Apr 2012 19

by Nicole Powers

We’ve been busting out editorial for the SG Blog out of investigative journalist Greg Palast’s NYC office for the past few weeks and the continuing story of BP’s Deepwater Horizon blow-out has literally been blowing up around us after a whistleblower has come forward with damning new evidence against the oil company.

In a previous SG interview with Greg, we learned that the oil rig incident that occurred in the Gulf on April 20, 2010 wasn’t an unforeseen accident, as BP claimed, but was almost identical to a blow-out that occurred on BP’s rig off the coast of Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea in September 2008. The cause was the same in both cases: the use of cost-saving quick dry cement.

If BP had been more open about the incident in 2008, and had stopped using this “penny-pinching cement process” the worst oil spill in US history would probably never have happened and the eleven oil workers who perished on the Gulf rig as a result of the blow-out would most likely still be alive.

In a post published today on Ecowatch Greg writes:

We have learned this week that BP failed to notify the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) about the failure of the cement. (British companies report incidents as minor as a hammer dropped.) Notification would have alerted Gulf cement contractor Halliburton that the process of adding nitrogen to cement posed unforeseen dangers.

In fact, this past December, BP attempted to place the blame and costs of the Gulf disaster on Halliburton, the oil services company that injected quick-dry cement into the well under the Deepwater Horizon. BP told a federal court that Halliburton concealed a computer model that would show that, under certain conditions, the cement could fail disastrously.

Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it became clear that nitrogen-laced mud can leave “channels” in the cement, allowing gas to escape and blow out the well-bore cap. However, that would have become clearer, and risks better assessed, had Halliburton and regulators known of the particulars of the Caspian blow-out.

We have also just learned that the cement casing itself appears to have cracked apart in the Caspian Sea. The sea, we were told, “was bubbling all around [from boiling methane]. You’re even scared to launch a life boat, it may sink.”

This exposed another problem with deepwater drilling. BP had promoted Blow-Out Preventers (BOPs) as a last line of defense in case of a blow-out. But if the casing shatters, the BOPs could be useless.

BP has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the story of the first blow-out, and for good reason: If the company deliberately withheld the information that it knew “quick-dry” cement had failed yet continued to use it, the 11 deaths on its Gulf rig were not an unexpected accident but could be considered negligent homicide.

Furthermore, had BP fessed up to the past failure of their drilling methods when seeking permission to expand their drilling operations in US waters, their activities would more than likely have been somewhat curtailed. So instead, they lied by omission to our government under oath:

BP and the industry conducted a successful lobbying campaign to expand deep water drilling. BP’s Vice-President for operations in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress in November 2009, five months before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that, “Releases from oil and gas operations are rare.” Rainey assured Congressmen that reliable “well control techniques” such as cement caps will prevent a deep water disaster.

Rainey made no mention to Congress of the blow-out in the Caspian Sea which occurred a year before his testimony.

In the two years following the spill, BP has dumped a lot of resources into a public relations effort to clean up their reputation as opposed to the actual ongoing effect of the spill (we’ve all seen those very expensive and slick looking TV ads). It’s therefore no surprise that this week Al Jazeera posted a story about how the high incidence of “horribly deformed” fish found in the Gulf is alarming fishermen and scientists alike. Eyeless shrimp or clawless crab for dinner anyone?


About Greg Palast
Greg Palast’s reports can be seen on BBC Television’s Newsnight. He is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for investigative reporting, and is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse.

His latest book, Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Predators, which he describes as “a tale of oil, sex, shoes, radiation and investigative reporting,” is available now. Visit and for more info.

Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are the co-authors of a comic-style voter guide called Steal Back Your Vote. They are also collaborating on a new book and DVD entitled Election Games: Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, which will expose the one percent’s attempt to steal the 2012 election through “hidden cash and vote heists.” Support their investigation via Kickstarter here.

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