Business (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497998)

What price safety? Obviously only a few billion.

Who's to Blame and Who Pays? (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 3 years ago | (#34510362)

BP got the rewards but everyone else is stuck with the cost of their screw up. BP is paying pennies on the dollar to gulf coast residents for loss of business. They will pay nothing in long term health costs.

As a gulf coast resident and free software advocate who's worked for Fortune 100 companies, the role of Microsoft in Deepwater Horizon was not that surprising. I helped write this report about the problems BP had with Microsoft and other non free software [techrights.org] and this follow up report when more details were revealed [techrights.org]. I'll be looking closely at NOV. Their lack of cooperation is probably concealing more trouble with the system that's largely responsible for the disaster. Industry needs to dump Microsoft to avoid future calamities. BP technicians thought they were doing as much as they can to fix the problems but they were clearly taking risks they should not have been taking and their solution clearly would have lead to more of the same.

Oil Money (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498024)

It's pretty clear that any obstacle to oil drilling anywhere just means it costs more money. The bribes paid to officials to allow it are small compared to the $BILLIONS it costs to do the rest, and of course much smaller than the many $BILLIONS the well produces.

Even when the damage done by the drilling can't be repaired with money. And even when the money spent on getting the drilling done is not spent on the people (or other living things) damaged by it.

I am sick of waiting for the goddamn oil to run out. We should use what's left to produce decentralized, renewable energy systems. Otherwise the 21st Century is going to be as mercenary and dreadfully wasteful as the 20th, but much faster, less opposable by mere humans, and so much, much worse.

Re:Oil Money (5, Insightful)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498086)

As one prof of mine said:

When you understand the unique chemicals and items we can synthesize out of this ancient black goop, you realize how stupid we are for simply burning it.

That's a lot of potential plastic...

Better leave it underground! (2)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498822)

As one prof of mine said:

When you understand the unique chemicals and items we can synthesize out of this ancient black goop, you realize how stupid we are for simply burning it.

That's a lot of potential plastic...

Why do you mention it as if it were a good thing [google.com]?

Re:Better leave it underground! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499550)

Yet another horrific waste of petrochemicals. If humanity were able to think long-term, there wouldn't be big deposits of waste plastic lying around anywhere except at a recycling plant.

Re:Oil Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498316)

holy shit, the cursor jumped two spaces as I clicked. wooden table wtf. im so sorry :( somebody please mod back up

We've been doing it for years. (3, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498100)

People have been drilling in deep water in the North Sea for decades, with admittedly a couple of nasty accidents [wikipedia.org], but so far things have gone pretty well. And do you know what? No-one had oil spill prediction software when they started. They relied on the skill and experience of the people operating the rigs.

Bear in mind that this is the UK, where we have far, far tighter safety regulations than the US for the oil industry. We know what we're doing. Oil companies in the US clearly don't, or don't care to do it properly.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (0)

digitalsolo (1175321) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498140)

What company had that big spill in the gulf last summer? Something petroleum... American Petroleum? No.. that wasn't it.. where were those guys from?

Re:We've been doing it for years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498212)

Who didn't need to apply most of what they knew because US regs didnt require it.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (4, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498256)

BP stands for "Beyond Petroleum" it ceased to be British Petrolem in 2001 shortly after it meged with Amaco and ate a smorgasboard of other smaller companies. It's global headquarters are in London but it is listed on both the LSE and the NYSE.

Besides the GP was comparing the regulatory regimes of the two countries. If the US chooses to implement a regulatory regime comprable to Nigeria then they can expect similar enviromental results.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (2)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498396)

"Beyond Petroleum" was just a corporate slogan. The company's official name is "BP" which doesn't officially stand for anything any more.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (1)

AGMW (594303) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498490)

"Beyond Petroleum" was just a corporate slogan. The company's official name is "BP" which doesn't officially stand for anything any more.

Yes indeed, but the old "British Petroleum" did indeed merge with the "American Oil Company" (Amoco) to become "BP".

Re:We've been doing it for years. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498552)

Yes. Everything else he said was correct as far as I'm aware. Should have made this clear.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498622)

BP stands for "Beyond Petroleum" it ceased to be British Petrolem in 2001 shortly after it meged with Amaco

;) Now, now... when they don't fuck up, they can be Beyond or what-ever-B they want. But when they fuck-up, they better stay British... d'ya hear me? ;)

Re:We've been doing it for years. (2)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498488)

BP? The company that used to be called "British Petroleum" before they were bought by an American parent company and thus could no longer be called "British"?

Re:We've been doing it for years. (4, Insightful)

colinRTM (1333069) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498610)

Transocean, wasn't it?

When the US can stand up and be properly accountable for what happened at Bhopal then you can feel free to do some finger-pointing at evil foreign corporations.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (4, Interesting)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498228)

The worst oil rig disaster, in terms of lives lost, in history. 1988, the North Sea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_Alpha [wikipedia.org]

"An explosion and resulting fire destroyed it on July 6, 1988, killing 167 men, with only 59 survivors. The death toll includes two crewmen of a rescue vessel. Total insured loss was about £1.7 billion (US$ 3.4 billion). At the time of the disaster the platform accounted for approximately ten percent of North Sea oil and gas production, and was the worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost and industry impact."

"People were still getting off the platform several hours after the initial fires and explosions. The main problem was that most of the personnel who had the authority to order evacuation had been killed when the first explosion destroyed the control room. This was a consequence of the platform design, including the absence of blast walls. Another contributing factor was that the nearby connected platforms Tartan and Claymore continued to pump gas and oil to Piper Alpha until its pipeline ruptured in the heat in the second explosion. Their operations crews did not believe they had authority to shut off production, even though they could see that Piper Alpha was burning."

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (4, Insightful)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498294)

Shit is blowing up and burning around you...and you do nothing because you don't believe you have the authority to do anything (at least, anything significant)?

One hell of a corporate indoctrination seminar that had to be. I'm sorry, but if it were me, shit were blowing up, flaming out, people getting killed, it really wouldn't matter to me who had told me I couldn't do X, Y, and/or Z, if X, Y, and/or Z could at least prevent things from going from worse to OMFG (and provided I had the ability to do those things--else I'd be all 'see ya later bye'). When it's life and limb, only the guy with a uniform, badge, and gun is in charge.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499668)

And just how exactly is Joe Grunt Sixpack supposed to know that shutting off valve #3983 on a control panel full of other valves, controls and switches, is going to have a positive effect on the flaming inferno on the next platform?

Not to mention, in these days of litigation-happy and point-your-finger gotta-blame-somebody corporate culture, do you want to be the one to find out?

Sorry, just isn't going to happen. You can't have a solid set of contingency plans when your original design is full of flaws. Especially on something as operationally complex as an oil platform, there is no "shut off everything" button, and there shouldn't be for good reason.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34499730)

Uh... training? Emergency Operating Procedures?

Who would insure a platform that had never practiced something as simple as a fire drill?

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34502354)

There is a 'shut off everything' button - its called the ESD (Emergency Shut Down). Usually it's a pull button, not a push button (so you don't accidentally bump it) but it is there. It takes some guts to pull the big red button, but it is there for a good reason.

Oil and Gas production facilities are designed specifically for these shutdown modes, as well as other shutdown scenarios - power failure, full instrument air failure, control system failure, etc. The valves have failsafe positions (for example, a valve that is supposed to 'fail closed' will have a large spring that always forces it closed, unless you have positive air pressure on the valve actuator holding it open - once the air is gone, the spring forces the valve to the specified fail state), motors for pumps and compressors switch off, and emergency power is maintained. ESDs are tested at least annually.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34504482)

I'd add that when he/she says ESD is tested at least annually the test includes testing every single io-point in the whole ESD system.

In addition to the ESD system there is a PSD system which shuts down valves, motors, heaters and the likes if they enter dangerous levels. If this doesnt stop the issue and it reaches higher alarm levels ESD trips happen.

Having implemented controller logic at a major north sea installation I know a bit of what goes on and how things are tested...

Shit can happen, but the chance of a cascading failure that takes out the plant is extremely unlikely.

And Piper Alpha was a horrible incident. It had major industry impact and pretty much changed the safety system philosophy in place. Learning from the mistakes is important...

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#34501940)

Sure, but then after the disaster is over you find that you are fired, a scapegoat, and unemployable.

This is really just a case of long-term self-preservation vs short-term self-preservation.

Maybe if companies weren't able to get away with sleazy safety practices then people wouldn't be more afraid for their jobs than their lives.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34502826)

I work offshore in the UK and can tell you this:

Since Piper Alpha, among the dozens of mandatory safety improvements designed to prevent such a catastrophe from ever unfolding to the state it can attain (total destruction/gas fire/melted steel) is the addition of the Station Bill.

Advice is, to read it so you know what to do in an emergency, usually showing the rig outline with lifeboats etc. Of course, nobody does so it's on the back of all the toilet stall doors.

In the middle, in bright red lettering are words to this effect: "If there is an event significant enough to disrupt communications, or you feel your life is in danger, use any and all means available to escape the platform to the sea below"

This is SPECIFICALLY to remove the "nobody told us to get off the rig" mentality that resulted in so many deaths on Piper.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34503282)

When it's life and limb, only the guy with a uniform, badge, and gun is in charge.

And that is why I love "Walking Dead". :)

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34504512)

Authority is mostly about who has physical access to the required 'big red button' so to speak.

If the control room is gone and you have major errors in the control system you could be in a state where it is not possible to call a general evacuation -or- operate equipment.

Such a state -must- cause everything to go to a fail-safe position. This is industry standard these days but was not in the past.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (2)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#34505120)

There were emergency evacuation plans in place. These were put in place because people had sat down in a calm setting and worked out the best ways to get everyone safely off the platform. There are temporary refuges on (most) platforms. These are designed to keep you safe from the fires/explosions for at least an hour. When it looks like the fires are serious enough that you have to get right off the platform there are more plans that will get everyone off safely - everyone jumping off the side usually leads to most people breaking their necks when they hit the water, and the rest dying from the cold.

Jumping into a tiny escape boat is not something people want to do in most situations, so they were waiting in the refuge to see what was going to happen. 'Authority' is probably not the best word to use here, it refers to the people with the experience to know what's going to happen, and full knowledge of the situation at hand.

The only people who survived Piper Alpha were the ones who ignored the plan. A lot of these people were seriously injured when they hit the water, and a lot of them did not survive. This makes it fairly clear that the plan wasn't good enough.

The lessons we've learned from that event have changed the way we write our evacuation plans. There are still people in charge with the authority to direct the evacuation, but everyone now knows the procedures. If no-one has told you to get off the platform but you've been sitting in the refuge for an hour you know should know how to get off the platform safely.

Yes, I am a safety engineer.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (Piper Alpha) (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34506362)

What is significant? All people on your tiny isolated platform with authority are dead, the only ones left are the working plebs. What can you do that is significant other than fucking run and dive over the edge.

You can get to an escape raft and hope that 50 other people came too.
You can get to an escape raft and launch it by yourself potentially killing 50 other people.
You can jump over the edge of an oil platform from a height of which will likely cause you to break your legs when you hit the water.

Ultimately it doesn't matter what situation you're in. Even office buildings have fire wardens for a reason, and that often is that if they are alive you have a greater potential for having everyone escape and be accounted for. If there's ever a disaster, and no one is there to make decisions ultimately you end up with chaos which will result in either nothing, or things getting far worse.

Re:We've been doing it for years. (1)

okooolo (1372815) | more than 3 years ago | (#34500336)

People have been drilling in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico for decades, with admittedly a couple of nasty accidents but so far things have gone pretty well. And do you know what? No-one had oil spill prediction software when they started. They relied on the skill and experience of the people operating the rigs.
How reasonable does it sound now?

Re:We've been doing it for years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34546018)

well, I would trust the skill end experience of people assuming they are skilled and experienced.
Problem is, I don't know if the software can be thought of on the same lines ...

MIS v. CS: ding ding ding! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498272)

It might help if Chevron hired people with bonafide computer science backgrounds, instead of "management information science" backgrounds, whatever the hell that means. All I know is they would be fucking clueless when it came to a large project that didn't involve Windows and databases. I mean, 2 years of the 4 years in a B.S. goes to G.E., another year goes to management classes, and maybe a year to stuff computer related. And I mean computer "related", not computer science.

And to top it off, they aren't looking for the student who took hard classes (like C++) and got a B. They want the guy who got the A, even though he only took Introduction to the Internet for his elective.

I mean, really? Gee Wiz.

Re:MIS v. CS: ding ding ding! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498994)

Hey, the story isn't about shitty software. No manager is going to listen to someone with a CS degree lecture on the safety risks of not running a full evaluation. What do you know about the business anyway, fucker?

It's more about taking risks. Straight up, protect the environment or get things done? Which one do you get paid for.

Re:MIS v. CS: ding ding ding! (1)

spynode (1377809) | more than 3 years ago | (#34499254)

And this is why the corporate takeover of this planet is worse then any fucking space boulder.

Re:MIS v. CS: ding ding ding! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34499892)

Okay, I'll bite.

I retired after 31 years in Chevron, starting as a telecommunications engineer and leaving as an IT manager.

So let me say this. You are fucking clueless.

or hiring from tech school that have classes that (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34500546)

or hiring from tech school that have classes that are more tech and less G.E / Introduction to the Internet for filler or wait some schools make you take stuff like art history and PE as in Physical education as filler as part of a 4 year BS.

oil shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498324)

bp got oil all over the us coast chevron is just coming here to return the favour

Oily Bird (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498360)

Maybe wasnt so good idea to make Rovio to design that software, but hey, maybe we could finally find where those pigs hid the eggs.

dont say it! (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498366)

the US oil giant's admission that its contractor's spill prediction software constantly crashed and was not a reliable predictor of how far oil could travel if an accident took place.

"what's the worst that could happen?"

Modelling a spill 14 days ahead, doubtful (2)

fatmatt_oz (680839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498462)

I'm not a modelling guru but I've delved a little into current and weather modelling and it's not simple stuff. The inputs would vary depending on the weather conditions and weather predictions change significantly over that time. The best you could hope for would by a dynamic model that updated daily and became less reliable the further away from now that you went. Having a model that predicted where the spill was headed after the spill occured so you could direct clean up to the most effective places on a daily or hourly basis would make a lot more sense to me than a model that took a theoretical set of conditions and set in stone the response. I'd suspect that the complexity of this sort of thing probably means the guys who write the software sell the service.

Re:Modelling a spill 14 days ahead, doubtful (1)

snookerhog (1835110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34502548)

either way, your liability is low because you are modeling for something that is "never supposed to happen" and even if it does it is easy to blame some condition that could not have conceivably been taken into account by your model

software constantly crashed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498548)

So it runs on windows then.

The "How Screwed Are We" Predictor (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34498700)

This isn't actually that huge a deal. No matter what the conditions are in the location they want to put the platform, any sort of large spill would be Real Bad.

The important part here is not to let a spill happen in the first place, and the spill prediction software has nothing really to do with that.

The sun never sets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34498738)

on the British oil spills.

Again!!!! (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34500998)

Isnt BP british, and now another one is going under the radar and getting deals to drill right away....come on people, what is it going to take, that the US invade the brits before they learn their lessons. Seriously, this is about as stupid as one can get, throw more money at the problem no matter how bad it ends up in the end.....f*ckin greedy bastards!

Take some of the US army send them over to the brit ilses, and force their way into the Queens chambers, and say,
"there we do not care for your laws either...." see how long it takes for them to react.....

Why allow such shoddy programming? (2)

Halo- (175936) | more than 3 years ago | (#34501610)

In Chevron’s North Sea drill, the oil firm said the spill modelling software usually crashed when left to run for long periods of time, adding that this was typical of standard industry systems.

If your software crashes when run for long periods, the root cause is almost always one of the following:

  • Memory Leaks
  • Boundary Overflow/Underflow (of either buffers or types)
  • Race Conditions

None of these should be present in the "standard industry systems" of multi-billion (trillion?) dollar industries, especially if they pertain the safety systems. Memory leaks and boundary overflow/underflow are trivial to avoid by any programmer who takes the time to code defensively. Race conditions can be a bit harder to detect and avoid, but they are a less common issue, and handling them is well within the expectations of even a newly-graduated programmer.

There are also more esoteric error conditions. For example, in locations which are higher above sea-level, the "average neutron flux density" (i.e. number of cosmic rays hitting your chips) is higher, and thus the incidence of random transient faults in electronics is higher. It is not unheard of in large computer clusters to have the occasional bit-flip error in RAM due to a random cosmic ray. At the same time, these systems have built-in checkpointing, and when for whatever reason the running software develops a fault, the entire system can roll back to the last known good checkpoint, and restart.

Serious customers would never accept a system or simulator which exhibited the sorts of problems these "industry standard systems" seem to be plagued with. More to the point, I have worked indirectly with some petroleum companies on simulation software, and know for a fact the acceptable "unrecoverable error rate" was written into the contract in a very forceful way. Then again, the simulation software was being used to locate oil, so I guess that says something about the industries priorities. (And it was designed to run on a "real" cluster)

Re:Why allow such shoddy programming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34505152)

This sort of software is probably written by engineers and scientists not programmers. There is an awful lot of such shoddy programming in the industry, especially for simulation software. Companies demanding a certain "unrecoverable error rate" probably learned the hard way.

Re:Why allow such shoddy programming? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34520556)

I have seen a LOT of brittle HPC code. It may have little or no input error checking.. It could also be that someone decided that if -O3 speeds it up, -O6 will be even better. Of course, any -O level above 3 (and sometimes -O3 as well) may sacrifice correctness in some cases for more speed. Sometimes compiling -O6 yields impressive speedups, sometimes it fails validation.

It's fairly common for modeling software to be written by specialists in the field who took a few semesters of FORTRAN rather than by programmers who took a few semesters in the specialty.

Meanwhile, simulation can be rather tricky anyway. It's an iterative process, so it is subject to the "butterfly effect".

In this particular case, it sounds like the software was only really assured to be able to go out to 14 days or so and they were trying to push it past 20.

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