Monday, May 31, 2010

IQ Test

A friend of mine sent me a puzzle that only people with an IQ over 120 are supposed to be able to solve. It took me about 10 minutes with a paper and pencil. Middle Grandson, D, did it in 5 minutes - in his head. But then he cleaned up on 4th grade academic awards. Here's the test.

2 + 3 = 10
7 + 2 = 63
6 + 5 = 66
8 + 4 = 96

9 + 7 = ????

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Little Boats

We got to talking with our waiter Saturday night and found out that he had spent the last two days working on a friends boat on the cleanup. When I started asking questions I found out that it was a 24 foot boat and they were out 50 to 60 miles. The boat only had a single engine and basic electronic equipment. They had no Personal Protection Equipment and little training. What they were doing was towing absorbent boom through the slick. If BP were to charter a crew boat they would have a list of requirements a mile long. But they have no problem hiring ill equipped vessels to clean up the spill. I think that the people chartering out to BP are putting there lives in danger.

Our discussion emphasized the lousy job BP is doing on the cleanup. They are using cutting edge technology at the well site but we might as well be back in the Middle Ages on the beaches. We're using hay and pitchforks when we should be using skimmers, vacuum trucks and frac tanks.

Where is the technology developed at Ohmsett? That is an oil spill research facility that was supposed to help test spill recovery equipment. Where are the skimmers that were developed there? Why is it that oil booms don't work even in small waves when we have had a research facility that was supposed to improve oil booms?

And where are the local scientists from OSRADP? That is an APPLIED research group that has tested various ways to clean up oil in Louisiana's marsh? Where are they?

It appears that BP's vessel of opportunity program is a copy of Dunkirk and the small boats. If I was BP's Risk Manager, I couldn't sleep at night knowing that Private citizens are being placed at risk.

BP's Scorecard

Lets add up what's happened.

Big Dome - FAIL
Top Hat - Never Attempted
Siphon - Partial Success
Top Kill - FAIL
Top Kill with junk shot - FAIL

Beach Cleanup - MEGA FAIL!!!!

The next plan is to remove the riser and the Lower Marine Riser Package and stab a new LMRP on the stub. That means that oil will be flowing out of an 18" hole with no restriction while they try to stab the LMRP into an 18" target from 5000' feet away.

It also means that they have halted the second relief well because that is where they are getting the other LMRP.

Am I the only one who thinks this may not be a good idea??

Friday, May 28, 2010

Root Causes

Important hearings about the BP blowout are going on in New Orleans this week. These are the fact finding hearings run by the Coast Guard and the MMS. They will search for the facts without the need for political sound bites for the sheeple back home. These hearings will form the basis for a rational, impartial evaluation of the causes of the blowout. (You already have my opinion)

Engineering design evolves over time. Failures, and an evaluation of them, is what improves engineering design. So, in some ways, the blowout is part of the evolution that improves offshore oil exploration. Engineers use a tool called Root Cause Analysis. The goal is to drill down (no pun intended) until the real cause of a failure is determined. The immediate cause may be the failure of a component or procedure, but by applying some Root Cause Analysis, the underlying reasons can be determined. It may be that a lack of maintenance caused the component to fail and that could be the ultimate root cause.

Reorganizing the MMS is simply a knee jerk reaction and is nothing more than a bunch of squirrels changing trees. When the hearings are over and the report prepared, there will be realistic recommendations that will improve the industry.

If you want to read more about the failures and the evolution of engineering design, read "To Engineering is Human, The Role of Failure in Successful Design" by Henry Petrosky.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Phases of a Project

Engineers often say there are 7 phases to a project. I list them below:

1. Uncritical Acceptance
2. Wild Enthusiasm
3. Dejected Disillusionment
4. Total Confusion
5. Search for the Guilty
6. Punishment of the Innocent
7. Promotion for the Non Participants

I leave it up to the reader to determine where BP and the Obama administration are on the project phase continuum.

Older heads claim there is an 8th phase. It is:

8. Slaughter of the Wounded by the Auditors

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Get-there-itis is a disease exhibited by Type A personality types. Its symptoms are impatience, a desire for action and a focus on goal achievement. It is also sometimes known as Go Fever, especially in the aerospace industry.

In my opinion, Get-there-itis was the root cause of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. That is a personal opinion, based upon hearsay evidence but backed up by experience. When all the hearings are over and the reports written, I think they will find that the decisions of the BP representative on board the rig were the root cause of the blowout. Let me explain a little about the hierarchy on a drilling rig.

On a drilling rig, the Toolpusher is the top man for the rig owner. He is in charge of the entire rig and its personnel. However, there is one person who is higher than him and that is the "Company Man". The Company Man is the representative of the oil company that is hiring the rig. The oil company's engineers design the well and procedures to construct it and the Company Man puts them into action. In case of a dispute or question, he is the final decision maker. With modern communications, he can be in instant contact with the home office, but he is the man on site and his is the last word. A man does not rise to that position by being a shrinking violet or doubtful of his capabilities. You can bet that he will have a large ego as it takes one to be responsible for costs that rival the annual budget of a small country.

I think the BP's Company Man made a unilateral decision to circulate the mud out of the drilling riser and replace it with seawater in order to cut a couple of days off the drilling program for a rig that cost around $500,000 per day.

I make that judgement because I have observed similar behavior in my professional career. I was site engineer on a project when the project manager wanted to eliminate proof load tests on monorail lifting beams in order to save some time. Although it was counter to the specification, he wanted to eliminate it and wanted engineering to concur. I refused and told him that it was a business decision that could be made by project management but was not one that engineering would support.

In another case, a good friend of mine flew his airplane into the side of a mountain because he was in a hurry to get to his ski vacation and decided to fly through mountains in marginal weather. He killed himself, his wife and his niece, not the mention putting the lives of the recovery team at risk.

You have probably seen similar behavior. What about that guy that cut you off at the highway exit or blew past you at 90 mph. Clear cases of Get-there-itis.

So, it would not surprise me that the BP Company Man decided to take a unilateral action that ultimately caused the blowout. I cannot wait to hear his testimony to the investigating board

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Road Trip

My wife and I made a drive to Natchitoches, La this weekend. The event was an award ceremony for the oldest grandson. He was being recognized by the Duke University TIPS program for scoring a 20 or above on the ACT. And he's only in the 7th grade!

Before the ceremony, we went to Lasyone's Meat Pie Kitchen for lunch. This is the place for Natchitoches meat pies and other Southern Comfort Food like dirty rice, fried okra, red beans, chicken fried steak. Its unpretentious and family friendly.

Saturday night we went seeking Grayson's Barbecue in the village of Clarence, La. Although Grayson's is a shack in the middle of nowhere, people come from miles around to get some of the best barbecue in the state. I prefer the ribs and beef brisket. Don't come here expecting white tablecloths - or any tablecloth at all! The furnishingx are basic, the decorations are rustic but the smoke house does an excellent job.