Blame the Oil Spill on IT

The headline from ComputerWorld UK:

BP Oil Spill ‘Slows’ but Serious IT Failures Come to Surface

From the article:

An internal investigation at BP has revealed serious IT failures played a part in the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…

BP has said the accident “was brought about by the failure of a number of processes, systems and equipment”. It added: “There were multiple control mechanisms– procedures and equipment–in place that should have prevented this accident or reduced the impact of the spill.” These did not succeed.

In the investigation, BP raised “several concerns” about the blowout preventer, which sits on top of the well head 5,000 feet below the water surface, and controls oil flow, according to the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. The findings are preliminary.

The “failure” of a key emergency disconnect system was noted in a committee memo summarising the early investigation. That system, if effective, would have kicked in to stop the oil from flowing, but signals may not have reached the blowout preventer because of the explosion.

There were also problems with a further automatic closure system, or deadman switch, that should have closed off the preventer if those connections were lost. This also failed. The testing and maintenance of the blowout preventer technology is also in question.

BP additionally experienced “failure” with interventions from its remote operated vehicles, which struggled to operate the shear rams to cut and seal the pipe. The reason for this, too, has not been established.

One person who commented on the article had this to say:

I find the headline of this article if awfully misleading and sensationalist. I didn’t interpret any of the issues stated as “a serious IT failure”, or even an “IT failure”. All the problems encountered seem like engineering and people problems. If their instruments and monitoring systems were working up until the explosion and the workers chose to ignore them, IT has done it’s job, and it was human error that led to the catastrophe.

It’s also quite a stretch to lay blame on IT for troubles with a remote controlled sub 5000ft below the water. The best in the world would have trouble with the same task.

Sounds like the author is the type that is all too quick to deflect blame to the IT dept because they are an easy scapegoat.

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