on 8 November 2012
Having been a graduate engineer at BP from the late 80s until the 'redundancy' years of the mid 90s and witnessed almost first hand many of the periods described in this book, I simply couldn't put it down. This book is a must read for any oil industry professional who has a hint of integrity in them as it will vindicate all their doubts, lend credibility to all their conspiracy theories and confirm all their suspicions as to what was really going on in the background when they were trying to earn an honest crust.
More worryingly, it presents with supreme clarity what is rotten with the industry and provides an explanation of why and how the whole industry has followed in the footsteps of BP to the detriment of safety, honesty, ethics and morality - and ultimately to the detriment of profits and long term sustainability.
:-) Just an opinion may I add! But definitely a great read.
on 11 April 2015
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the blow out from the Macondo well in April 2010 was no unfortunate accident. It was a culmination of years of cost cutting and rejection of safety measures and reduction in skilled engineering expertise according to Tom Bergin. And he should know. As a journalist with longstanding access to BP staff from John Browne and Tony Hayward down for many years, his knowledge of the company and contacts appear impressive.
When John Browne took over as CEO he introduced a new structure with the chief drilling engineer replaced by commercial managers on short rotations and the workforce halved from 100,000 to 50,000 between 1992 and 199 . Performance related remuneration packages focussed attention on short term goals. High risk tolerance was accepted in an intrinsically hazardous industry. In five years BP had three major disasters in the US. The Texas refinery explosion caused many deaths, the Alaskan oil pipe leaks polluted large areas of the tundra and then Macondo.
While Tony Hayward, when he replaced John Browne, claims to have inherited a broken inheritance his changes at BP failed to remove the incentive to take on ever more risk for short term gain. When Macondo blew out Tony Hayward’s response both in terms of engineering solutions and public presentation was poor. The drilling methods employed at Macondo for a high pressure deep water well were primarily to blame for the explosion. The meltdown at Macondo may have been exacerbated by blow out equipment failure , but it was not the primary cause.
For me a compulsive read written with a fluency of an experienced journalist and with the information and knowledge of a long standing oberserver.
on 6 August 2015
An in depth look at BP’s practices and failings leading up to and after the 2010 Macondo blowout that caused a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The initial criticism of this book is that it is billed as the inside story of BP, while it actually only covers from the 1980s, so in that sense it fails to live up to its title.
Nevertheless it makes up for this by covering the later period excellently, with great detail put into how the company got to the point where something like Macondo was inevitable eventually. Focusing in particular on the characters of the BP board, but not overly vilifying them by showing how naïve cost cutting and short sightedness can lead to outright disaster.
on 25 August 2014
Written in a fast-paced, eminently readable style, the author takes us through the whole sorry state of affairs that led up to the disaster from a unique perspective. His real time journalistic involvement gives us an objective insight into the pre- and post-event corporate behaviour. An engaging read and one for anybody with an interest in real life.
on 6 January 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Bergin lays the out the story, from the origins of the current BP cooperate structure to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in a concise and chronological order that's easy to read and very clear. The engineering around the drilling process is explained in adequate detail and in layman's terminology. Overall a very enjoyable and interesting (if not shocking) read.
on 22 August 2011
I'll be honest I picked up the book out of curiosity, I was not expecting to be gripped from the start after all I knew what happened .... big oil spill, damage to the environment, Hayward resigned etc. This is a brilliant and compelling story.
This will be the definitive book on the event, and on BP, and it has been scrupulously and meticulously researched. Matt who gave the poor review must have missed the detailed footnotes (though not sure how they ran for pages) and the authors pedigree - he is a Reuters journalist they as a general rule take great pride in verifiable fact.
How I rate a book is not just by the story (gripping) , and quality of writing (better than any John Grisham though granted that not hard), but it is whether I am still thinking about the issues it raised weeks after finishing it. Certainly this book will have you thinking, mulling and talking about it long after you have finished it
A corporate scandal, disaster or an implosion always creates an appetite for literature on the subject. Amid a cacophony of books - some hurried, some scrambled and some downright rubbish - you often have to wait for a book that is the real deal. I am delighted to say that if BP, its culture, the mother of all oil spills and its underlying causes are of interest to you, then Reuters correspondent Tom Bergin's book - Spills and Spin: The Inside Story of BP - is the real deal and was well worth the wait. Perhaps for many potential readers of this book, the author - a former oil broker turned newswire correspondent - would be a familiar name; Bergin's wire dispatches have been flickering on our Reuters monitors for some time. However, if you were a shade worried that so networked a man as the author would give some within BP an easy ride, then that worry gets smashed to pieces a few pages into the book.
In the energy business, as with some other critical components of the world we live in, there are no moral absolutes. On reading Bergin's account, the "pre-spill" BP it seems lost sight of morals full-stop. In a book of just under 300 pages, split by ten chapters banking on his experience as an oil correspondent, the author notes that what transpired when Deepwater Horizon went up in flames was not some isolated incident. Via a fast paced and gripping narration, he provides an account as well as his conjecture about all things BP and where did it all start to go wrong.
In order to contextualise what led up to the Gulf of Mexico spill and its aftermath, Bergin first examines BP's history and its trials in some detail, then the transformative impact - for better or for worse - of John Browne, his successor Tony Hayward and corporate decisions throughout their time which transformed a once troubled part player into a big league major.
For over a decade and more, accompanying this transformation was what the author describes as the most sophisticated PR machine of all times which failed miserably when the company faced its biggest modern day crisis thereby making the CEO at the time of the spill - Tony Hayward - the most hated or the most farcical man in America; some say both.
Browne's ego, his protégés, advertising group WPP-devised "Beyond Petroleum" campaign, safety bungle after safety bungle from Texas to Alaska and boardroom politics are all there warts and all. It would be unfair to pick a component of the book and single it out as your favourite, for the whole book is. However, if one may take the liberty of doing so then Chapter 3 - "There's no such thing as Santa Claus" is the best passage of the book. Maybe I am biased in favour these few pages, for as a CNBC researcher working in the wee hours of the morning I had a firsthand feel of the "PR drive" Bergin refers to in that passage.
Lastly, if you thought a British, excuse me - an Irish writer (as he confesses to announcing himself Stateside in the days of perceived anti-British sentiment) - may give former CEO Tony Hayward an easy ride then you are being unkind. In the spirit of journalistic integrity, Bergin gives Hayward - a man whom he often had unique access to - what we scribes describe as the "full treatment."
When I met the author a few days prior to this book's release, he told me his work was not a damnation of a company based on a solitary incident, no matter how horrendous the oil spill was. Au contraire, Bergin notes that the story of that spill itself did not begin on the night of April 20, 2010 but 20 years ago when a determined John Browne set out to create the largest corporation in the world followed by his successor Hayward's own determination to succeed and then outdo his mentor.
Having read the book cover to cover and seen the author deliver on his promise, my overriding thoughts are that Bergin's Spills and Spin could in the fullness of time be as definitive a book on BP in wake of Macondo as Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind's Smartest Guys in the Room was in wake of the Enron collapse. I am happy to recommend the book to fellow oilholics, students of the energy business, those interested in corporate history as well as the horrendous spill itself. Last but not the least, some from the PR industry might wish to read it as well; albeit as a lesson on what to omit from the PR playbook!
on 25 September 2011
One of the best business books I have read. This is a real insider's account but written by a professional journalist - a real page turner. It contains just enough technical information so you feel you've learned about the engineering side without having to read through any dedicated segments of technical descriptions. It also provides the background on how BP became the company it was at the time of the spill, and the characters who shaped the organisation.
A must read for anyone interested in the oil industry, PR or politics... anyone who wants to know the real story behind the months of confusing headlines, or just anyone who likes the business genre.