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Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Engineering Professionalism Management Essay

The decisions made by BP leading up to the disaster as well as actions taken by BP in the aftermath of the disaster will be evaluated based on the various ethical theories and techniques learnt in the EG2401 module. Cross referencing will also be made using case studies such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Piper Alpha explosion in order to make an accurate judgement of the ethics involved, in the circumstances faced by BP in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: AN OVER-ALL Background

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that is the most significant offshore spill in U. S. history. The spill stemmed from a sea-floor oil gusher that resulted from the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion. The explosion killed 11 platform employees and injured 17 others. On July 15, 2010, BP said the leak had been stopped by capping the gushing oil wellhead, though there is a risk a significant pressure shift could create a new leak on the ocean floor. The drilling of relief wells to permanently close the well continues to be ongoing.

Figure 1: Oil rig in flames

The process of recovery continues to be ongoing, and the closure will take years and vast amounts of dollars. Meanwhile, engineers must examine and evaluate their part in this matter and focus on any ethical considerations which were compromised.

Ethical Issues Involved

It can be done to classify the actions taken by BP as well as the ethical issues involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into 3 main categories namely, Pre-accident, Post-accident and the Aftermath of the disaster.

Pre-Accident Ethical Issues

It was a combo of wrongly and poorly made decisions that resulted in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Within this section we will look at the ethical issues that arise before the accident.

Blowout Preventer and BP's decision

Background

One of the primary known reasons for the uncontrollable spill is the failure of the Blowout Preventer (BOP), which is a group of large valves. In case of an oil spill, the BOP will ideally perform its role by shutting out the oil well. A 2001 report by Transocean, which operated the drilling rig with respect to BP, has suggested the BOP is "apparently defective" when it recorded a complete of 260 design failure possibilities [1].

Figure 2: Picture of the BOP used

When the explosion occurred, the first attempt to close the BOP manually failed as cables that linked the BOP to the oil rig were damaged and the automated switch which should be activated when there is catastrophic event onboard also failed. [2] The BOP in Deepwater Horizon oil rig didn't have one third way of closing the valve remotely via acoustic-controlled switches called an acoustic switch. BP decided to disregard the failure of the BOP and rejected proposals to install the acoustic switch. The BOP didn't function when required and it eventually resulted in the oil spill of the greatest magnitude in U. S. history.

Ethical Issues Involved

As no procedures and no products can be risk free, thus it is unfair to deem any non-obvious risk being neglected as unethical. However when the risks are eminent, it is justifiable to say that failure to consider reasonable steps in reducing such risks can be considered unethical. In the case of BP, they have got failed to reduce the risk when there were numerous counts of failure as mentioned earlier. In view of the BOP unreliability, BP was unwilling to conduct any detailed review on the BOP and had repeatedly dismissed reports of problems on its BOP and the potential risks. By ignoring the paramount importance of BOP in ensuring safety in oil drilling activities, the refusal to examine the BOP suggests that BP assumes oil spills are rare and that the BOP do not need to be activated. This cost cutting practice by BP inevitably puts the safety of the oil rig workers, the marine life and the general public in danger.

One might argue that risk is usually proportional to benefits, while safety is proportional to cost. Thus it is unrealistic to expect any corporation to invest large amount of profit ensuring safety, that could adversely affect the survivability of the organization. Financial firms not the case for BP as they fiercely rebutted the proposal of the federal to install an acoustic switch, which is an additional remote manipulated shut down switch, in every oil rigs. The cost of an acoustic switch which is about US$500 000 is only marginal in comparison to BP's total annual turnover profit of US$ 14 billion [3]. BP may have used an expense and benefit analysis in the best case scenario, which assumed that the BOP would not be activated due to the rarity of oil spills and thus the decision of not installing the acoustic switch was reached. Although the decision of not installing an acoustic switch is lawful, BP has not done enough to justify their decision from an ethical perspective.

The second argument provided by BP for not installing was that the efficiency and effectiveness of the device was unclear and untested as there were no major oil spills lately. This may seem to be reasonable. However with the 260 design failures in the BOP as mentioned, its reliability is questionable. Tests and simulations have proved that the acoustic switch to be a reliable third layer of protection, with less maintenance needed [4]. Furthermore, acoustic switches are a feature complimenting BOP and regulators of two major oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, have required all offshore rigs to install acoustic triggers. These suggest that the arguments created by BP cannot be justified. Actually, BP has violated the basic design standards of exploring safer alternative design and improving the safety of the existing design. Oil drilling has its potential risks and failure for taking necessary steps in ensuring the BOP functions means that BP has didn't assume responsibility to safeguard the safety and well-being of the public.

Human Errors and BP's Policy

Background

Poor crew training and human errors are always major contributing factors towards technological disasters, like the Chernobyl disaster. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster is of no exception. Before the accident, a negative-pressure test was done to check on the mechanical barrier. Despite results being unsatisfactory, these were misinterpreted by both Transocean rig crew and BP well site leaders. The influx of hydrocarbon had not been detected until it went in to the riser which subsequently resulted in the explosion [2].

As mentioned in the previous section, there can be an automated way of activating the BOP. However it did not respond efficiently through the explosion as the machine battery charge was low. The next part of the section identifies and analyses a string of human errors which resulted in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Ethical issues

Although the negative pressure results and ominous signs of the rising hydrocarbon levels were obvious, it is a touch too harsh to place the blame on BP for failing woefully to provide satisfactory training to its employees. This is because the Transocean rig crew also misinterpreted the readings. Incompetency is often linked to human error, but the level of competency of their workers is something BP could not have a full control. Thus human errors are bound that occurs and are usually impossible to eliminate, with minimization as really the only alternative.

However it is still too much of a coincidence a series of human errors were allowed to happen. Company policies can have an effect in increasing the opportunity of human error. In the case of BP, importance is positioned on profit generation with little emphasis safely. Actually, the battery of the BOP was found to acquire been recharged at a lower frequency than the recommended specification [2]. Given the pivotal role of the BOP in preventing an oil spill, more emphasis should at least have been positioned on the proper charging of its batteries. In the event of any accident, the employees in charge of the maintenance of the BOP would be subjected to the immediate dangers and it is unlikely that they wish to jeopardize their own life. Thus if BP had delivered the right safety messages to its employees and had taken the proper steps in educating them, the disaster could have been prevented.

BP's stand on safety standards has an effect on the training of its employees. While BP could be pardoned because of its failure to ensure their staff's ability to make accurate interpretations of results, the failure to ensure their employees in conducting frequent, periodic maintenance and by allowing their employees to go through unknown risks could not be viewed as ethical.

Ignoring internal whistle blowing

Background

It was also revealed that lots of of the crew feared reprisals if indeed they reported mistakes. Inside the rare occasion when such reports were made, these were largely ignored by BP [3].

This is shown in the event where Barry Duff, an associate of BP's deep-water Gulf coast of florida Atlantis subsea team, warned the BP officials that the piping and instrument diagrams (PIDs) for the Atlantis subsea components weren't updated. Furthermore, Barry Duff remarked that documents that aren't finalized amounts to thousands [5]. Despite these administrative lapses, there has been no intention to avoid the normal functioning of the facility.

Proper paperwork and up-to-date PIDs are dictated by law and BP comes with an obligation to check out them. However, when the warnings were made recognized to the BP officials, there was no response. Instead, BP continued to request approval from the federal regulator for an expansion of the drilling project.

Ethical issues

In any project, the business involved is bounded ethically to provide safe designs. That is especially important in industries involved with operations that may be potentially hazardous. Oil drilling is one such activity and in cases like this, BP is oblivious to the imminent dangers that poor designs generates. In this case, BP hasn't passed the basic requirements for safe designs as the design did not comply under the applicable laws. Proper paperwork and up-to-date PIDs are dictated for legal reasons and yet was not followed by BP. This questions the commitment of BP in ensuring the safety of these designs that could have direct implications on the safety of the crew and the surroundings.

As PIDs are important documents containing schematic information on the project's piping and process flows, valves and safety critical instrumentation. This is particular important when any abnormalities occur on the platform as the PIDs can certainly help the crew in solving the problem. As shown in previous points, inappropriate actions can lead to severe consequences. When BP officials did not ensure that the PIDs were updated, that they had located the crew on the platforms at risk. BP had placed their crews under unnecessary involuntary risk unknowingly to the crew. This is unethical of the company especially when the condition is made recognized to the officials but ignored. Furthermore, BP showed no remorse about their mistakes and instead attempted to expand their drilling project. This once again brings up the question of whether the company is too profit driven and its unwillingness to invest time and money in ensuring safety issues in their projects.

Post-Accident Ethical Issues

In the existing section, we will examine the ethical issues of the decisions created by BP in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

Choice of Chemical Dispersants

Background

One of the very most controversial issues about the Deepwater Horizon Accident involves the choice of chemical dispersants. Although chemical dispersants are effective agents that can speed up the process of dispersing the spilled oil, the toxic nature of the chemical dispersants is very bad for marine life. BP has committed an ethical crime when they ignored the better rated chemicals recommended by experts. The following paragraphs will elaborate more in detail on the choice and consumption of chemical dispersants.

Ethical Issues

In the Deepwater Horizon Accident, although environmentalist recommended twelve other better toxicity-rating chemical dispersants, BP declined the offer and chose Corexit that gets the worst toxicity-rating set alongside the other recommended chemicals [6].

Figure 3: Comparison of Chemical Dispersants

In addition, the quantity of chemical dispersants used, which is approximately 7 million litres, is many times larger in the history of oil spill accidents [7]. In achieving the decision which chemical to use, BP disregarded the concerns of the environmentalists and used Corexit in a large scale knowing the negative impacts on the ecosystem. Due to the side ramifications of Corexit on the environment, the environmentalists raised objections in the use of it. BP's decision in using Corexit obviously violated the principle of "respect for individual".

The validity of BP's reasoning in using Corexit is far from convincing. BP uses "availability" as the key reason to defend its choice of chemical dispersants. However, US Polychemical Corporation countered that reasoning by saying that it could produce about 230, 000 litres daily of 1 of the alternative dispersants [8]. This amount is more than the daily rate of Corexit usage, which is approximately 100 litres. BP shares extremely close ties with Nalco, the business contracted to provide Corexit. The unusual selection of dispersant and close ties with Nalco suggests that cost could be the real motivating factor. Hence with the above mentioned argument, it is an acceptable call to deem the decision make by BP as unethical.

As the spill stabilizes, BP announced that the dispersant consumption will be stopped. However this is incorrect as there are evidences suggesting BP's continual use of Corexit in silence [9]. This dishonest action plainly violates virtue ethics, one of the main ethical theories. In short, although BP's choice and use of Corexit as the chemical dispersants is legal, it is ethically unjustified.

Effects on the Environment

Background

As mentioned earlier, the Corexit found in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a toxic chemical which is harmful to marine life. Environmentally friendly ramifications of Corexit would be gradually felt even years after the diminishing of oil traces and the toxic chemicals would inevitably have a chain influence on our ecosystem [6]. The impact of Corexit on the environment will be elaborated at length in this section.

Ethical Issues

Although there are no existing regulations or rules present as a guideline regarding moral responsibility to protect the surroundings but on closer analysis, BP could did much more to minimize environmentally friendly impact. In addition, BP also exploited the perspective of commoner view, which will see delayed harm as less risky than immediate negative effect. The use of Corexit can have immediate good thing about breaking up the spilled oil but it also has long-term environmental consequence on marine lives.

BP have violated ethical codes set to safeguard the environment and created a significant amount of pressure on the ecosystem. They have got violated the degree-of-harm criterion in the choice with their chemical dispersants, which requires the toxic and pollutants of chemicals to be reduced as much as possible without consideration for cost. As ecology is interlinked, the destruction of the environment causes significant impacts on human. The effected ecology would have caused an imbalance in the meals chain, as deep sea plants begin to die out due to the lack of sunlight penetration. This may cause other organisms to have problems with too little food leading to a disruption in the meals chain and ultimately affecting human. The oil spilled and other toxic chemicals could easily get in to the bodies of organisms and the marine life, leading to undesirable consequences. BP in the course of removing the oil from the ocean have used more toxic chemical dispersants for economical reason which results in greater harm to the surroundings. The decisions made might have resulted in the lack of biodiversity in the foreseeable future.

Media blackout

Background

Despite claims by BP that it was striving to keep the public and the government informed, BP imposed restrictions and prevented journalists from documenting as well as refused to reveal information of the disaster. BP also stonewalled on releasing any data and video footage on the spill, repeatedly stating it is impossible to look for the size of the spill [10]. Sick clean-up workers were barred from speaking to the press and flyover permits were revoked.

Ethical Issues

BP's attempt of media blackout is obviously an unethical act. Maybe it's viewed in the same light as for instance, a doctor withholding information of your failed operation to the category of patient. Within the context of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the worldwide audience could refer to the family, as the gulf could make reference to the individual of the failed operation. People living near the site had already felt the principal impact of the spilled oil while secondary effects such as consumption of contaminated food would pose a challenge which could potentially affect the rest of the world. The gulf doesn't belong to BP and the planet has every right to know the entire extent of the damaged done to their ocean.

Credit to BP as they eventually bowed to demands from experts and members of Congress and posted a live video featuring the gushing of oil on the ocean floor. [11] However BP only agreed to provide live video feed one month after the accident, thus hindering external experts from estimating accurately the entire extent of the oil spilled. Similar to the selection of chemical dispersant, BP violate the principle of "respect for individual" when they refused to share data and restricting the media from accessing the site.

Magnitude of oil spill

Background

The actions and decisions made by BP adding to the varying versions of the magnitude of oil spill will be the last ethical issue regarding the Deepwater Horizon Accident which would be discussed. The intention and motivation of downplaying the actual rate of leakage of oil may also be analysed in detailed.

Ethical Issues

Following the disaster, BP rejected help from various experts, including the offer to build better equipment on the ocean floor to accurately determine the pace of leakage. The initial estimation of leakage at 1, 000 barrels each day provided by BP is a few times below the 15, 000 barrels estimation by government and certainly way from the actual rate of 100, 000 barrels. The irony is the fact the government could obtain higher values than BP's estimation using satellite imaging while BP had access to the footage of the plume [12]. The erroneous estimation by BP could either be due to their sheer incompetence or intention to escape fines which derive from the leakage level. The latter seemed much more likely as BP certainly has a team of experts investigating the rate of spillage. By refusing the help of external experts through media blackout, it simply implies that BP is definitely hiding some important facts to guard their interest [13]. In fact Carol Browner, the director on energy and climate change in the Obama administration suggested that BP might have "vested financial interest" in downplaying how big is the leak in order to avoid heavier fines [14]. The intention of hiding important fact hindered serious attempts to reduce and contain the impact of the spill. Actually, more can surely be achieved via worldwide cooperation to reduce the impact of the oil spill if BP was more honest and transparent in their approach following the accident. In a nutshell, virtue ethic is obviously missing from BP in the dealing of the crisis.

Aftermath of Accident

In this section, we will discuss about the actions taken by BP couple of months following the disaster. The focus in the following part will be based on the compensation provided and the many corrective actions taken by BP.

Initiatives for Compensation and Rehabilitation of the Environment

Background

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Accident, BP set up a claim system on the website to permit individuals and government to claim their losses with BP. In a listing of the claims posted on BP's website, the full total claims paid or approved for payment amounts to near to US$3 billion [15].

Figure 4: Claims and government payments public report by October 14 [15]

In addition, BP started several programs to correct of the environment. BP create rapid response teams to clean up beaches that are damaged by the oil spill. Finally, to minimise the negative impact of the accident on the economy, BP also provide grants for businesses who have suffered losses due to the spill.

Ethical Issue

Due to the pressure from various parties including the public and environmentalists and so that they can savage their plunging reputation, BP response to the aftermath of the accident is commendable in term of the efforts to make up to those influenced by the oil spill. Large amount of money is committed by BP for compensations and initiatives to correct the environment. In this particular sense, BP is willing to use responsibility in the restoration of the environment and then for the lost income of damaged businesses, such as fishing and tourism industries.

However some damages are not repairable and despite BP's efforts, the consequences are permanent. For example, the entire extent of the side effects caused by the chemical dispersants is unknown and may be detrimental to the ecology as time progresses.

Case Studies

In the following section, we are using two case studies as references in order to enhance our argument regarding the ethical issues involved with Deepwater Horizon Accident.

Case Study: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill could be utilized as a case study. Although the type of oil spill was different as the Exxon Valdez oil spill comes from an oil tanker, the ethics concerned are roughly similar. The disaster was caused by poor decision making and monetary concerns.

Background

The Exxon Valdez incident was a significant oil spill which took place on March 23, 1989 at Prince William Sound in Alaska.

The crew behind the Exxon Valdez noticed icebergs in their planned route. Instead of aiming to weave through the icebergs, they went in another direction. On the new route, the oil tanker hit shallow land, which punctured the hull of the ship. Oil started out leaking from tanks found in the hull of the ship.

Figure 6: Oil covering large areas of Prince William Sound

At Prince William Sound in Alaska, many animals were afflicted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Some of the many species that were afflicted includes harbour seals, killer whales, salmons, sea otters and sea birds. [16] Exxon took 4 years to completely clean the spill, due to the magnitude of impact. Oil could still stick to the beaches even till today. [17]

On the unlike popular beliefs, the leader of the containment efforts in the critical hours after the tanker ran aground wasn't Exxon Mobil Corp. It was revealed that BP had a controlling interest in the Alaska oil industry consortium which spearheaded the cleanup, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. Alyeska was necessary to draft an idea for cleanup and respond to the spill. Because of the slow response by Alyeska, Exxon took over in the cleanup efforts with the U. S. Coast Guard. [18]

Unpreparedness

Ethical Issues

Within minutes of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Alyeska officials were notified. Too little preparation for emergencies led to delays for seven hours before they sent in a helicopter to investigate the problem with an U. S Coast Guard investigator. Frequent cost cutting measures through the years and poor planning had led to elongated delays. In addition, there have been also limited booms in the containment of the spread of oil. The team assigned to handle the oil spill was also insufficiently trained. Failure to control the spread of oil due to a lack of equipment and preparation caused the region covered by oil to increase exponentially.

In order to contain the oil that is spilled through the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, a 100-ton containment box was constructed. Because of this, it was only deployed a fortnight after the spill, which resulted in the questioning of too little emergency measures. Like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the delay resulted in an exponentially increasing area afflicted by the oil leakage, establishing serious environmental impacts along the Gulf coast of florida.

During the application form for a permit for the procedure of Deepwater Horizon, BP had predicted the unlikelihood of any catastrophic oil spill. Whether or not it had occurred, BP believed that they had the technology to counter it. Likewise, Alyeska had made a similar statement before the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and downplayed the likelihood of the oil spill. [19]

Due to the actual fact that BP has recently assured the government that any catastrophic spill was unlikely, preparing for a possible leakage by, for example, spending shareholder's money in creating a 100-ton containment box would in the end create confusion and panic across all boards. Hence, the declaration of any unlikely spill due to complacency was a mistake to begin with.

BP had already faced an identical scenario in the Exxon Valdez oil spill twenty years ago. However, the inability to regulate oil spills of such scale has still not been addressed. It has resulted in another environmental disaster in the Gulf coast of florida as we've seen, 20 years on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Figure 7: Unloading crude oil from the Exxon Valdez following the Valdez ran aground

Choice of Chemical Dispersants

Ethical Issues

The chemical dispersant used in the Exxon Valdez oil spill was the Corexit 9850. It had been an earlier version of the chemical dispersant which BP is currently using to clear up the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. Regarding the Exxon Valdez, the chemical dispersant used is at fact greater in toxicity compared to the one utilized by BP in Deepwater Horizon. However, twenty years ago, there were few choices of chemical dispersants.

Figure 8: Oil cleanup on the shorelines of Prince William Sound

Some critics argue that the chemical dispersant employed by BP in the clearance of oil slicks were designed to cover the layer of oil by the chemical dispersant, and thereby reducing the effective area that the oil encompasses visually. Oil could be hidden under these chemical dispersants resulting in oil underneath and hence affecting the wildlife in the ocean. BP has claimed that this is the lesser of necessary evil, in which the chemical dispersant used, although toxic, could decrease the effective area of the spread of the oil. This is to avoid the spreading of oil to shore lining areas where organisms living near to the shore and in areas with shallow waters would experience a larger impact when the oil slick moves close to their natural habitat.

Figure 9: Cleanup efforts following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

BP in this case had choices in which they used the one with greater toxicity to completely clean up the oil. In this case, they are simply adopting an out-of-sight, out-of-mind strategy in which the first thing readily available is the duty to remove the oil whenever you can. It has resulted in the utilization of chemical dispersants with seemingly higher toxicity. Because of this, it becomes an ethical issue when choice exists. In the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the limited amount of selections for chemical dispersants led to an outrage of perhaps in an inferior scale.

Communication with the Media

Ethical Issues

Exxon gave limited information in the extent of the challenge. In addition, company executives refused to comment on the problem for nearly weekly. The CEO of Exxon waited 6 days to make a statement to the media. Exxon didn't communicate openly and effectively. Exxon chose to conduct all of its communication in the small town of Valdez in Alaska, in which the remote location became inadequate, having limited communication capabilities. In addition, statements made to the press by high-ranking executives were often inconsistent and contained contradictory information, leading the press to question the credibility and truthfulness of Exxon.

BP, similarly, adopted a media blackout strategy in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The refusal to speak to the media was probably a choice created by the lawyers. This may be understandable from a small business perspective.

Exxon and BP both tried to release minimal information to the general public based on the extent of the respective disasters. Both adopted this strategy to buy time as well as determine the problem as accurately as is feasible. Hence, maybe it's seen in one other way that these were attempting to provide a responsible reply by fully assessing the extent of the problem and to avoid making irresponsible assumptions.

Ethically speaking, maybe it's an effort to rectify the situation as soon as possible without wanting to cause any public fear when the public gets to know about the situation. For example, there is absolutely no indication or evidence that the oil may have affected the meals chain. Releasing such information would create panic among the general public. Both companies might have intended to adopt LeMessurier's strategy in the Citicorp case of attempting to mitigate the damage as far as possible without publicising the actual damage.

However, by not revealing information to the general public, certain immediate dangers posing risks to the public might have been left unexplained. In addition, by revealing a certain degree of information to relevant authorities and organisations, help could be received in the most effective manner. Professionals and environmental experts can be informed of the problem and hence give a certain degree of help, by offering suggestions or the establishing of voluntary organisations in the efforts to protect the surroundings. By not revealing minimal information to the general public, both BP and Exxon have not exercised social responsibility in informing the public for immediate actions to be studied.

Hence, the revealing of certain information is still necessary. The total amount is determined by the consequence or how immediate is the pending danger on the general public.

Case Study: Piper Alpha

Background

Piper Alpha was a North Sea oil production platform operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd. Around the Piper Alpha, there were two main pumps, known as Pump A and Pump B that provided the energy on the platform. In a routine maintenance, the pressure safety valve of Pump A was removed. This routine maintenance was likely to be completed inside a fortnight and an overhaul of the pump was planned. Through the maintenance, the open condensate pipe of Pump A was temporarily sealed with a blind flange.

Figure 11: Piper Alpha before explosion

When the maintenance focus on Pump A did not finished within the expected fourteen days, the on-duty engineer filled out a permit which explained that Pump A had not been ready and should not be started up under any circumstances. However, this warning had not been passed down when another shift took over as the permit was lost.

When Pump B stopped suddenly and could not be restarted, the manager assumed that it was safe to turn on pump A so that they can prevent total power failure. Gas was allowed to flow into Pump A, and as a result of missing safety valve, it produced an overpressure that your loosely fitted metal disc cannot withstand. Gas audibly leaked out at high pressure, drawing the attention of several men and triggering six gas alarms including the higher level gas alarm, but before anyone could act, the gas ignited and exploded. [20]

Figure 12: Piper Alpha during explosion and fire

Human errors

Ethical issues

In the Piper Alpha case, we can easily see that the primary reason behind the disaster is because of human error. Warnings about the incomplete maintenance of Pump A weren't passed down to the next shift. That is a typical case of the crew not following standard procedures and hence jeopardized the safety of others. Ethically, the crew have the responsibility to ensure that the platform was able to function safely. This was totally not fulfilled by the crew. The mistake was made worse as the crew knew that the pumps were potentially dangerous and despite the known danger, the crews disregarded their tasks and were totally negligent. We're able to spot stark similarities between Piper Alpha and Deepwater Horizon.

Firstly, the crew in both cases committed erroneous misjudgments. The crew were unable to satisfy their ethic responsibility of making certain they fulfilled their duties onboard. Secondly, in both cases, the crew did not follow proper procedures, thus aiding in the occurrence of the disaster. In the Piper Alpha case, crew did not follow proper procedures to ensure that the relevant info about the continuing maintenance of Pump A was passed down to another shift. That is similar to the Deepwater Horizon Accident where the crew didn't follow procedures to recharge the BOP's battery at a recommended frequency.

In both cases, we can see that the crews had once again failed in their ethic responsibility in ensuring that they do their job properly. The systems and procedures were set up, yet the blatant disregard of the importance was displayed. Both pumps and the BOP were vital components onboard and the crews could did much better by ensuring these equipments operate safely. This has shown that human error is common and more should have been done by the firms to actively inculcate safety values in their workers.

Communication with the Media

Ethical issues

In the aftermath of the Piper Alpha Accident, Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd was also reluctant to disclose too much information about the accident. While the ramifications of the accident were disclosed, the main reason for the accident had not been made recognized to the public. This was an attempt by the company to ensure that their flawed maintenance of the pumps had not been made known. [21]

As mentioned above, BP also implemented media blackout about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It can once again be observed that media blackout is common on the market in case of disasters, as observed from the actions taken by BP as well as Exxon in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. In each individual case, it could be seen that the intention for a media blackout was roughly the same, to avoid panic as well as to maintain a certain degree of goodwill.

Evaluation of BP's Ethics

The Deepwater Horizon Accident can be classified as a technological accident that was dominantly caused by human errors. However, we can not dismiss the occurrence of organizational system factors and socio-cultural factors in the causes before the accident.

As observed in the case studies, we can discover that human error is often a cause of accident and is one which is hard to avoid. Inside the Deepwater Horizon Accident, human error has caused even the backup system to fail and the degree of error caused by human has probably gone beyond the limits of being acceptable. The backup system was installed to ensure that any error will not lead to major accident however the crew did not even were able to undertake proper measures to ensure its functionality.

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, BP utilized the media blackout strategy. With comparisons drawn from the situation studies, this is a common method used by enterprises in this industry to minimize the exposure of details to the general public, perhaps with the intention to minimize panic. The challenge is to find a balance between the degree of media blackout and ethics. In the case of Deepwater Horizon, as the degree of media blackout has truly gone beyond what's deemed to be acceptable, implementation of a total blackout by BP poses a serious ethical concern.

In addition, the chemical dispersant found in the accident is also questionable and cannot be justified. The main motive behind the use of the toxic Corexit chemical dispersant remains a mystery and maybe it's a profit driven decision that could raise ethical implications.

On the other hand, after the disastrous oil spill, several initiatives have been started by BP that happen to be commendable. As stated above, BP has pledged large sum of money in compensation for folks, businesses and the federal government afflicted by the oil spill. Programs costing millions of dollars have been introduced to commence on wildlife rehabilitation and environment restoration. While BP is taking responsibility for the consequences of the disaster, some damages are permanent and irreversible. In this sense, it could well be too late to restore the surroundings to its original state.

Conclusion

In this report, the events leading up to the disaster and actions taken by BP in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill as well as the ethics concerned has been presented and these ethical issues were discussed. Furthermore, Exxon Valdez and Piper Alpha accidents were used as case studies to compare and contrast certain actions taken as well as the ethics concerned. This allows us to produce a more accurate judgment of the concerning ethics in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Engineering codes of ethics specifically say that based on the environment, safety, health insurance and welfare of the public are of paramount importance. BP was identified to get violated several ethical values, and the impact with their actions was huge and far-reaching. BP could hence be easily denounced as an organization that is irresponsible and profit-driven.

One must also understand that BP is providing massive compensation and setting up initiatives to restore the environment are commendable. Nevertheless, below the faade, irreversible detrimental effects on the environment have already been done.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill showcases the convolution of varied ethical issues in case of a tragedy. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster highlights the fact that judgment of certain actions in terms of the ethics concerned may differ according to how one perceives the actions taken, or even to be specific, the intention of the actions taken.

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