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posted by martyb on Monday February 16 2015, @04:12AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the you-made-your-bed... dept.

Reuters reports that managers at US oil refineries are going to the mats, sleeping on recently purchased mattresses inside rental trailers, as refinery workers enter the third week of their strike at nine US oil refineries that experts and some employees say raises concerns over safety and operations. For months, retired refinery worker John Ostberg from BP's Toledo Refinery has been warning his bosses in emails about their plans to run the refineries with replacement workers and supervisors if a strike occurred. He fears that replacement workers are not properly trained, or too far removed from the frontlines, to respond to unit upsets and other problems that can escalate quickly without experienced intervention. “Management says it’s safe. I disagree,” says Ostberg.

At least three of the nine US oil refineries targeted by a nationwide strike of USW members have reported upsets and unplanned repairs since their workers walked out on February 1 and one of the refineries has shut down completely. Criff Reyes, who has worked Tesoro's Martinez Refinery alkylation unit for 16 years, says he believes that Tesoro opted to shut down the plant — rather than restart it following maintenance — because managers are not qualified or experienced enough to run it after about 400 USW members walked out. Meanwhile Ostberg, who helped run the refinery operating center (ROC) — the heart of the plant — warns that if there is a problem with one unit at the refinery, it can quickly grow to other units and often takes more manpower to put under control. “I sit behind a blast-proof wall, so I’m not worried about my safety," says Ostberg. "But I fear for everyone else.”

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by anubi on Monday February 16 2015, @04:38AM

    by anubi (2828) on Monday February 16 2015, @04:38AM (#145483) Journal

    I can tell you pumps have the oddest times of having a bearing fail, and valves have an odd time to choose when they will stick. Thermocouples and pressure transducers fail and send the weirdest readings to the plant control system. Control wires short out. Pipes spring a leak. Pure old metal fatigue shows up in unexpected places.

    Just like in a car - things that have worked for years suddenly decide one day to stop.

    Like an aircraft pilot, you aren't really paying these guys to run the plant on a good day... just about any of us can program an autopilot to do that. Rather these guys can save a multibillion dollar investment when things go awry.

    Running a refinery on newbies would be about as risky as having me fly a plane ( being I have had a plane's controls in my hand for about an hour once ). I may be able to hold it on course while the real pilot eats a sandwich, but if something goes awry, all bets are off.

    --
    "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by Snotnose on Monday February 16 2015, @04:53AM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Monday February 16 2015, @04:53AM (#145489)

    I've worked with a boatload (sorry) of H1-B's. Most are good, some are great, a few are abysmal. In general the mix of great/good/abysmal pretty much tracks American born workers, if not a bit better (takes initiative to get off your ass and go halfway around the globe for a job).

    If you're going to let someone work in this country then give them a clear path to citizenship, basically x years of being employed and not going to prison. No being a subservient wage slave for some big-ass H1-B employment firm that milks you for whatever they can get, then ships your ass back to whereever because you failed to do x.

    --
    Why can't I age like a fine wine, instead of last week's milk?
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16 2015, @05:12AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16 2015, @05:12AM (#145497)

      then ships your ass back to whereever because you failed to do x.

      Actually, it can be worse than that: they can ship one back because they managed to find more famished youngsters (and the one suddenly is "promoted back in the country" to train them).

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by aristarchus on Monday February 16 2015, @05:15AM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Monday February 16 2015, @05:15AM (#145498) Journal

      I've worked with a boatload (sorry) of H1-B's.

      Let me guess, were you let go for posting in the wrong thread? We are supposed to bashing unions /and/or/ management here.

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      • (Score: 3, Touché) by tibman on Monday February 16 2015, @04:26PM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 16 2015, @04:26PM (#145687)

        Well, couldn't the editor put who we're bashing in bold up top next time? sheesh

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Monday February 16 2015, @07:57AM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Monday February 16 2015, @07:57AM (#145538) Homepage Journal

    HMI / SCADA - Human Machine Interface / Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition

    I walked right out, I didn't give notice I just stopped showing up for work when I pointed out to the company founder that their C++ code was profoundly exception-unsafe. He quite bluntly demanded that I stop pointing things like that out to my coworkers.

    I gave them seven years to fix their code then started broadcasting it publicly. While I haven't filed a CERT report yet - though I intend to - I've been spreading the word quite widely throughout the oil industry.

    Trihedral VTScada, from Trihedral Engineering of Bedford, Nova Scotia.

    The software architecture is brilliant but the implementation makes me want to stay well away from anything that could explode were its control software to fail.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by Gravis on Monday February 16 2015, @11:44AM

    by Gravis (4596) on Monday February 16 2015, @11:44AM (#145584)

    frankly, cheaper gasoline is NOT helping the planet. we need $5/gal gasoline to keep pushing us toward sustainable solutions.

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by khallow on Monday February 16 2015, @12:41PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 16 2015, @12:41PM (#145602) Journal

      frankly, cheaper gasoline is NOT helping the planet.

      Expensive gasoline helps it even less. Poor people are notoriously hard on the planet.

      we need $5/gal gasoline to keep pushing us toward sustainable solutions.

      There's nothing stopping you from paying $5/gal for gasoline.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16 2015, @01:29PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16 2015, @01:29PM (#145623)

        Poor people are notoriously hard on the planet.
        Complete and utter rubbish...
        One can only assume you are some kind of shill, as no-one could be that dense.

        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Monday February 16 2015, @02:23PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 16 2015, @02:23PM (#145637) Journal

          Poor people are notoriously hard on the planet.

          The reasons why:

          1) Poor people have more children than not poor people. Overpopulation is the primary driver of environmental problems.

          2) Poor people use resources less efficiently. For example, not poor people might use a natural gas or electric stove to cook food with very efficient supply chains. A poor person might use wood cut unsustainably from a nearby forest (wood smoke is also very polluting). Another example is that a number of practices require a fair degree of education such as disease avoidance or sustainable agriculture. Poor people are more likely not be educated enough to carry out these practices.

          3) Poor people don't have an excess of resources or wealth so that they can cut back for the planet.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16 2015, @07:12PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16 2015, @07:12PM (#145756)

            It depends on just how far apart wealth wise you want to compare.

            The rich use energy for much more than their essential daily needs. Luxury takes energy. Not only to use, but to make, and dispose of. Luxury is also VERY inefficient, it can afford to be after all.

            Compare that to the really-really poor, who have nothing to spare, and for whom all their energy consumption goes directly towards their survival.

            Consider the case of India vs the USA.

            India vs USA energy use [nationmaster.com]

            Most of those stats show the USA consumes betweem 5 and 19 TIMES the energy of India, despite having 1/3 the population. [nationsonline.org] (USA: 317 Million vs India: 1.2 Billion)

            The only reason poor people are hard on the planet, is because they have no other choice.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday February 16 2015, @08:17PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 16 2015, @08:17PM (#145796) Journal

              The only reason poor people are hard on the planet, is because they have no other choice.

              But that's it. Rich people can cut back, or distribute away more of their wealth should they insist on the status signalling behavior. Poor people can't. And something like a policy of making gasoline expensive doesn't impact the rich person very much. It's notoriously regressive. Such a policy tends to create more poor people with their lack of choice and societies with large poor populations tend to be very weak on environmental protection.

    • (Score: 2) by Daiv on Monday February 16 2015, @01:38PM

      by Daiv (3940) on Monday February 16 2015, @01:38PM (#145630)

      we need $5/gal gasoline to keep pushing us toward sustainable solutions.

      Please explain

      • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Monday February 16 2015, @01:57PM

        by Gravis (4596) on Monday February 16 2015, @01:57PM (#145633)

        when the price of oil/gas is high, alternative solutions arise because they become more cost effective/feasible. e.g. solar panels.

        basically, if you had a magical gasoline that costs twice as much but did no damage to the environment, everyone would still be using plain ol' gasoline.

    • (Score: 1) by Hyperturtle on Monday February 16 2015, @03:15PM

      by Hyperturtle (2824) on Monday February 16 2015, @03:15PM (#145659)

      The price of oil has plummeted quite significantly recently.

      Has no one considered that an insider has raised the ire of the oilmen and engineered this strike, in the hopes of raising the prices?

      I've always said this oil is worth more in the ground, and at the moment, that is very true. Due to contractual obligations, some wells are required to drill despite operating at near-loss or loss. They can't just stop drilling due to their contracts, written just before and at the same time all of the other companies were getting up to speed to make money on all that expensive oil in the ground.

      A strike is a good way to stop drilling without breaking a contract. I would not be surprised if it is 100% money related. Even the costs for safety, as seen in the articles, are having so many corners cut it's come full circle to beginners being back on the job, just like when fracking was new.

      If the money is followed, I bet the answer will be found where that money leads to. If someone researches who stands to gain the most from not drilling, that may be the source of this.

      Oil in the ground is like money in the bank, and can be withdrawn when times are good and saved when not needed...if not contractually forced to make withdrawals when the value is at the all-time low that this fracking method has ever seen...)

      That said, I do not work in the oil industry, and the folks striking may have genuine grievances. Unfortunately, I am more skeptical about the claims due to the repeated examples of there being a puppet master with something to gain lurking behind a curtain somewhere, pulling the strings and writing the news. Especially when it involves Big Oil.

      • (Score: 2) by Daiv on Monday February 16 2015, @04:06PM

        by Daiv (3940) on Monday February 16 2015, @04:06PM (#145679)

        All values of all commodities are perceived. Every business in every single commodity wants their commodity to be worth more for any reason they can grasp then shout from the mountaintops about how bad everything is and that it will now cost more.

        For a while, as gas was increasing through the upper $2 USD and into the $3 USD range, refineries were regularly shutting down for various reasons (maintenance, upgrades, Thursdays etc). Every time one was shut down, it was used to justify a rise in the price of oil, and thus gasoline. Ignoring that supply was still outpacing demand, they only focused on F.U.D. so they could justify price increases. They = commodity owners, "investors" (wall street) and media.

        This tactic is being used by internet providers (mobile and home), any real estate business, farmers, pretty much everyone. Strikes when oil is at the cheapest cost it's been in years are very conveniently timed and it seems like a no-brainer that this is the perfect time for an oil company to allow a strike. They now have someone to point the share holders to and blame them.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by khallow on Monday February 16 2015, @12:57PM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 16 2015, @12:57PM (#145609) Journal
    One of the things this strike brings out is that labor unions are exempt from anti-trust laws. I think removing that exemption would go a long way to fixing the problems with this strike.
    • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Monday February 16 2015, @07:17PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Monday February 16 2015, @07:17PM (#145759) Journal

      One of the things this strike brings out is that labor unions are exempt from anti-trust laws. I think removing that exemption would go a long way to fixing the problems with this strike.
       
      1: You are begging the question with fixing the problems with this strike. It could be argued that paying these critical employees more is completely justified and a strike is warranted. We don't have enough info to know for sure...
       
      2: A union is more like a political party than a for-profit business. Political parties are also exempt from those laws for good reason.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday February 16 2015, @07:23PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 16 2015, @07:23PM (#145763) Journal
        One thing that leaped out at me was that the union wanted to negotiate an industry-wide contract for three years. Imagine if Microsoft had ever attempted the same in 1995.

        A union is more like a political party than a for-profit business. Political parties are also exempt from those laws for good reason.

        See if you can figure out what that good reason is supposed to be.

        • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Monday February 16 2015, @07:33PM

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Monday February 16 2015, @07:33PM (#145768) Journal

          See if you can figure out what that good reason is supposed to be.

           
          They aren't businesses, that is why. How can a political party abuse a monopoly?

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday February 16 2015, @08:25PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 16 2015, @08:25PM (#145802) Journal

            They aren't businesses, that is why. How can a political party abuse a monopoly?

            You can answer this question yourself. There are a large variety of notorious examples, such as the 20th Century countries where Communism, Naziism, or Fascism were the single parties in question. These lead to totalitarian states, some of the largest conflicts the world has seen, and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

            • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Tuesday February 17 2015, @02:05AM

              by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday February 17 2015, @02:05AM (#145949) Journal

              First thing a totalitarian state does is to revoke the right to strike, followed shortly by the right to organize. You have heard of Solidarnosc, have you not? Businesses, or at least Zaibatsu, support totalitarianism for precisely this reason, as they in Japan, Germany, and Italy in the thirties. Unions are what save us from totalitarianism.

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              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 17 2015, @02:27AM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 17 2015, @02:27AM (#145957) Journal
                I note that here, our freedom loving labor union is attempting to bully the entire refinery industry into a three year industry-wide contract.
                • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Tuesday February 17 2015, @04:15AM

                  by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday February 17 2015, @04:15AM (#145979) Journal

                  And the entire refining industry is fighting back against it! This is called negotiations, and is the essence of a free market. Why are you in favor of slave labor? That is what a "take it or leave it" job market is, and as is being pointed out in this case, you really do not want the lowest bidder running a potentially explosive plant. Or do you?

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                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 17 2015, @04:39AM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 17 2015, @04:39AM (#145991) Journal

                    This is called negotiations, and is the essence of a free market.

                    It's not a free market. It's not even the essence of one. There's only one labor union because of legal protections of labor unions, including an exclusion from anti-trust law. And similarly, there are large obstacles to building new refineries.

                    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by aristarchus on Tuesday February 17 2015, @06:53AM

                      by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday February 17 2015, @06:53AM (#146024) Journal

                      Khallow, I feel like I should take you under my wing, show you the panorama of the history of class stuggle. As you may not know, I am a philosopher from the 3rd Century B.C. I actually came up with the Helio-centric model of the universe, but that is not what we are talking about here. When Alexander the Macedonian first rose to power I supported him. They said he would make the trains run on time! I had no idea what trains were back then, but what the hey! When he took over Persia, he declared himself a god. Pfft! Fortunately, he died young. Then the Romans came. Republican principles, in the old school sense of the word, so I went with them. And finally I supported this Julius guy. Brought order to Gaul, and at least he was not one of the Brothers Gracci! Julius had some problems, and his nephew took over, but in the end I had to admit that my support for the Imperiatum over the Populorum was a mistake. Then the damn Germans came. All kinds of them! Visigoths, Ostrogoths (as if they were fooling anyone, still Goths!), Franks, Lombards, Vandals, Saxons. I went with the Franks because they seemed to have a good head on their shoulders, or at least to still have a head on their shoulders. Charlemange was great. But it was a poor reflection of the glory that was Rome. And then we get into the modern period. I am skipping a lot, especially the Black Death, I lost three wives to that. I chalk it up to poor centralized government and not having an affordable health care program.

                      Things are hard to remember after that. I think the Turks took Constantinople at some point, but the people there were probably better off. I ended up in Germany following this guy named Martin. He had really good ideas about how people should be able to read and think for themselves. But when the did and attempted to throw off their masters, he apparently switched sides. So then to England, and from there to America, a new place (for Europeans) that showed promise. Yes, then ended up upholding the principles of freedom and threw off the chains of monarchy, but for some reason saw no problem in retaining the chains of slavery. So back to Europe,

                      After America finally rid itself of slavery by means of the bloodiest war yet fought, the ideas of universal freedom grew. It became apparent that the aristocracy that had been overthrown in the bourgeois revolutions had been merely replaced by the tyranny of capital. I would suggest you read economics, by which I mean "Das Kapital" by Karl Marx. The analysis is rather subtle, but it suggests that all history has been a history of class struggle! No having "been there" for much of that history, I have to concur. Slaves versus masters in the Greek and Roman (and Persian!) world, Lordeous revolutions had been merely replaced by the tyranny of capital. I would suggest you read economics, by which I mean "Das Kapital" by Karl Marx. The analysis is raths vs. serfs in the Medieval world, and now property owners vs. workers in the modern period of capitalism. This is where I started to realize that I had been backing the wrong horse throughout history! Hear me out as I explain why.

                      Communism is only the extention of the democracy of the bourgeois revolutions to the economic realm. It used to be that the ruling class made all political decisions, and these were often economic decisions in their favor. Revolutions such as the American and the French, and the Russian, took that out of their hands. But in the case of the Capitalist nations, economic decisions were still made, for the most part, by a small minority or capital owners. Not quite "taxation without representation", but worse, since it involved the entire economy. Now do you see how the organization of the masses, the majority, to force the majority to abide by policies that benefit the society as a whole is far from "bullying"? Perhaps you do not.

                      So there I was in Russia, the Csar had fallen, the Mensheviks were kind of whosses, so I backed Lenin. I still think it was the right decision. But the whole thing was wonky. Remember how I said that communism was the extension of democracy? Lenin tried, but the Russian people were still peasants, and ultimately, under pressure from counter-revolutionaries funded by the Capitalist West, he gave up. And when Lenin dies, Stalin took over. I left, as did Trotsky and many others. We had a new Czar. So that is what the Cold War was about. A totalitarian Capitalism, and a totalitarian Socialism, neither being what they claimed to be. Made me and others disgusted, and the whole Thermonuclear Global War just added to our alienation.

                      OK, but here we are! And this is where I want to give to you, Khallow, the benefit of my 2300 years of existence. No, I do not really exist, but I do exist as a user name on Soylent News, and the history is real if anyone cares to look it up. I have backed many losers because I thought that it took a strong hand to rule. After millenia, I realize that it is only by the concerted effort of a people that anything good gets done. And this usually is not the will of an emperor, king, lord, or captain of industry. We have to trust the rank and file, and they only have a voice again the powers that be if they form a united voice, a union. Imagine if the slaves of Athens or Rome managed to organize! Spartacus almost pulled it off. What if Martin Luther had sided with the peasants? And what if, in the modern period, capitalists were to realize that they are vastly out numbered, and that they have to negotiate with the rest of us, on our terms, instead of pretending our society is still a class driven oligarchy? Yes, the possibilities are endless.

                      And, my dear Khallow, since I surmise that you hail from the great state of Montana, I would remind you of your own recent heritage. Surely you know about Governor Meagher? No? Jeanette Rankin? The only member of congress to vote against two wars! Hurrah! Or Mike Mansfield, a great statesman and diplomat! Do not be mislead by all these apolegetists for the capitalist world order who come from California (resist the Californification of Montana!) or Colorado (only previous refugees from California) or any of those people who seem to be on AM radio. History, in my experience, is against them. We need to support unions, and support Farmer's Unions, bring back the Grange movement! Democracy is not democracy until it covers economic issues.

                      Alright, young khallow, I am tired now, it has been a long ride. I just wanted to pass on to you my experience through many millennia. I have been hoodwinked by smooth talkers, better than the Vienna Circle or Ayn Rand, and every time they have proven false. Go with the Union, because as Machiavelli said, all of us together can never be so wrong as one person by theirself.

                      Peace, my fellow Soylentil.