InnoCentive Oil Spill Challenge – BP’s Response

dwayne_spradlin_blogHello everyone.

I wanted to give you all an update related to our efforts to assist BP with the Oil Spill situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

As you may recall, the most recent update was a contact and expression of interest from BP that was orchestrated by a combination of outreach from the White House, Anthea Stratigos at Outsell, our partner Nature, and general media exposure.  After weeks of no response from BP, this was indeed a major breakthrough and we thank everyone that made that possible.

Specifically, BP officials contacted InnoCentive on June 5th with a positive tone and apparent eagerness to work together.  Their initial positioning was quite surprising, stating that there was no real opportunity to assist with the oil leak itself, “ …that the next 3 main projects are already in engineering and build for delivery in mid and late June.  It is unlikely that there is space for delivery of further innovations in that arena before the relief well is completed in August.”  After two months of attempting to stop the leak, they made clear that outside solutions will not have a role in stopping or slowing the leak.

That said, they also indicated that two areas that they termed “real time problems” existed that would be vital to the clean up phase: remote sensing of oil and better skimming technology.  After discussions on the morning of Sunday, June 6th, our teams started working immediately as a top priority with BP in order to define very specific challenges to drive solutions to these problems out to our network and the rest of the world.  At the same time, we began indicating in the press that BP was responding to the need to engage outside resources in their process.  Later that week, we expected approval to post these challenges on our website.  Approval did not come and BP failed to return calls for several days.  When our contacts did respond, they indicated that were sent home for much needed R&R, but were now back and ready to engage.  Not deterred, we checked in with them nearly every day over the subsequent week or so until June 19th when they wrote us that they would not be proceeding.

Why wouldn’t they proceed?  Particularly when these ‘real time problems” were identified by their own teams as priorities?  They said that “… the agreements BP would have to enter into with Innocentive are too complex and burdensome to add to already overstretched workdays.”  These agreements are simple, allow us to use BP’s name without InnoCentive taking on liability, and set the price of engagement at $0.  Overstretched workdays?  Really?

My faith in BP was already stretched, now it is gone.  The teams at BP lack an urgency to involve the outside world.  They appear to actually believe they have this crisis well in hand while putting forth that stoic, concerned face we’re all now use to seeing – working around the clock and doing everything humanly possible .  BP is not the victim here.  A catastrophic leadership failure, driven by a closed and arrogant culture.  This does not bode well for the Gulf.

You, we and many others have attempted to help in this crisis situation.  It is clear BP cannot be trusted to make the right decisions here, further intervention will be necessary.  We are currently assessing the next steps on our end, but I wanted to make sure you all had the most recent updates.

Your assistance has been invaluable, but we are not yet done.  We may need to tap you for further ideas if we are all to make a difference here.  Thank you for your help to date and in advance.  We are not going quietly into the night on this one, not with what’s at stake in the Gulf.

Best regards,


24 replies
  1. Robin Datta
    Robin Datta says:

    Maybe Innocentive will rename itself as Naivetecentive. Most adults with half a brain figured
    out long time ago that BP does not want to stop the leak. Would any Innocentive member kill
    a cow that cost him/her 10 billion, would require another 100 billion or so to feed, but would
    yield 1 trillion or so in its lifetime? Just look at the lightning speed with which Obama
    accomplished the 20 billion ‘shakedown’.

  2. Krispijn Beek
    Krispijn Beek says:

    I’m not an expert here, but I’ve heard the same story of BP not responding to solutions offered from some Dutch companies working regularly for oil companies too (Sarah Palin’s ‘let’s call the Dutch’ wasn’t that much besides the truth… ). They’ve attempted to get into contact with the Obama administration, but it I’m not sure what the current status is. If you send me an email (which I suppose is visible for the site admins) I can get you in to contact with them. Perhaps that the combination of Innocentive’s crowdsourcing power and the reputation of the Dutch companies involved can give the needed breakthrough.

  3. A.S.Rao
    A.S.Rao says:

    This case only illustrates the challenge of Technology Acceptance. Taking it as `containing oil spillage’ makes it a short duration project of few months and trying out new ideas by engineering them and deploying them in field is stretching resources even for BP. But preparing for similar contingencies in future should be in the interest of BP. There would be (hopefully) sufficient time for new ideas to be developed, tried at pilot and ready for next spillage.

  4. Tom Kruer
    Tom Kruer says:

    From a totally objective viewpoint, can this lack of response by BP be explained as simply a matter of 1. lack of proper information flow and 2. inconvenient timing? Taking each in turn…
    1. Information Flow: It was clear from the very beginning that the Innocentive Solvers contributors did not have all the information needed to offer viable or vetted solutions to BP. For example, unbeknown to all, the BOP was apparently damaged in the riser collapse, making top capping the well very risky. In other words, shut it off at the top and the whole thing blows, making the current leak look like a drip. However, most of the solutions initially offered on the discussion forum dealt with ways to close off the leak.
    Side note: What I found encouraging was that many solvers submitted requests for more information to fully define the problem prior to trying to solve it. In this regard, the crowd was well ahead of the administration in its frustration over BP’s lack of information flow.
    2. Timing: If you look at the timeline, the Coast Guard took over complete authority for the cleanup about the same time as InnoCentive started offering help. As Rene suggests above, the ideas for oil containment and cleanup should really have been (be) directed to the Coast Guard and not BP… as BP was no longer in charge (still responsible for stopping the gusher and paying for cleaning up the mess, but they were no longer making the decisions as to how to deal with the cleanup.)
    So the question becomes… do we wish to focus our attention on offering viable, vetted oil containment and cleanup solutions to the Coast Guard and local groups or do we throw in the towel because “BP won’t listen”?
    The problem statement might now become… There are millions of gallons of oil floating in seawater, how would you detect, contain, collect and/or dispose of it in the most efficiently and environmentally friendly manner?

  5. Krispijn Beek
    Krispijn Beek says:

    @Tom: having access to the information flow is indeed crucial. Dutch company Mammoet does have a way to stop the oil, without letting the oil well explode. Mammoet says it has the technology in house to a put a new tube over the oilwell, with a connecting pipe so the oil can be captured at the surface. They say they can have it installed in two weeks. I’ve got no details, but I do know that Mammoet has a very strong reputation and track record (amongst other bringing the Kursk back to the surface).

    An article (in Dutch) with some explanations about the solutions proposed by Mammoet:

    Some other Dutch companies have proposed solutions for preventing the oil from getting in to the marshlands by making temporary dikes in the sea. As far as I know they are not yet working on that, but I can be wrong informed.

  6. Dwayne Spradlin
    Dwayne Spradlin says:

    Thanks to Tom, Krispijn, and everyone on this thread. Terrific comments. The issue now is that BP could not even move forward with the two problems THEY identified as vital in this cleanup phase: remote sensing of the oil and better skimming technology. I do not think anyone in the world wants the crisis resolved more than BP, but they need to get out of their own way. They haven’t been able to open up the process in terms of transparency of information, ideas to plug the leak, or even the cleanup phase. And it is not clear to me that USCG is active in the field as much as they are taking an overall coordination role, critical and not easy to be sure. So the buck still stops with BP. Now that said, I think BP is paralyzed on these issues. So our next step is working with the agencies, state and local groups where I suspect much of this cleanup is going to be managed. Stay tuned on that front. Onward!

    Best Regards,

  7. Tom Kruer
    Tom Kruer says:

    @Krispijn, thank you for the comments. Indeed, Mammoet seems to be proposing a different, more refined version of the top cap to collect the oil. I stress that their product does not stop the flow, which could do more harm than good… as we are now finally figuring out.
    Note that I cannot comment on why BP has not taken the advise fo the Dutch firms, or used their equipment, as I do not have enough information… which brings me back to the original point. Again, it is folly to assume we know the best course of action when all the facts are not in front of us, or get upset when our ideas which may be based upon possibly incorrect assumptions are ignored.
    Your second point is also in line with what now needs to happen. In my not-so-humble opinion, the Dutch companies you mention in your post should be contacting the Coast Guard, NOT BP, with their ideas for containment and collection, just as Dwayne and I are now suggesting. In fact, it would be more encouraging if the Coast Guard was already contacting them (of course, swallowing some pride for ignoring the help that was offered just 3 days after the original blowout.)
    Finally, I predict that cleaning up the mess caused by this disaster will ultimately rely on an “open innovation” solution. The Coast Guard is really not equipped to monitor and clean hundreds or thousands of miles of beach and marshland. Therefore, someone out there is going to grow tired of waiting and come up with a simple, safe approach which will be taken up by the grass roots volunteers on the Gulf coasts and Atlantic seaboard and put it into practice to save their livelihoods… regardless of what the government or BP say. Monitor or join the discussion forum associated with the DH challenge to see if this prediction comes true.

  8. JAJansenJr
    JAJansenJr says:

    I am totally unimpressed by BP and all others “responsible” for this
    disaster. There should be dozens of solutions tried ASAP. To date
    various solutions, providing varying degrees of effectiveness, have
    been tried, but – bottom line – dozens of solutions should be tried
    until the *%?!! leak is stopped and the oil remediated. I particularly
    worry about the relief wells not getting the job done. Work trying
    all possible solutions – in parallel – should proceed ASAP.

  9. Rich Collins
    Rich Collins says:

    After several attempts and several weeks of waiting for a response, I never heard back from BP. And to this date still nothing. They have their hands full, but it is unacceptable that they do not have the finances to employ enough people to respond to ideas which deserve even the smallest iota of consideration.

    However I did hear back from the US Coast Guard. Here’s what they said.

    Dear Rich Collins,

    Thank you for your submission to the Alternative Response Technology (ART) process for the Deepwater Horizon MC252 incident. Your submission has been reviewed for its technical merits.

    It has been determined that your idea falls into one of the following ART categories: Already Considered/Planned, Not Feasible, or Not Possible, and therefore will not be advanced for further evaluation. To date, we have received over 80,000 submissions with each submission receiving individual consideration and priority based on merit and need.

    BP and Horizon Deepwater Unified Command appreciate your contribution and interest in responding to this incident.

    Thank you very much,
    Horizon Response Team

    ………..that your idea falls into one of the following ART categories???????????????????????

    Gee after all the attempts I made I am given such an accolade. This response is pitiful. I wish InnoCentive all the luck in the world because I will not encourage anyone to send ideas to either BP or the Agency. Dam shame.

  10. Paul Wallis
    Paul Wallis says:

    This thing has to be stopped before it does permanent damage to the coast. Getting the oil physically out of the water, and preventing penetration into the low lying areas is critical. The possibilities are hideous. I saw a report where land teams are using shovels and garbage bags on the shoreline. Efficient, it ain’t, and relative to the incoming mass of material, never will be.

    80,000 people have at least tried to help. That ought to mean something, and it ought to provide some incentive, even for those “responsible to a degree”. Even madness achieves some sort of method. These guys are out of their league.

  11. Kimberly Wiefling
    Kimberly Wiefling says:

    From a public relations standpoint, this was a poor choice and another indication to me that BP doesn’t understand how they are perceived by the public. Innocentive is a credible source of external ideas for many companies, and even doing it “just for show” with one resource applied to review submissions would have been smarter than ignoring the help offered. And using the “burdensome” claim – really ridiculous, and now I won’t pay attention to all of their ads claiming that they care and are taking care of this situation. I’ve seen TV ads and newspaper ads that must have cost millions and taken many hours of work – money and time that could have been spent solving the problem. I guess they are relying on the short memory of the public. They have missed a big chance to gain thousands of supporters by participating meaningful with Innocentive. Duh.

  12. Larry
    Larry says:

    They are the result of a pathetic lack of regulatory control by the US government. In no way should BP been allowed to gobble and “merge” with US oil companies. Now we have this large and out of control and exceedingly arrogant mega monster who really doesn’t care about employees or the environment. I hope Exxon buys them and clean house.

  13. Knudson
    Knudson says:

    I don’t see anyone here talking about circumventing BP altogether… Seems extremist, of course, but the only way to stop the gusher.

    If their reserve wells fail and this thing is ongoing I propose a hostile takeover of the site and push BP off of it. Let real minds work on the problem, not those who prosper from it!

  14. TL Clayton
    TL Clayton says:

    Well, well. You children have run into the obstinacy of BP. Rather than impute dire motives to BP, let us recognize that ALL of the oil industry behaves that way. None of them want help from outside. All oil companys have a disease – NIH (Not Invented Here) factor. They are the Ones Who Know, which clearly makes them smarter then KNP (Know Nothing Peons). As a side effect, they aren’t very transparent, either.

    You, however, are children of a transparent age. Your company is built on that fact. Knowledge covers a broad area. Its base is broad, but only a few people know a small fact. When added in a pile those facts make an immense structure. That pile wouldn’t exist if there were no transparent communication.

    Whereas, BP and others of that ilk, live in the dark. There is no transparent open communication within the company. As a consequence, they won’t discover much. Time to push BP and its ilk aside.

    The governments aren’t much better.

  15. vanmaldeghem
    vanmaldeghem says:

    Ja—-,er is zeker een oplossing op korte tijd , ik heb iets uitgevonden , maarmee je het oil lek volledig kan dichten en ook de oil afvoer kan stoppen , ik heb rekening gehouden met druk ,diepte enz , ik heb nog een vraag je ,wie geeft het eerste moddel van afdichting gemaakt ??

  16. Joe Bee, DDS.
    Joe Bee, DDS. says:

    Gulf oil pipe attachment / containment solution “Chineese finger trap device”

    I believe this would work and the design may be refined by many including Naval Ordinance Lab who first designed nitinol metal.

    A nickel titanium expandable “chineese finger trap” device can be placed over the oil pipe and when over the pipe may be closed to direct the flow. It will not be blown off due to the venting thru the “finger trap” openings.

    The finger trap of its own my be designed to engage the steel sides of the pipe to keep it on the pipe

    A second stage pipe may then slide over the NiTi “oil finger trap”, this may then reduce the escape of oil from the NiTi joints / vents

    This apparatus may be attached to a pipe to the surface or then capped.

    I believe he finger trap will work because the pressure to dislodge is directed against the oil pipe
    retaining it all the more as an equal and opposite force (law of physics).

    My father own a bet with an admiral that he could stop a 6″ cannon shell within one mile, with a similar design, and he won the bet.

    I am not an engineer, I am a dentis,t but I feel this could be a temporary aid to control the oil leak until a permanent solution may be found.

    Best regards,
    Joe Bee

  17. Arthur Pena
    Arthur Pena says:

    Hi I have the million dollar solution for this well control to stop the oil flow contact me if you guarentee me this amount.

  18. Arthur Pena
    Arthur Pena says:

    Ok here the key we know Bp will not reward anybody for important info, I been in the oil patch since 1977, the only way to stop this is using the bop as the flange the top of these bop using the bolt holes on top using another valve installing it open will get it install with the help on them million dollar robot floating subs with their torqe arms then just shut the valve off and the gush stops, it takes common sense other book worms with no experience to think of!

  19. flores
    flores says:

    My solution ,that will not be considered, is to retrofit the containment cap with a bladder device that resembles a vehicle axle. The lower bladder would be the seal and the upper bladder would be different in that it would have mechanically attatched teeth around it, similiar to teeth on a pipe wrench. When the upper bladder is inflated near the collar, it would allow the containment cap to capture most if not all the oil and gas. Does anyone see a flaw in this solution?

  20. Vintage Furniture
    Vintage Furniture says:

    The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply