1. When engineering disasters happen, it is both a bad thing as well as a good thing. It is a bad thing because of all lives, money, and opportunity lost, but it is also a good thing because of all the things that we could learn from the failure. In these lectures we learned about oil rig disasters and how they went wrong. Two of these oil rig explosions that happened due to simple mistakes are the Ocean Ranger and the Piper Alpha.
The Ocean Ranger was an offshore drilling platform that sunk due to many factors that could have been avoided. The ballast control room, the room that keeps the entire ship afloat, was designed very low to the ground. So low, that a wave was able to shatter the glass and get into the room. Since water was able to get into this room, the valves controlling the balance malfunctioned the platform tilted and allowed more water into sensitive places. Places such as the wire rope mooring system had openings in them which had no pumping system. After seeing how this disaster failed, Canadian Inquiries issued 136 recommendations to reduce the risk of another disaster happening. This was a disaster that happened due to many human factors. There was only 1 person every 12 hours that was qualified for the ballast control room. The Ocean Ranger only had 2 working life boats and had no survival suits. The workers on the Ocean Ranger were also not trained on how to properly board the life boat which when the disaster happened, they capsized the boat. One of the main areas of failure was the design and placement of the room itself. The engineers did not take into account that a storm this severe would happen and had no way for the crew to know if water was filling up in the room.
In the case of the Piper Alpha, the reason the explosion happened was because of improper labeling and communication. The condensate pump labeled “A” had its safety valve taken off because it was going to be worked on but was not able to be completed till later that day. The engineer did not tell the custodian of the valve and the permit that said that “A” was not ready for use was not found. After this disaster, it completely changed the rules for safety in the fuel industry. After the disaster, safety regulations were implemented. Since this disaster is mainly about safety and regulations, it does not really affect a search for energy. It could make it a little slower because of the checks to ensure that procedures are being followed. This disaster could have been prevented if the engineer communicated to the workers on the night shift that the condensate pump was to not be used no in any circumstance. The good thing about this disaster was that it helped pave the way for better and stronger regulations around the safety of the fuel industry.
Both of these should not have been destroyed if people double checking the design or placement of something or making it so that the adequate people were on board in the case of an event happening.
2. With new inventions in technology, the amount of energy needed is increasing. With the increase in popularity of electrical cars, such as Tesla, there is a higher demand of energy. These cars mainly use lithium ion batteries which consists of a combination of lithium, nickel, cobalt, and aluminum oxide. Since these batteries are needed to power electrical cars, they need to have a manufacturing plant to do so. One of these plants were recently made by Tesla. This Gigafactory was made to help increase the production of electric cars. With the increased demand for these electrical cars, the more Tesla and other companies need to spread their resources out to increase energy storage and creation. With the increase in this technology, comes with hurting the environment. The creation of a factory requires land to be destroyed and animals to be relocated. Lithium ion batteries have a large environmental cost. If they get damaged, they have the potential to leak harmful gas. Another bad thing about the batteries are that the materials they are made of, lithium and cobalt, are limited. The extraction of these elements can lead to water pollution and depletion. These risks are present when making anything that uses materials that need to be taken from Earth. The only way to make this process better, is to develop an idea that will make it so that the extraction of these materials causes less harm to the environment. The other way to better the batteries, is to make a casing for them so that in the event that it gets stabbed or punctured in any way, nothing leaks out. But other than that, I do not think that it would be possible to make a better lithium ion battery. Maybe if we are able to develop a battery that requires other materials that might be more available and easier to use. A second issue that comes with electrical cars is whether or not they should move when faced with issues that could deal with hurting the public. For instance, if it is not able to break, if an autonomous car should hit something in the road to stop it from hitting someone crossing the road. The issue that also comes into play with this is the complexity of it. The problem with being able to set a definitive answer to this is that people will have different opinions on what should be valued more. Is there a certain person that should be valued over someone else? Or should the car break itself regardless and possibly kill the driver? People will usually have a different answer and disagree with each other. As long as technology in regard to autonomous vehicles is advancing, many ethical questions and values will be raised. I think that the best way to get around these risks, is to develop a battery that is able to withstand impacts without bursting or burning up. This would make it so that in the case of a car crash, it the battery won’t burn up.