Gulf Blowout was not BP's First Such Accident

April 20th, 2011
in econ_news

oil_rig_explosion Econintersect:  More than a year before the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, BP had an event on a drilling platform in the Caspian Sea that involved some of the same factors.  A September, 2008 blowout in the Azerbaijan region of the Caspian Sea involved a failure of the same quick-set cement that failed in the Gulf of Mexico 17 months later.  Why was no action taken after the 2008 accident?  It appears that the entire episode was hushed up.

Follow up:

According to a report by investigative journalist Greg Palast of Truthout and Buzzflash, BP has kept the full story under wraps.  Congress and U.S. safety regulators were never informed.  According to Palast:

As one memo marked "secret" puts it, "Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition." The Caspian oil platform was a spark away from exploding, but luck was with the 211 rig workers.

It was eerily similar to the Gulf catastrophe as it involved BP's controversial "quick set" drilling cement.

The question we have to ask: If BP had laid out the true and full facts to Congress and regulators about the earlier blowout, would those 11 Gulf workers be alive today - and the Gulf Coast spared oil-spill poisons?

The bigger question is, why is there no clear law to require disclosure? If you bump into another car on the Los Angeles freeway, you have to report it. But there seems no clear requirement on corporations to report a disaster in which knowledge of it could save lives.

Five months prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, BP's Chief of Exploration in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress against increased safety regulation of its deepwater drilling operation. Despite the company's knowledge of the Caspian blowout a year earlier, the oil company's man told the Senate Energy Committee that BP's methods are, "both safe and protective of the environment."

Really? BP's quick-dry cement saves money, but other drillers find it too risky in deepwater. It was a key factor in the Caspian blowout. Would US regulators or Congress have permitted BP to continue to use this cement had they known? Would they have investigated before issuing permits to drill?

Palast says the problem is less about BP as a "bad boy' and more about a system that condones silence, even when it involves life and death information.  

Sources:  Gregg and

Hat tip:  Naked Capitalism

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