BP’s prior oil blowout in the Caspian

Posted by Christine, April 20, 2012

Investigative reporter Greg Palast reports:

Evidence now implicates top BP executives as well as its partners Chevron and Exxon and the Bush Administration in the deadly cover-upwhich included falsifying a report to the Securities Exchange Commission. 

Yesterday, Ecowatch.org revealed that, in September 2008, nearly two years before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP rig had blown out in the Caspian Sea—which BP concealed from U.S. regulators and Congress.

Had BP, Chevron, Exxon or the Bush State Department revealed the facts of the earlier blow-out, it is likely that the Deepwater Horizon disaster would have been prevented.

Days after the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, a message came in to our offices in New York from an industry insider floating on a ship in the Caspian Sea. He stated there had been a blow-out, just like the one in the Gulf, and BP had covered it up.

To confirm this shocking accusation, I flew with my team to the Islamic republic of Azerbaijan. Outside the capital, Baku, near the giant BP terminal, we found workers, though too frightened to give their names, who did confirm that they were evacuated from the BP offshore platform as it filled with explosive methane gas.

Before we could get them on camera, my crew and I were arrested and the witnesses disappeared.

Expelled from Azerbaijan, we still obtained the ultimate corroboration: a secret cable from the U.S. Embassy to the State Department in Washington laying out the whole story of the 2008 Caspian blow-out.

The source of the cable, classified “SECRET,” was a disaffected U.S. soldier, Private Bradley Manning who, through WikiLeaks.org, provided hot smoking guns to The Guardian.

The information found in the U.S. embassy cables is a block-buster.

The cables confirmed what BP will not admit to this day: there was a serious blow-out and its cause was the same as in the Gulf disaster two years later—the cement (“mud”) used to cap the well had failed.

Bill Schrader, President of BP-Azerbaijan, revealed the truth to our embassy about the Caspian disaster:

“Schrader said that the September 17shutdown of the Central Azeri (CA) platform…was the largest such emergency evacuation in BP’s history.  Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. … Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was ‘a lot of mud’ on the platform.”

From other sources, we discovered the cement which failed had been mixed with nitrogen as a way to speed up drying, a risky process that was repeated on the Deepwater Horizon.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the concealment of this information, “criminal. We have laws that make it illegal to hide this.”

The cables also reveal that BP’s oil-company partners knew about the blow-out but they too concealed the information from Congress, regulators and the Securities Exchange Commission. BP’s major U.S. partners in the Caspian Sea drilling operation were Chevron and Exxon.

The State Department got involved in the matter because BP’s U.S. partners and the Azerbaijani government were losing more than $50 million per day due to the platform’s shutdown. The Embassy cabled Washington:

“BP’s ACG partners are similarly upset with BP’s performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its ACG partners.”

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