Tad Patzek, chair of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, discussed “Beneath the Surface of the BP Spill: What’s Happening Now, What’s Needed Next” with the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Energy and Environment June 9. 

"Horrible things happen when complex technologies and procedures overtake humans, who service the technologies falsely assuming complete control," Patzek says.   

His briefing explains the blowout of the BP exploratory well in terms of complexity, technology, and science and he argues that organizational structures and human behavior have not kept pace with the complex technologies we – the engineers and scientists – have created.

"Given the structural changes in the industry, academia, and government, this tragedy has been at least 20 years in the making," he says. "Given our current work on the BP well blowout, there is nothing in the science and engineering of this tragedy that baffles us. It seems that the human inability to grasp and execute the complex steps of a deepwater drilling procedure led to the tragic outcome."

His briefing can be found on the subcommittee's archived webcast