General Consensus in the Oil Patch

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Visiting some relatives, I was able to go to a small oil town. This small and quaint town was built from oil workers and those who have indirect links to oil and gas. Everything from laying pipes to stringing wires to give the town a modern day era, they all have an opinion on the BP spill; it is just a matter of getting them to tell you.

At first when I mentioned the spill, I was hitting a lot of no comments or just dead ends. On Saturday night while having a drink with my relatives at the local watering hole I lucked out. The small bar filled up with none other then those who are working in town on oilrigs or pipelines. When presented with the questions on the BP spill in the gulf, I was surprised how protective they are for any fellow oil company. Though choosing their words carefully, I did manage to get some answers.

One fellow did not mind talking about how he is disgusted with the damage it was doing to the wildlife. How he felt that BP should be held responsible to help clean up and try to do their part in returning the wildlife back to normal. When I hit him with the harder questions about what he though about not having a safety precaution in place ahead of time he chose to change the subject. But he did say that it would be impossible to have planned for such a disaster in advance because all disasters are different. On land it is twice as easy to plug the leak and cap it accordingly. When dealing in depth like at the gulf, we are talking about depth a person cannot just dive down and seal a hole. He refused to answer any more questions concerning BP.

Moving on to another fellow, he was more open on the problem. He mentioned that he felt they had no right to be drilling in the gulf. One, because it is in prime hurricane area as well as they were drilling right on a fault line. This rig was a disaster in the making from the get go. If it had not had an accident now it was sure to have had one down the road. Lives were lost due to incompetence of those who knew better then to drill there to begin with. When asked how this spill had, if any, effect on his job or the company he works for he said not really. There was no impact so far and as far as he knows, none of the safety guideline has changed in any way as of right now. Even with the economy the way it is, they are booming as usual and they are still hiring workers to keep up with the new contracts that they get everyday.

The general consensus in the bar that night was they have to be careful what they say about fellow drillers and companies they work for. Even if they are competition, in the oil field you are laid off you just head to a company that is still working, you start bad mouthing any of them you can soon find yourself out of work forever. Like the government, they are a tight group and will not often let any secrets out of the bag.

Knowing this was as far as I was going to get with the working crews, I proceeded to head to the top of the food chain. Doors slammed in my face from the CEO’s with no comments. I finally came across one who would sit down with me. Forty-four years in the business, he has seen a few accidents and has offshore experience. He explained that he understands the frustrations of those who are not in the field and how it would be confusing and maddening for them to see all this oil spewing from the ground into the water. The frustration of not understanding why they just could not cap it and be done with it. Unfortunately there is no quick solution to any accident, especially one that is below large depths of water.

With any kind of blow out or accident on land or sea, it takes time and certain steps that must be followed before you can even proceed with a solution. Once a solution is decided on it is always trial and error with high hopes it will succeed. In a lot of cases the first attempts often fail. Then the process starts all over again until one finally works and the clean up begins. The accident ratio is very low compared to how many oil and gas rigs are actually being drilled or are fully operational. It was just the magnitude and the amount of lives lost that makes this one seem out of the ordinary. And quite understandable with the environmental impact it is having. There is always a risk when you drill any kind of rig. Offshore there is even more risk due to the weather and water elements that play a key role.

When I asked why BP was drilling there and not a local or American or even Canadian drilling company he said he had no clue, maybe political or it could be that other companies felt it was too risky given the area the well was being drilled. He chose to comment no further on that subject. The impact of this accident will affect all drilling companies down the road. He can see tighter safety precautions being implemented and possibly even stricter guidelines put into place when drilling offshore, but at the moment, it is business as usual and they will deal with the changes when they happen.

He did mention that all oil companies will be following this for the next couple of years, because of the lawsuits and the cost of the clean up that will follow. He can see costs of insurances and the bonds they have to pay in advance will definitely go up. For some of the smaller companies that do not do out of country jobs, they will not feel the impact as much as the more international companies. They will definitely have to weigh the amount that is set aside to cover any major disasters that may be encountered. But he did stress that they are few and far between than the majority of successful drilling. His company has not had any major problems or loss of life in all the years of operation and he hopes they remain disaster free for years to come.

I asked him if the economy was hurting his business in any way and he said it made for tighter budgets, but as far as slowing down the drilling for him directly, it has not changed. They still get offers to bid for new jobs everyday and they head out to do those that they have on the go. So at the moment, it has made no significant noticeable difference. As I shook hands and thanked him for his time, He offered to sit down with me in the future if I had any more questions.

When it came down to it, I did not find out anything different than what we have heard in the mainstream media. But at least we now know that even though there may be a bit of a cover up, the majority of what we are being told is a general consensus among the oil companies. All we can do is hope that whatever they try next works and we can start to clean up the worst oil disaster in history.

K. Waters

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