BP's Gulf Gusher, 'I've seen this movie before', 8 months ago

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  • Posted on: 7 May 2010
  • By: Unenergy

From a highly recommended article : 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)."

Greg Palast writes above about a failure to contain the leaking oil from the Exxon Valdez, however we have also seen the movie of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe before.
Similar conditions leading up to what caused the leak at Deepwater Horizon happened not 8 months ago in Australian waters.

On 21 August 2009, West Atlas oil rig owned and operated by Thai company PTTEP Australasia drilling in the Montara oil field offshore 200km from Broome, a West Australian town famous for its pearling and tourist industry, suffered a failure.

All 69 people aboard Seadrill jackup West Atlas have been evacuated following an oil and gas leak.

In the immediate aftermath of the oil leak beginning the company appeared to not know exactly what had happened or was less than transparent in their disclosure to authorities.

22 August 2009
Unanswered questions about WA Oil spill
... it says it doesn't know how or when the leak can be shut down.
There's limited information, it seems the Federal Government's relying no statements from the company. The company doesn't appear to be sharing the full amount of information.

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With enormous amounts of money being made in the oil and gas industry one would think emergency response capability would be well resourced. Highly trained teams with enough equipment to deal with a worst case scenario, ready to mobilize at a moments notice.

Exxon Valdez

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.

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.

BP's Alyeska group claimed it had these full-time, oil spill response crews.
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.

West Atlas, Montara

And on top of that it appears that planes with chemical dispersant aren't going to arrive on site until at least 24 hours after the leak occurred

Chemical dispersant will be carried on planes and sprayed over the spill. The dispersant had to be flown up from Victoria.

Note that this is literally from one side of Australia to the other, about 4,400km or 2,700 miles.
Or if you like, equivalent distance from Los Angeles to New York.
When you consider that this is Australia's largest resources development project accounting for at least 40% of the country's production, to not be able to deal with an uncontrolled event such as this is reason for concern.

Deepwater Horizon

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?

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The 'movie' similarities don't end there between the two rig based leaks, as we look at the timeline of the West Atlas catastrophe.

21 August 2009
West Atlas mobile rig began leaking oil

23 August 2009
Timor Sea oil leak fix 'days away'

24 August 2009
No prior problems reported on oil leak rig

25 August 2009
Woodside offers to help clean up oil spill
"We've got a rig they can take if they want a rig."

26 August 2009
West Triton on its way to Montara
The West Triton rig, was towed from Singapore

31 August 2009
PTTEP Australasia has rejected Woodside Resources’ offer to cap the oil leaking from the West Atlas Rig.

6 September 2009
Oil spill relief drill rig delayed after tow line breaks

11 September 2009
Finally, help arrives at stricken West Atlas oil rig
Photobucket

6 October 2009
First attempt to plug oil leak fails

14 October 2009
Second attempt to plug oil leak fails

17 October 2009
Third attempt to plug leaking West Atlas oil well fails

23 October 2009
Oil leak 'worse than feared'

24 October 2009
Fourth attempt to plug oil leak planned for Sunday

30 October 2009
Two more weeks to plug Timor Sea spill

2 November 2009
'Disaster movie': fire breaks out on leaking oil rig

3 November 2009
West Atlas oil rig fire extinguished

As with BP's limited and very controlled release of information over Deepwater Horizon, West Atlas spurred it's own commentators analyzing what might have gone wrong and why.

But the reality is that this disaster was waiting to happen since before the well was spudded-in, even before the drill first turned! The waiting-to-happen disaster was caused by either the lack of a blowout preventer or the installation and poor maintenance of a cheap-jack preventer. That anybody should tolerate such a calamity is an indictment of the Australian government, as the regulator, the lackadaisical attitude of the lessor of the drilling site and the poor operating environment in which the rig was working.

How did the well finally get stopped?

On November 3, 2009, the fifth attempt to stop the oil leak succeeded.
Approximately 3,400 barrels of heavy mud were pumped down the relief well which intercepted the leaking well on November 1, 2009. PTTEP continued to pump a mixture of light mud and brine into the relief to maintain a stable condition. Since the leak had been killed, the main fire on the rig had also extinguished.

This is precisely what they are attempting to do with the bore at Deepwater Horizon. Drill an intersect to the well and pump heavy mud to stop the flow of oil and gas.
Photobucket
Times Picayune

With the uncontrolled well having just been capped at West Atlas, at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last November the risk of this happening at Deepwater Horizon was discussed.

Mary Landrieu Minimized Potential For Spill And Impact Of Damage (VIDEO)
You said it was the largest spill in Australia's history. It's true. It leaked 823,000 gallons of oil. As Mr. Cruickshank testified, it wouldn't even be allowed in this country because it doesn't stand up to our strict environmental rules.

I mean, just the gallons are so minuscule compared to the benefits of U.S. strength and security, the benefits of job creation and energy security. So while there are risks associated with everything, I think you understand that they are quite, quite minimal.

As Greg Palast writes about BP, Exxon Valdez Spill and Deepwater Horizon Gulf Gusher :

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.

Certainly at the enquiry in Australia serious questions were raised as to whether the level of oversight and preparedness from all parties was appropriate.

PTTEP greed blamed for oil catastrophe
Drilling plan cut corners, inquiry told
Good oilfield practice not followed, inquiry told
Safety measures approved in 30 minutes
Timor Sea, the voiceless
Miscalculation and lack of support in oil disaster
Montara crew 'not told to install cap'

I'll end with two things.
First it appears, as Mr Palast points out, that having had eight years of oil industry executives in the United States administration, that these extractive industries, as we must include coal and mining in general, have used their influence to capture the flag as it were. Our politicians to such an extent compromised that ineffective regulation is being adopted. These companies are not only saving money where they should not, downplaying the risk of something going wrong, but also not preparing for a failure.
Even when a failure of epic proportions happens, as did with West Atlas in Australia 8 months ago, nothing gets changed. No lessons are learned.

So I ask, with addressing climate change now becoming completely political rather than fact based and heeding the warnings of America's and Australia's very top scientists, and incidents like West Atlas and Deepwater coming just months apart, where are the leaders looking out to protect the people in the countries they represent?
Scientists issue powerful statement
Chief scientist backs climate action

Second, I'll leave you with this video which further convinces me that we are not seeing the complete picture from the bottom of the sea floor.
Gulf Gusher - Where are the photos?

Complete Video of oil leak

I don't know about you, but a sadness has settled over me in the past week, one that I don't know how to shake. That our politicians have an inclination of how much danger we are all in from things we can change, but yet have sold us out. That we have elected them to protect us from these clear and present dangers, and they are not just looking the other way, but knowingly and actively contributing to the danger increasing.