Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Latest from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill...U.S. arrests BP engineer on criminal charges stemming from oil spill


According to the Washington Post, a former BP Engineer was arrested today for destroying a number of text messages sought by federal investigators who are investigating the BP oil spill of April 20, 2010. BP has stated that it repeatedly notified engineer Kurt Mix that he should preserve all evidence from the event, and that he disregarded these notices. But his actions do raise some questions about

After the blowout on BP's Macondo well, Mr. Mix worked to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well as well as BP's failed effort to plug the leak, nicknamed Top Kill.. Around October 4, 2010, when Mix learned that his electronic files were going to be collected by a vendor working for BP's lawyers, he deleted a number of  text message from his IPhone between himself and his supervisor. The Justice Department alleges that, judging from some of the deleted texts recovered forensically, the messages contained information that showed that Mix and others at BP knew that the Top Kill effort was likely to fail. Before the Top Kill effort, Mix and other engineers had concluded that this approach was likely to fail if the flow rate was greater than 15,000 barrels a day. In his text messages, Mix reports that the flow rate was indeed too high for Top Kill to work.  At this same time,  BP was reporting that the flow was about 5,000 barrels a day, though in the end federal regulators estimated that the flow was closer to 50,000 barrels a day.

It is hard to know why Kurt Mix decided to delete these text messages even after receiving notices to be sure and preserve any digital evidence related to the spill, but it does raise some interesting questions about how much BP knew about the rate of oil flow during this time, and what it was actually reporting to regulators and the public.  It also highlights some of the responsibilities of engineers when working within a large organization, and what to, and not to do, in these kinds of situations..

Thursday, April 12, 2012

C2ST Event : Oceans’ Health: An Ecosystem on the Brink

The Chicago Council on Science and Technology and the John G. Shedd Aquarium present:
Oceans’ Health: An Ecosystem on the Brink
When: Thursday, April 19, 2012. 5:00pm Registration & Reception, 6:00pm Presentation
Where: Northwestern University Chicago Campus, Hughes Auditorium, 303 East Superior
Who: Allen LaPointe, Vice President of Environmental Quality, John G. Shedd Aquarium and Kassia Perpich, Sustainable Seafood Manager, John G. Shedd Aquarium
Abstract: There are many serious threats facing our oceans today. Oceans’ Health: An Ecosystem on the Brink will explore two of these merging issues. First, ocean acidification: over the last decade scientists have shown that human-caused increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are affecting the chemistry of our oceans, altering the main food web and proving harmful for many forms of marine life. Second, commercial fishing: in recent years scientists have also estimated that the global supply of wild-caught seafood will run out by the year of 2048 unless stronger fishery management practices are implemented. Join C2ST and leading area marine scientists as they discuss these two ocean issues and what we as consumers can do to have a positive impact in addressing them
Nonmember Fees: $10 Advance Registration / $15 Door / $5 Student. Please visit www.c2st.org for registration and detailed program description
Parking: Discounted parking will be made available at the 222 E. Huron St. garage.

At the Center we spent time in all of our engineering ethics sessions thinking about how man-made systems impact the environment over the short and long term, and how these effects can be prevented or at least mitigated. Its likely that both consumers and engineers are and will in the future be involved in finding solutions to these issues, so check it out !

Monday, April 9, 2012

IIT Ethics Bowl Open Meeting, April 11th

Join the IIT Ethics Bowl for our Meet and Greet meeting on April 11, in Siegel Hall at 12:40.

Come and discuss interesting cases, meet new people, and learn more about how to be part of the Ethics Bowl team for the fall 2012 semester.

We will also be providing free pizza for all who attend.

Please RSVP if you plan on joining us at iitethicsbowl@gmail.com.

Hope to see you there!