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Deepwater Horizon: A Systems Analysis of the Macondo Disaster

by Earl Boebert and James Blossom Harvard University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 304 pages
AU$89.00 NZ$92.17
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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On April 20, 2010, the crew of the floating drill rig Deepwater Horizon lost control of the Macondo oil well forty miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Escaping gas and oil ignited, destroying the rig, killing eleven crewmembers, and injuring dozens more. The emergency spiraled into the worst human-made economic and ecological disaster in Gulf Coast history.


Senior systems engineers Earl Boebert and James Blossom offer the most comprehensive account to date of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Sifting through a mountain of evidence generated by the largest civil trial in U.S. History, the authors challenge the commonly accepted explanation that the crew, operating under pressure to cut costs, made mistakes that were compounded by the failure of a key safety device. This explanation arose from legal, political, and public relations maneuvering over the billions of dollars in damages that were ultimately paid to compensate individuals and local businesses and repair the environment. But as Deepwater Horizon makes clear, the blowout emerged from corporate and engineering decisions which, while individually innocuous, combined to create the disaster.


Rather than focusing on blame, Boebert and Blossom use the complex interactions of technology, people, and procedures involved in the high-consequence enterprise of offshore drilling to illustrate a systems approach which contributes to a better understanding of how similar disasters emerge and how they can be prevented.
About This Book About the Authors Reviews Table of Contents .     “This book offers an extremely methodical approach to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is written in a concise, no-nonsense style, and couched in terms that a layman can understand. It is a highly original work with a well-structured argument, providing insight into the BP oil spill unavailable elsewhere. A thoroughly recommended read not only for oilfield professionals, but for all concerned parties.”—Alastair R. Fleck, Shell Global Solutions


 “Deepwater Horizon: A Systems Analysis of the Macondo Disaster shines a spotlight on the very high-risk situations that demand a consistent systems approach at all levels and from all parties. It demonstrates that—however popular or trendy they are today—streamlined, agile approaches don’t work in all situations. This book will be of value to business and engineering audiences, as well as anyone interested in technology policy.”—Marjory S. Blumenthal, technology policy expert  


“Deepwater Horizon is the definitive work on an event that not only had enormous ecological repercussions, but which also shook the oil industry to its foundations. Meticulously researched, the explanation of the disaster will be comprehensible to the interested layman, while numerous annotations add depth and detail for academics and professionals. The authors’ purpose is to analyze the event, detail the lessons learned, and thereby make everyone safer. The book fulfills the first two aims admirably, and the rest is up to us.”—Andrew Kay, independent oilfield consultant  


“Modern organization theory emphasizes the central role that organizational culture and structure play in outcomes, and though this book is not on organization theory per se, it is destined to be a classic case study in the field. A great deal of safety analysis focuses on searches for the root cause of accidents and disasters, but the Deepwater Horizon incident demonstrates that the causality of some disasters has a fundamentally multifactor nature. This book should be read by anyone concerned with safety of large complex systems.”—Herb Lin, Stanford University
Earl Boebert is a retired Senior Scientist at the Sandia National Laboratories.  


James M. Blossom gained his engineering experience at Los


Alamos National Laboratory and the General Electric Corporation.  Peter G. Neumann is Principal Scientist in the Computer Science Laboratory at SRI International.