Global’s Update – 07/22/10

The Deepwater Horizon on April 22, 2010 as it sank into the ocean at 2:51pm

There’s an engineering adage that says failure teaches more than success. The rationale is that the reasons for a project’s success are often invisible, but the reasons for failure can usually be discovered, readjusted and mined for insights. A number of big oil companies are hoping to use this wisdom to forge some kind of silver lining around the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which has shown how poorly prepared the industry was to respond to an offshore drilling accident.

They have started a $1 billion initiative to develop a new response system for oil spills in the gulf. The project is, in part, an effort to deflect tighter drilling regulations that now have broad support amongst US politicians.

The project is intended to operate in depths of up to 10 000 feet of water and contain leaks of up to 100 000 barrels of oil per day. It will consist of specially designed sub-sea equipment and a permanent team of response specialists. Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron will form a non-profit organization called the Marine Well Containment Company to operate and keep the system, which is expected to maintain a 24-hour-notice state of readiness.

What this means for future spills remains to be seen, but it is encouraging to see the oil industry respond like this. A similar initiative started shortly after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989; many of those resources are now currently at work cleaning up the gulf.

Then again, there was also a company in place to respond to the Exxon Valdez spill itself. That company, too, was meant to respond within 24 hours of a spill. When the Valdez ran aground, the main response watercraft was in dry-dock, under a tarp and covered in snow for the winter. Reuters AlertNet

H1N1 Update

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee has cancelled its meeting this month to review the H1N1 pandemic’s status. Last month the committee decided there was still too much activity in the southern hemisphere to justify lowering the pandemic alert level or declaring the pandemic over. Though they were scheduled to reconvene this month, after reviewing preliminary reports, they have decided there has not been enough cessation in virus activity in the south to warrant another meeting. There is no word yet on when the WHO committee is scheduled to meet next. Reuters

Crunching the H1N1 Numbers

An economics study published in the Medical Journal Vaccine has concluded that Ontario’s H1N1 vaccination program, while starting late and falling short of its coverage target, was still a good “value for money” in terms of the lives and money saved as opposed to delaying the measures or having taken none at all. Beate Sander penned the analysis as part of her doctoral studies at the University of Toronto. “We wanted to look at it in a formal and objective way,” she said of the study’s mathematical modelling and the vaccination program. “Things can be costly, and still be cost-effective.” The Globe and Mail

One response to “Global’s Update – 07/22/10”

  1. Curious George says :

    The decision by the WHO not to stand down from a Phase 6 pandemic alert level begs an interesting question: if H1N1 continues to circulate in many parts of the world, as it is currently doing, at point will it no longer be considered “novel” and become a seasonal variant? And if it is no longer considered a novel virus, based on its spread and levels of international exposure, what does this mean for the WHO pandemic alert levels? Do we go straight from level 6 back to 3? Somewhere in between?

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