Just arrived from Kerteh after conducting a hazard and operability training course. While waiting for my wife to come back from a katibah session, I wrote this entry.
Not only had oil brought prosperity, it had also brought misery
Even small nations like Brunei, Kuwait and Qatar had prospered by the bounties given by the Almighty – the black gold called Oil. Malaysia was also lucky to discover oil at a later stage, and following that, Petroleum Act 1974 was passed by the parliament resulting in the formation of Petronas, a company that had contributed tremendously to the country in many senses. And it should as it has also been protected and privileged in many ways by the same law. Today Petronas is going strong as a multinational player, and Malaysia’s economy is aided by its revenue and activities.
But there are also dark sides of oil, even darker than the brownish crude oil. Due to inconsistencies or inappropriate distribution of wealth arising from it, or improper management, strange things happened in many parts of the world. When I read about people killed while stealing fuel by drilling the pipeline in Nigeria, I was appalled. When royalty was converted into “wang ihsan” and back to royalty in Malaysia, it had instigated hatred among those who like to think. These are simple examples, but there are even more damaging ones. Oil had also brought tyranny. What happened to Kuwait and later Iraq in the Gulf War in the early 90’s was a large scale destruction in the name of peace keeping, but understood by many as actions driven by oil related greed. How about the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan? If we look close enough, somehow, oil was again related.
Then who should be blamed? Oil? I think this has to be answered by you, yourself.
Environment… Our place of Living
As a man who enjoys nature, I am always concern about the effect of development on the environment. John Grisham had dramatized one good example in his book, The Pelican Brief (1992). It was about how oil companies unscrupulously maneuver their strategies. Quick summary of the novel is provided in wikipedia.
1. Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico
Then in April 2010, we heard about the Deepwater Horizon incident. Until today, so much oil had gushed into the sea, polluting the sea, destroying fish-spawning areas, killing birds and plants. Hundreds of lawsuits had been filed against BP. Some politicians had also vowed to punish BP to the maximum. Some even said something to the effect, “I want to see the last of BP”. But BP has one important break – the company that supplied the failed equipment is said to be American, and they would transfer the blame to them. This makes the problem more interesting as the blame is back to the American, or at least shared by them both.
Until today, oil is still gushing out into the sea. Various efforts had failed and now oil is collected from the leak. In other words, we now have an oil production facility derived from the accident. In the meantime, they are still trying to kill the well. Will they succeed? I think they will, but I’m not sure when that will happen. Some good summaries can be read here.
2. East Belumut Field, South China Sea
Yesterday, after having breakfast at Awana Kijal, I spotted a news that I don’t like- “Oil Sheen Spotted in East Belumut Field” (New Straits Times – July 12). Petronas said that oil sheen was spotted. Small amount or large amount? As news like this are often down-scaled in this country, I was a bit worried and hoped for the best. It was about the leakage of pipeline in an operation handled by Newfield Exploration. In cases like this, the emergency response team would act immediately either collecting the oil and/or dispersing chemicals to clean up the area. Mmm… what would be the effect to the environment ? In a later report today (NST -July 13), they said that the well has been shut-in, and guess what? They were worried about the losses due to the production shut down. urrgghhhh…. Anyway, repair works are on-going.
This incident also raised an interesting question about the safety of pipelines laid on the sea-bed. A pipe in a vast ocean is basically negligible. It can be visualized as a very thin line drawn on a surface of a large paper. As such, the chance of a vessel anchoring on and breaking the pipe would be expected to be remote. At least, this is what we understood from risk assessment. Nevertheless, it happened from time to time. Several years ago, pipeline supplying gas from Natuna to Singapore was damaged in that manner, and I would expect similar fate had hit the Newfield pipeline.
These incidents should bring about new thinking in process safety. Forgive me God, when i’m erred. I can only estimate the risks… This semester, I’ll be teaching a graduate course on “Process Safety and Loss Prevention”, and these incidents will be discussed at length in my classroom.
More articles on this leak