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Caspain Sea oil drilling blowout by BP, and others
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On two Gulf of Mexico and a Caspian Sea oil drilling blowouts. Because business performance of reviewed based on short-term profits, effective governmental oversight is required to protect the environment.  However, corporations operate to turn such supervision into a fašade, and succeed.  Over and over again the results are revealed.  Below are articles illustrating the results of unfettered capitalism.   

How little we know when we rely upon the corporate press.  BP had comparable accident in the Caspian Sea in 1985, and BP played a crucial role in the mess following the Exxon Valdez spill (bottom article).  BP had the contract with Exxon for to maintain the equipment in case there was a spill and to direct the cleanup.  BP gross violated the regulations and agreements governing the standby preparations.    http://www.rferl.org/content/History_BP_Oil_Spill_Haunt_Caspian_Sea/2052194.html

History, BP Oil Spill Haunt Caspian Sea

By Antoine Blua May 25, 2010

For years, the race to tap into the Caspian Sea's vast oil and gas resources has outweighed any desire to protect its delicate environment. All five littoral states -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan -- have plans to further exploit the sea's estimated 44 billion barrels of oil reserves.  Such projects mean drilling new wells, highlighting risks for an incident that could cause a catastrophic oil spill in the landlocked sea -- the largest inland body of water on earth.

Mais Gulaliyev, co-chairman of Azerbaijan's Green Party, tells RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service he has called for measures to prevent such a threat from becoming reality.  "The accident in the Gulf of Mexico shows us that such a disaster could happen anywhere. The United States, with its super-modern technologies, is barely capable of stopping this disaster," Gulaliyev says. "You can imagine the scale of the damages to the environment from such incidents in countries like Azerbaijan."

At least 5,000 barrels of oil a day have been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico since an April 20 explosion destroyed a drilling rig leased and operated by BP, threatening unique wildlife refuges, beaches, and fishing grounds along the southern U.S. coast.  [The 5,000 barrels is a company release, best latest estimate is 62,000 barrels/day—See Wikipedia bottom of page].

History Of Environmental Damage

The dangers of the Caspian Sea's oil fields gained international attention during the last days of the Soviet Union, when a well at Kazakhstan's huge Tengiz oil field blew out in 1985. The well burned for more than a year before it was eventually put out.  Makhamet Khakimov tells RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that little has been done since the incident in which 3 million tons of oil and tens of billions of cubic meters of different kinds of gases were burned, harming the population and wildlife in the Atyrau region.

Dozens of platforms are currently operating across the Caspian Sea, mainly in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, which have been the focus of Western investment.  Oil exploration and production work have also developed in the remaining three littoral states. LUKoil last month kicked off commercial oil production in the Russian sector of the sea, launching the Yury Korchagin platform. Iran earlier this year started drilling its first exploratory well in the southern Caspian Sea -- the deepest part of the sea -- to search for oil. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan is continuing exploration of Caspian shelf deposits along with foreign partners.  Environmentalists say investments in energy projects have often been made to the detriment of local communities.

On May 13, Kazakh Deputy Minister for Environmental Protection Eldana Sadvakasova acknowledged that with the oil price decreasing, oil-extracting companies had "stopped performance of some measures or postponed them for the later periods."  In February, a Kazakh court fined the onshore Karachaganak natural-gas venture, which includes BG, Eni, Chevron, and LUKoil, for environmental violations including excessive waste dumping. The village of Berezovka, which is situated less than 5 kilometers from the field and is exposed to the field's toxic emissions, has been fighting for justice for years.  Environmentalists say energy development is also threatening already endangered species of fish such as the Beluga, Stellate, and Russian sturgeon, the kilka (Caspian sprat), as well as the Caspian seal. In Turkmenistan, energy development is causing particular risk to the Krasovodsk Nature Reserve, home to hundreds of thousands of birds and more than 40 mammal species.

Greater Supervision, Transparency Needed


Energy firms operating in the region, however, argue that they are doing their utmost to ensure the safety of their infrastructure.   "I assure you that we have done and will continue to do everything possible to ensure the full technical security of all our operations in the Caspian," says Tamam Bayatli, public relations manager for BP Azerbaijan, which is involved in a number of exploration and production projects in the country.  "It has been and will remain our No. 1 priority to ensure technical safety and security of the people as well as to protect the environment."

Kate Watters, executive director of Crude Accountability, a Virginia-based nongovernmental organization that focuses on environmental justice, says the public should be informed about the investments being made and about the environmental and social protection needed to be put in place to safeguard the environment and the health of the local inhabitants.  "The oil companies need to be held to the highest standards, and those standards maybe need to be reexamined," Watters says. "We have a case [in the Gulf of Mexico] where governments are relying on the expertise of private corporations and putting at risk entire populations and ecosystems based on promises that need to be demonstrably fulfilled before a project starts."

Improving Regulation, Or Just Talk?

At a conference in Astrakhan on April 28, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said all work related to the development of fields in the Russian sector of the Caspian is being conducted "in strict compliance with international environmental standards," applying zero discharge technology. This means that waste resultant of production activities is not discharged into the sea, but is collected before being rendered harmless and reprocessed. Putin also voiced hope that companies from other countries operating in the region will join in this initiative.

On the regional level, the five countries around the Caspian Sea have ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, or Tehran Convention, and thus established a framework to jointly address and solve environmental problems in and around the sea.  But Watters is skeptical, saying the absence of public participation in the convention's preparation resulted in a relatively meaningless document.

As BP and the U.S. authorities battle to contain the spill in the Gulf of Mexico and issues of responsibility are being investigated, the U.S. administration has said it will review environmental procedures for offshore drilling.  And in Russia, the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, is considering the need for drafting a law on "environmental control and protection of seas from oil spills."  The head of the Duma's Committee for Natural Resources, Nature Management, and Environment, Yevgeny Tugolukov, announced the move on May 5 in comments on what conclusions Russia should make in the wake of the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  And at a cabinet meeting on May 4, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov instructed the ministries for oil and gas and for environmental protection to inspect the country's oil-drilling platforms.

But Crude Accountability's Watters doubts the Kazakh measure will be effective. She notes that while BP "has this reputation all over the world for having the best technology, for being green, for being sustainable," the company is responsible for the spill in the Gulf of Mexico "and had absolutely no plan in place if something like this were to happen. So we have no guarantees that any Western company working in the Caspian would act any differently."

So while Watters believes the Kazakh government is acting correctly, "my question would be: 'Do they have the capacity to take care of an accident, should one happen?' And I think the answer is likely 'no.'"

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani and Kazakh services contributed to this report

 

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/28/us/28flow.html?_r=0

Estimates Suggest Spill Is Biggest in U.S. History

 

By TOM ZELLER Jr.  Published: May 27, 2010

 

According to the Flow Rate Technical Group, the leak amounted to about 4.9 million barrels (210,000,000 US gal; 780,000 m3) of oil, exceeding the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill as the largest ever to originate in U.S.-controlled waters and the 1979 Ixtoc I oil spill as the largest spill in the Gulf of Mexico.[3][11]… In its permit to drill the well, BP estimated the worst case flow at 162,000 barrels per day (25,800 m3/d).[53]   Internal BP documents, released by Congress, estimated the flow could be as much as 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d), if the blowout preventer and wellhead were removed and if restrictions were incorrectly modeled.[70][71]  In   a telephone interview after the hearing, Mr. Markey noted that under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, companies face fines of up to $1,000 per barrel, or up to $3,000 per barrel in the case of gross negligence. For BP, he said, the potential fine for 1,000 barrels per day over 37 days of spillage would be on the order of $37 million at $1,000 a barrel, compared with $1.5 billion in fines for the upper estimate of 14,000 barrels per day at $3,000 a barrel.

 

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BP_oil_spill

The final estimate reported that 53,000 barrels per day (8,400 m3/d) were escaping from the well just before it was capped on 15 July. It is believed that the daily flow rate diminished over time, starting at about 62,000 barrels per day (9,900 m3/d) and decreasing as the reservoir of hydrocarbons feeding the gusher was gradually depleted.[11] [This is a government (political) estimate that like those before underestimated the flow rate—see Wikipedia for their chart showing a gradual increase in the official estimate from 1-5,000/day on April 24th to 62,000/day in the August 8th estimate.] The oil spill covered 3,850

2008 Caspian Sea gas leak and blowout

On 17 September 2008, a gas leak was discovered and one gas-injection well blown out in the area of the Central Azeri platform at the Azeri oilfield, a part of the Azeri–Chirag–Guneshli project, in the Azerbaijan sector of Caspian Sea.[285][286][287] The platform was shut down and the staff was evacuated.[285][286] As the Western Azeri Platform was being powered by a cable from the Central Azeri Platform, it was also shut down.[288] According to US Embassy cables, BP had been "exceptionally circumspect in disseminating information" and revealed that BP thought the cause for the blowout was a bad cement job.[287][289] Production at the Western Azeri Platform resumed on 9 October 2008 and at the Central Azeri Platform in December 2008.[290][291]

2005 Texas City Refinery explosion

Main article: Texas City Refinery explosion

In March 2005, BP's Texas City, Texas refinery, one of its largest refineries, exploded causing 15 deaths, injuring 180 people and forcing thousands of nearby residents to remain sheltered in their homes.[277] A 20-foot column filled with hydrocarbon overflowed to form a vapour cloud, which ignited. The explosion caused all the casualties and substantial damage to the rest of the plant.[278] The incident came as the culmination of a series of less serious accidents at the refinery, and the engineering problems were not addressed by the management. Maintenance and safety at the plant had been cut as a cost-saving measure, the responsibility ultimately resting with executives in London.[279]

The fallout from the accident continues to cloud BP's corporate image because of the mismanagement at the plant. There have been several investigations of the disaster, the most recent being that from the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board[280] which "offered a scathing assessment of the company." OSHA found "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation" and said management failures could be traced from Texas to London.[277]

The company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act, was fined $50 million, the largest ever assessed under the Clean Air Act, and sentenced to three years probation.[238]

On 30 October 2009, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined BP an additional $87 million, the largest fine in OSHA history, for failing to correct safety hazards revealed in the 2005 explosion. Inspectors found 270 safety violations that had been previously cited but not fixed and 439 new violations. BP appealed the fine.[277][281] (see #Environmental record).

In 2010, BP agreed to pay a settlement of $50.6 million for the safety violations that were not fixed after the explosion. In July 2012, the company agreed to pay $13 million to settle the new violations. At that time OSHA found "no imminent dangers" at the Texas plant, which is up for sale. Thirty violations remain under discussion.[282]

Lobbying

In 2009 BP spent nearly $16 million lobbying the US Congress.[298] In 2011, BP spent a total of $8,430,000 on lobbying and hired 47 lobbyists.[299]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ixtoc_I_oil_spill

Ixtoc I was an exploratory oil well being drilled by the semi-submersible drilling rig Sedco 135-F in the Bay of Campeche of the Gulf of Mexico, about 100 km (62 mi) northwest of Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche in waters 50 m (160 ft) deep.[2] On 3 June 1979, the well suffered a blowout resulting in one of largest oil spills in history.[3]

 

During the removal of the pipe on Sedco 135F, the drilling mud suddenly began to flow up towards the surface; by removing the drill-string the well was swabbed[clarification needed] leading to a kick. Normally, this flow can be stopped by activating shear rams contained in the blowout preventer (BOP). These rams are designed to sever and seal off the well on the ocean floor; however in this case the drill collars had been brought in line with the BOP and the BOP rams were not able to sever the thick steel walls of the drill collars leading to a catastrophic blowout.

The drilling mud was followed by a large quantity of oil and gas at an increasing flow rate. The oil and gas fumes exploded on contact with the operating pump motors, starting a fire which led to the collapse of the Sedco 135F drilling tower. The collapse caused damage to underlying well structures. The damage to the well structures led to the release of significant quantities of oil into the Gulf.[4]

Volume and extent of spill

In the initial stages of the spill, an estimated 30,000 barrels (5,000 m3) of oil per day were flowing from the well. In July 1979, the pumping of mud into the well reduced the flow to 20,000 barrels (3,000 m3) per day, and early in August the pumping of nearly 100,000 steel, iron, and lead balls into the well reduced the flow to 10,000 barrels (2,000 m3) per day. Pemex claimed that half of the released oil burned when it reached the surface, a third of it evaporated, and the rest was contained or dispersed.[6] Mexican authorities also drilled two relief wells into the main well to lower the pressure of the blowout, however the oil continued to flow for three months following the completion of the first relief well.[7]

Pemex contracted Conair Aviation to spray the chemical dispersant Corexit 9527 on the oil. A total of 493 aerial missions were flown, treating 1,100 square miles (2,800 km2) of oil slick. Dispersants were not used in the U.S. area of the spill because of the dispersant's inability to treat weathered oil. Eventually the on-scene coordinator (OSC) requested that Mexico stop using dispersants north of 25░N.[6]

In Texas, an emphasis was placed on coastal countermeasures protecting the bays and lagoons formed by the barrier islands. Impacts of oil to the barrier island beaches were ranked as second in importance to protecting inlets to the bays and lagoons. This was done with the placement of skimmers and booms. Efforts were concentrated on the Brazos-Santiago Pass, Port Mansfield Channel, Aransas Pass, and Cedar Bayou which during the course of the spill was sealed with sand. Economically and environmentally sensitive barrier island beaches were cleaned daily. Laborers used rakes and shovels to clean beaches rather than heavier equipment which removed too much sand. Ultimately, 71,500 barrels (11,000 m3) of oil impacted 162 miles (260 km) of U.S. beaches, and over 10,000 cubic yards (8,000 m3) of oiled material were removed.[6]

Containment

In the next nine months, experts and divers including Red Adair were brought in to contain and cap the oil well.[6] An average of approximately 10,000 to 30,000 barrels (2,000 to 5,000 m3) per day were discharged into the Gulf until it was finally capped on 23 March 1980, nearly 10 months later.[8] In similarity to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill 31 years later, the list of methods attempted to remediate the leak included lowering a cap over the well, plugging the leak with mud and "junk", use of dispersants, and spending months attempting to drill relief wells.[9][10]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California struck Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef and spilled 260,000 to 750,000 barrels (41,000 to 119,000 m3) of crude oil.[1][2] It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters.[3] The Valdez spill was the largest ever in US waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in terms of volume released.[4] … The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay oil field, eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline,[5] and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean.[6]  …. Alternative calculations, based on the assumption that the official reports underestimated how much seawater had been forced into the damaged tanks, placed the total at 25 to 32 million US gallons (95,000 to 120,000 m3).[1]

 

The captain was confirmed to be asleep when the ship crashed in Prince William Sound's reef. In light of the other findings, investigative reporter Greg Palast stated in 2008 "Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate never would have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his RAYCAS radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disabled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was [in Exxon's view] just too expensive to fix and operate."[15] Exxon blamed Captain Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker.

Other factors, according to an MIT course entitled "Software System Safety" by Professor Nancy G. Leveson,[16] included:

  1. Tanker crews were not told that the previous practice of the Coast Guard tracking ships out to Bligh reef had ceased.[17]
  2. The oil industry promised, but never installed, state-of-the-art iceberg monitoring equipment.[18]
  3. Exxon Valdez was sailing outside the normal sea lane to avoid small icebergs thought to be in the area.[18]
  4. The 1989 tanker crew was half the size of the 1977 crew, worked 12–14 hour shifts, plus overtime. The crew was rushing to leave Valdez with a load of oil.[19]
  5. Coast Guard tanker inspections in Valdez were not done, and the number of staff was reduced.[19]
  6. Lack of available equipment and personnel hampered the spill cleanup.[17]

 

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http://archive.truthout.org/slick-operator-the-bp-ive-known-too-well59178

Slick Operator: The BP I've Known Too Well

 

I've seen this movie before. In 1989, I was a fraud investigator hired to dig into the cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Despite Exxon's name on that boat, I found the party most to blame for the destruction was ... British Petroleum (BP).  That's important to know, because the way BP caused devastation in Alaska is exactly the way BP is now sliming the entire Gulf Coast.

Tankers run aground, wells blow out, pipes burst. It shouldn't happen, but it does. And when it does, the name of the game is containment. Both in Alaska, when the Exxon Valdez grounded, and in the Gulf last week, when the Deepwater Horizon platform blew, it was British Petroleum that was charged with carrying out the Oil Spill Response Plans (OSRP), which the company itself drafted and filed with the government.

What's so insane, when I look over that sickening slick moving toward the Delta, is that containing spilled oil is really quite simple and easy. And from my investigation, BP has figured out a very low-cost way to prepare for this task: BP lies. BP prevaricates, BP fabricates and BP obfuscates.

That's because responding to a spill may be easy and simple, but not at all cheap. And BP is cheap. Deadly cheap.

To contain a spill, the main thing you need is a lot of rubber, long skirts of it called a "boom." Quickly surround a spill, leak or burst, then pump it out into skimmers, or disperse it, sink it or burn it. Simple.

But there's one thing about the rubber skirts: you've got to have lots of them at the ready, with crews on standby in helicopters and on containment barges ready to roll. They have to be in place round the clock, all the time, just like a fire department, even when all is operating A-O.K. Because rapid response is the key. In Alaska, that was BP's job, as principal owner of the pipeline consortium Alyeska. It is, as well, BP's job in the Gulf, as principal lessee of the deepwater oil concession.

Before the Exxon Valdez grounding, BP's Alyeska group claimed it had these full-time, oil spill response crews. Alyeska had hired Alaskan natives, trained them to drop from helicopters into the freezing water and set booms in case of emergency. Alyeska also certified in writing that a containment barge with equipment was within five hours sailing of any point in the Prince William Sound. Alyeska also told the state and federal government it had plenty of boom and equipment cached on Bligh Island.

But it was all a lie. On that March night in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in the Prince William Sound, the BP group had, in fact, not a lick of boom there. And Alyeska had fired the natives who had manned the full-time response teams, replacing them with phantom crews, lists of untrained employees with no idea how to control a spill. And that containment barge at the ready was, in fact, laid up in a drydock in Cordova, locked under ice, 12 hours away.

As a result, the oil from the Exxon Valdez, which could have and should have been contained around the ship, spread out in a sludge tide that wrecked 1,200 miles of shoreline.

And here we go again. Valdez goes Cajun.

BP's CEO Tony Hayward reportedly asked, "What the hell did we do to deserve this?"

It's what you didn't do, Mr. Hayward. Where was BP's containment barge and response crew? Why was the containment boom laid so damn late, too late and too little? Why is it that the US Navy is hauling in 12 miles of rubber boom and fielding seven skimmers, instead of BP?

Last year, CEO Hayward boasted that, despite increased oil production in exotic deep waters, he had cut BP's costs by an extra one billion dollars a year. Now we know how he did it.

As chance would have it, I was meeting last week with Louisiana lawyer Daniel Becnel Jr. when word came in of the platform explosion. Daniel represents oil workers on those platforms; now, he'll represent their bereaved families. The Coast Guard called him. They had found the emergency evacuation capsule floating in the sea and were afraid to open it and disturb the cooked bodies.

I wonder if BP painted the capsule green, like they paint their gas stations.

Becnel, yesterday by phone from his office from the town of Reserve, Louisiana, said the spill response crews were told they weren't needed because the company had already sealed the well. Like everything else from BP mouthpieces, it was a lie.

In the end, this is bigger than BP and its policy of cheaping out and skiving the rules. This is about the anti-regulatory mania, which has infected the American body politic. While the tea baggers are simply its extreme expression, US politicians of all stripes love to attack "the little bureaucrat with the fat rule book." It began with Ronald Reagan and was promoted, most vociferously, by Bill Clinton and the head of Clinton's deregulation committee, one Al Gore.

Americans want government off our backs ... that is, until a folding crib crushes the skull of our baby, Toyota accelerators speed us to our death, banks blow our savings on gambling sprees and crude oil smothers the Mississippi.

Then, suddenly, it's, "Where was hell was the government? Why didn't the government do something to stop it?"

The answer is because government took you at your word they should get out of the way of business, that business could be trusted to police itself. It was only last month that BP, lobbying for new deepwater drilling, testified to Congress that additional equipment and inspection wasn't needed.

You should meet some of these little bureaucrats with the fat rule books. Like Dan Lawn, the inspector from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, who warned and warned and warned, before the Exxon Valdez grounding, that BP and Alyeska were courting disaster in their arrogant disregard of the rule book. In 2006, I printed his latest warnings about BP's culture of negligence. When the choice is between Lawn's rule book and a bag of tea, Lawn's my man.

This just in: Becnel tells me that one of the platform workers has informed him that the BP well was apparently deeper than the 18,000 feet depth reported. BP failed to communicate that additional depth to Halliburton crews, who, therefore, poured in too small a cement cap for the additional pressure caused by the extra depth. So, it blew.

Why didn't Halliburton check? "Gross negligence on everyone's part," said Becnel. Negligence driven by penny-pinching, bottom-line squeezing. BP says its worker is lying. Someone's lying here, man on the platform or the company that has practiced prevarication from Alaska to Louisiana.

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People get the government that they deserve. Politicans such as Bush are elected because if the common person was in office, he would become another venal politican