Project Quality Management: Background to the BP Oil Spill Case - Paper Example

8 pages
1928 words
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
Literature review
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This literature review aims at looking at the difference quality could have made to the success of an otherwise a failed project that is a project that did not reach up to the expectations of stakeholders. Therefore, quality is very vital in any project management, and it should be embraced throughout the project process (Larson and Gray, 2013). Quality assists in setting the standards of a project since it ascertains what is going to be measured, what factors will be used to determine whether a project is successful. Also apart from setting standards quality assists in benchmarking a project to look if it has met its standards and goals. Moreover, project managers can use the SMART benchmark which standards for Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic and Time-bound (Larson and Gray, 2013). Lastly, if a project manager embraces quality planning, they are liking to control the costs by conducting a cost-benefit analysis which assists in determining how each progressive improvement affects the bottom-line. Therefore, the manager can make informed decisions on the must-haves from the nice-to-have on the project.

This literature review will discuss more on the case of the BP oil spill. The BP oil spill is the major spill in the history of marine oil drilling operation. It spilled tens of thousands of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This is a real-life situation, and this literature review will try to unveil where quality management was lacking or was overlooked. Hence, it will look at why the project failed that is what was done wrong and the reasons. Then it will cover how project management should have been implemented in the first place and the reasons for doing that. The organization of the literature review will be in the following manner: the introduction, background of the BP oil spill case, reasons why the project failed, and the implementation of quality project management.

Background to the BP Oil Spill Case

The British Petroleum has been named as the largest oil spill in the world. On April 20, 2010, 11 workers of Deepwater Horizon were killed during the explosion of the drilling rig. The drilling rig operated in the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico (Collins, 2017). Moreover, underwater cameras have shown that the British Petroleum pipe had leaked oil and gas on the floor of the ocean for about 42 miles off the Louisiana coast. The amount of oil that had leaked into the Gulf was roughly, 3.19 million barrels by the time the well was capped that 15th July 2010 (Collins, 2017). The ocean is divided into at least three zones by scientists, and the deep ocean- a permanently dark environment that experiences very cold temperatures almost to freezing and very high pressure The well was located 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the water in the large borderline of the deep sea (Collins, 2017). Apparently, the deep sea accounts for about three-quarters of the total earths ocean volume.

The oil spread throughout the water column once it left the well. Some oil suspended to the surface of the ocean forming oil slicks that when pushed by winds they spread faster. Some formed different oil layers, dispersant and mixtures of seawater on the surface of midwater that arose from the wellhead that looked like a chimney. There was a report on a 22-mile long oil plume during the spill (Collins, 2017). The formation of the plume was due to dispersant of chemical that were launched into the water to wash it away by breaking up the oil. This enabled the incorporation of the oil and the seawater hence making the oil to stay suspended below the surface. Lastly, some oil sunk to the floor of the sea then glued falling particles like bacteria and phytoplankton in the water forming the marine snow.

The company made a lot of efforts to control the spillage but each attempt failed, and the spill continued. At first, the BP was able to reduce the magnitude of the hurdle, and it even expressed their confidence that it will not take long before the problem was taken care of. But as time went by it was evident that the situation was not improving, and the cry of the public become loud over the destruction of wildlife, fish habitat, and reduced growth in the tourism industry. In due course, a containment cap was kept over the head of the well a challenging move since a method like this has never been used before especially at such deep depth and under such high atmospheric pressures. However, several concerns were raised such as the cap could force a leak somewhere else in the well hence increasing environmental disaster. Also, the cap was a temporary solution a permanent solution will require drilling of a relief well to the damaged well. Once the relief well is completed, mud will then be pumped to seal the damaged well. Eventually, four months later after the damage, the relief well was completed and the out of control well was permanently sealed.

Reasons for Failure of the BP Project

The oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico is attributed to poor management and a communication breakdown of BP and its contractors; Transocean and Halliburton. According to investigations on the BP oil spill case, it was evident that the Macondo team failed in their management duty and good management could have been shunned the damage. All the three companies were guilty of poor management, and the oversight and mistakes that caused the explosion were the results of a failure in management by the BP, Halliburton Co., Transocean Ltd. However, the BP was singled for its failure to ensure financial constraint did not increase the risks further in an already dangerous environment. Also, unchecked cost-cutting meant there were increased financial pressures and this will likely bias decisions in favor of time and cost savings. Additionally, the BP safety lapses were chronic; and its systems of safety engineering culture needed improvements.

Coming to the ground, eight different safety systems were ignored and if they were properly taken care of the catastrophe could have been avoided. These mishaps include poor cement formulation, failure of the valve, misinterpretation of the pressure test, leak not recognized fast enough, failing of the valve the second time, overwhelmed separator, lack of gas alarm, and lack of battery for the BOP (Mullins, 2010). Poor formulation of cement which did not create a seal at the bottom thus allowing leakage of gas and oil into the surface. The pipe was sealed in two ways at the bottom. First, cement was filled in. Second, it had two mechanical valves built to stop the flow of oil and gas, but all these failed. The task management team conducted various test on pressure test for determin whether the well was sealed or not but the findings were misinterpreted. A leak happens 50 minutes before the explosion of the rig, but this was not interpreted as a leak. These were among the warnings that the BP and its team ignored and could have been prevented.

It is obvious BP, and its team did not carry out a proper project risk assessment. A project risk assessment focuses on three aspects; first, the likelihood of occurrence of a risk, the magnitude of the damages as a result of the occurrence of the risk, and the difficulty in detecting that is wrong and need to be addressed (Shore, 2009). From the case of BP, the company had not kept up with the way it assessed the risk of catastrophic damages from spills. The company ignored assessing risk and assessing the extent of the risk if a disaster could have occurred. Also, the BP project had so many flaws in the culture of safety, and the company suffers from a culture of denial that is they accept the industry is risky and accidents are inevitable and through this, they deny the part of preventing such disasters. Another company that incidence that share problem in management is the Colombia Shuttle whereby it ignored warning signs hence leading to the death of seven crew members. The motto of the Columbia shuttle was Better, Faster, Cheaper (Shore, 2009). This motto has its emphasis on the schedule and the cost and the expense of safety. The two disasters are quite different but what they have in common is the failure of creating an effective risk management plan.

Implementation of Quality Project Management

Quality project management is a process that make sure that all required activities for designing, planning and implementing a project are effective and efficient concerning the purpose of the project and its performance ( 2017). In simple terms quality, project management is the perpetual monitoring and application of quality processes in all aspect of the project. Quality project management helps in ensuring the project meets the expectation and needs of the stakeholder. Therefore, the project team has to build a good relationship with the stakeholder to get to know what quality means to them. Quality project management is comprised of four major processes: quality definition, quality assurance, and quality control and quality improvements.

Quality Definition

The first step for any project team is to define quality; the team has to identify what quality standards will be used in the project and to achieve this they have to work hand in hand with the beneficiaries, donors and the stakeholders of the project (Basu, 2013). Recognizing quality standards is a significant aspect of quality definition since it will assist in recognizing important characteristics that will guide the project. To get a good definition of quality the project team and manager have to understand what the stakeholders, donor, beneficiaries define quality; these three are the sources of quality definition.

Also in defining quality, the project manager has to look at quality characteristics. Characteristics define the condition of materials, equipment and services requirements that are needed by the project (Basu, 2013). Characteristics are attributed to the measures and methods needed by a particular product or service. Therefore, a project manager has to consider the following factors when looking for equipment or material for a project; the function of the equipment, the performance, is the equipment reliable. Also, check if it is relevant, the timeliness, is it suitable, how is it consistent with the standards of the project and the completeness of the equipment of the material. Quality characteristics are not only limited to the equipment and materials delivered to the stakeholder but also to the equipment and materials used by the staff. Another important aspect of quality definition is coming up with a quality plan that will be used in the implementation phase of the project. The quality plan helps in ensuring the project team, and all the participant in the project are working according to the quality requirements (Basu, 2013).

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is the process of confirming the donors, beneficiaries and other stakeholders basing on the evidence available that the product will meet their expectations, needs and other requirements (Mohammed and Alavizadeh, 2009). It gives assurance to the participants involved on the effectiveness of the processes, procedures, tools, and safeguards are put in place in ensuring the expected level of quality will be achieved so as to see the production of quality outputs. Quality assurance takes place at the implementation phase during the processes of implementation and entails evaluating the all performance of the project on a regular basis to provide confidence that the project will meet the expected standards. Quality assurance is important since it assists in detecting errors and defects as early as possible.

Quality assurance can be achieved through carrying out quality audits. Quality audits is a quality management acti...

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