Sunday, May 2, 2010

Expensive Spill

Spill is here to stay for a while.

Honestly, if people can move, I think they should move.

I think that the surprise that people are expressing about the spill shows how most people don't really understand the nature of engineering. In engineering, Murphy's Law is the law of the land, "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." The only question is how much money and time are you willing to put into designing a system to decrease the failure rate. Many consumer products like laptops and cellphones seem like miracles to people, and they are. However, a lot of resources go to quality control where the factories screen for the defective products so that consumers may have overly positive idea of what engineering is capable of. I think if people really understood that, they wouldn't be so cavalier about offshore drilling and other risky engineering projects where the chance of a mistake is low but can be devastating.

1969 Oil Spill off the coast of California shows that any for-profit company will try to spend the minimum amount on disaster-proofing their operations. It may not just be because they want extra profit but because it may be critical to keeping their businesses afloat.

Union Oil's Platform A ruptured because of inadequate protective casing. The oil company had been given permission by the U.S. Geological Survey to cut corners and operate the platform with casings below federal and California standards. Investigators would later determine that more steel pipe sheating inside the drilling hole would have prevented the rupture.

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