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Gulf tragedy is a harrowing read.

The Macondo well blowout on the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico was a human tragedy. Eleven BP contract workers lost their lives and many others were seriously injured. It was also an environmental catastrophe, the effects of which will be felt for many years to come.

The incident was also a public relations disaster for BP, making it for a time at least the most hated company in the world. A tranche of books poring over every detail of the incident are now being published.

In Too Deep, by respected journalists Stanley Reed and Alison Fitzgerald, is typical of these new tomes. It suggests that the blowout was more than a story about technical failures. The root cause, the authors suggest, may lie in BP's corporate culture, which celebrated calculated risk taking. The company's DNA was different from that of its competitors, where engineering principles dominated. BP was more of a financial culture. The company was very creative at finding oil. But it was sometimes less good at everyday operations.

The authors set about proving those assertions in an aggressive manner, and the book reads as if it has been well-researched. The authoritative narrative is interspersed with plenty of anecdotes illustrating the corporate culture at BP, and a central figure in many of these stories is the charismatic John Browne, former chief executive officer. The luxurious lives that BP's top management enjoyed in the run-up to the Macondo well blowout were in stark contrast to the hostile environments endured by its frontline staff.

The carnage that the blowout caused is well covered. The blood, smoke, fear and confusion were such that this incident will live with those who were present for a very long time.

In Too Deep won't make comfortable reading for anyone associated with BE

In Too Deep is published by Bloomberg Press, priced 16.99 [pounds sterling].

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Title Annotation:BACK PAGE: PE finds places to go and things
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 2011
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