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Trouble on Oiled Waters–Halliburton, BP, Bush, Cheney and Blair

Comment: With the devastation unfolding on the Gulf Coast because of the gusher BP has unleashed on the human and marine residents of the area, it is worth contemplating the corporate elements whose actions have precipitated the disaster. The dubious cement installation at the failed rig was installed by Halliburton–formerly headed by Dick Cheney and the beneficiary of numerous lucrative contracts bestowed by the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan  (among other places).

“Halliburton in Spotlight in Gulf Spill Probe” by Margot Roosevelt; Los Angeles Times; 5/1/2010.

Excerpt: “Investigators delving into the causes of the massive gulf oil spill are examining the role of Houston-based Halliburton Co., the giant energy services company that was responsible for cementing the deepwater drill hole, as well as the possible failure of equipment leased to British Petroleum. . . .

. . . A 2007 study by the U.S. Minerals Management Service found that cementing was the single most-important factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico over a 14-year period.

Halliburton has been accused of performing a poor cement job in the case of a major blowout in the Timor Sea off Australia last August. An investigation is underway. . .”

In addition, British Petroleum, Tony Blair and George W. Bush are inextricably linked. A powerful Scottish family–the Gammells–have been cozy with the Bushes for decades. W has long been close to scion Bill Gammell. The land mark text Family of Secrets by Russ Baker details this milieu. (Read a mini-review of the book.)

. . . . George W. and Bill [Gammell] remained close, and the two talked the day Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994. The following year, Bill Gammell, whose company vice chairman was a former Labour energy minister, renewed his relationship with British Labour leader and soon-to-be prime minister Tony Blair.

Bill Gammell’s ties to Blair date back to prep school in Edinburgh, where the two had been friends and basketball teammates. Gammell arranged the initial meeting between the two world leaders, and Bush’s first words to the British prime minister were:  “I believe you know my old friend, Bill Gammell.”

W. would mention his family’s connections to the Gammells in a 2005 Oval Office interview with the Times of London. . . . He [Bush] discussed past business deals with Billy Gammell, an “oil and gas guy” who used to visit Midland, Texas, and became “a very successful entrepreneur.” . . .

Blair’s decision to back Bush enthusiastically on Iraq appears to have paid dividends. In 2008, when Iraq’s oil ministry began handing out no-bid development contracts to a select group, one of the lucky parties was BP–a company that had as much influence in the Blair government as American oil companies had in the Bush-Cheney White House. Blair surrounded himself with at least a dozen executives from BP. . . the prime minister maintained such a close relationship with BP’s CEO Lord Browne that newspapers dubbed the giant oil company “Blair Petroleum” (although some wondered if it wouldn’t be more fitting to call the British government the British Petroleum government.) . . .

(Family of Secrets by Russ Baker; pp. 434-436.)


3 comments for “Trouble on Oiled Waters–Halliburton, BP, Bush, Cheney and Blair”

  1. […] trouble-on-oiled-waters-halliburton-bp-bush-cheney-and-blair […]

    Posted by Gulf of Mexico oil spill: the environmental Reichstag fire of the century…or just a plain example of pure greed? | lys-dor.com | April 2, 2011, 1:20 pm
  2. There’s something absurd about the idea of drilling the seabed to mine for water. But here we are:

    Science Daily
    Vast Freshwater Reserves Found Beneath the Oceans

    Dec. 8, 2013 — Scientists have discovered huge reserves of freshwater beneath the oceans kilometres out to sea, providing new opportunities to stave off a looming global water crisis.

    A new study, published December 5 in the international scientific journal Nature, reveals that an estimated half a million cubic kilometres of low-salinity water are buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves around the world.

    The water, which could perhaps be used to eke out supplies to the world’s burgeoning coastal cities, has been located off Australia, China, North America and South Africa.

    “The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface in the past century since 1900,” says lead author Dr Vincent Post (pictured) of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University.

    “Knowing about these reserves is great news because this volume of water could sustain some regions for decades.”

    Dr Post says that groundwater scientists knew of freshwater under the seafloor, but thought it only occurred under rare and special conditions.

    “Our research shows that fresh and brackish aquifers below the seabed are actually quite a common phenomenon,” he says.

    These reserves were formed over the past hundreds of thousands of years when on average the sea level was much lower than it is today, and when the coastline was further out, Dr Post explains.

    “So when it rained, the water would infiltrate into the ground and fill up the water table in areas that are nowadays under the sea.

    “It happened all around the world, and when the sea level rose when ice caps started melting some 20,000 years ago, these areas were covered by the ocean.

    “Many aquifers were — and are still — protected from seawater by layers of clay and sediment that sit on top of them.”

    The aquifers are similar to the ones below land, which much of the world relies on for drinking water, and their salinity is low enough for them to be turned into potable water, Dr Post says.

    “There are two ways to access this water — build a platform out at sea and drill into the seabed, or drill from the mainland or islands close to the aquifers.”

    While offshore drilling can be very costly, Dr Post says this source of freshwater should be assessed and considered in terms of cost, sustainability and environmental impact against other water sources such as desalination, or even building large new dams on land.

    “Freshwater under the seabed is much less salty than seawater,” Dr Post says. “This means it can be converted to drinking water with less energy than seawater desalination, and it would also leave us with a lot less hyper-saline water.

    “Freshwater on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages.”

    But while nations may now have new reserves of freshwater offshore, Dr Post says they will need to take care in how they manage the seabed: “For example, where low-salinity groundwater below the sea is likely to exist, we should take care to not contaminate it.

    “Sometimes boreholes are drilled into the aquifers for oil and gas exploration or production, or aquifers are targeted for carbon dioxide disposal. These activities can threaten the quality of the water.”

    Note that the North East coast of Florida was one of the locations where researchers found a large coastal undersea freshwater deposit reserves. Perhaps we should be relieved that it wasn’t off of Florida’s West coast. There’s a lot less room for drilling errors on that side.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 9, 2013, 10:18 am
  3. This is kind neat: While the acidification of the oceans from all the CO2 we’re spewing into the atmosphere might increase certain types of deadly algae blooms, new algae-to-oil technology can turn algae into oil after ~30 minutes of pressure cooking. So not only is algae potentially an amazing carbon sink that could be used for CO2 capture to lower atmospheric CO2 levels, it’s increasingly a potent source of CO2 emitting biofuels. Yay?

    Industry Week
    Algae Based Oil Factory Opens in Brazil
    Jun 4, 2014 Adrienne Selko | IndustryWeek

    Solazyme, a renewable oil and bioproducts company that harnesses the oil-producing ability of microalgae, hit a milestone last week.

    “We are thrilled to announce the successful production of our first commercially saleable products at our newly-built plant facility in Moema, Brazil,” Solazyme’s CEO Jonathan Wolfson told IndustryWeek.

    In partnership with Bunge, the Solazyme Bunge Renewable Oils plant has produced its first products on full-scale production lines, including 625,000L fermentation tanks,” he added. “This marks a significant milestone for Solazyme, as we move closer to meeting the demand for revolutionary and sustainable solutions that the world so urgently needs.”

    The company created an industrial biotechnology platform that uses standard industrial fermentation equipment to efficiently scale and accelerate the microalgae’s natural oil production time to just a few days. The platform is feedstock flexible and can utilize a wide variety of plant-based sugars, such as sugarcane-based sucrose, corn-based dextrose, and sugar from other biomass sources including cellulosics.

    In other oil-related news, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board issued a recent report on the blowout preventer technology that failed during BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Their findings? Uh oh:

    BP Oil Spill Remains a Potentially Catastrophic Problem
    By Associated Press | June 5, 2014
    Last Updated: June 5, 2014 9:21 pm

    WASHINGTON—The key last-ditch safety device that failed to prevent the 2010 BP oil spill remains a potentially catastrophic problem today for some offshore drilling, according to a federal safety board investigation.

    The report issued Thursday by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board details the multiple failures and improper testing of the blowout preventer and blames bad management and operations for the breakdown. They found faulty wiring, a dead battery and a bent pipe in the hulking device.

    “The problems with this blowout preventer were worse than we understood,” safety board managing director Daniel Horowitz said in an interview. “And there are still hazards out there that need to be improved if we are to prevent this from happening again.”

    The safety board, like the National Transportation Safety Board, can investigate but has no regulatory power. It recommended new safety standards and regulations in its report.

    If the offshore oil drilling industry doesn’t adopt them and regulators don’t tighten up oversight of these devices, it “opens the possibility of another catastrophic accident,” lead investigator Cheryl MacKenzie said at a news conference Thursday.

    But investigators also noted that the industry is working on new designs that could fix many of the problems the safety board outlined. And the American Petroleum Institute issued a statement saying the report “ignores the tremendous strides made to enhance the safety of offshore operations.”

    The nation’s worst offshore oil spill followed an explosion that killed 11 workers at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The blowout preventer anchored to the top of the underwater well should have stopped the leak.

    In such emergencies, the device uses multiple mechanisms — including clamps and quick-release blades — to try to choke off the oil flowing up from a pipe and disconnect the rig from the well. It can operate automatically when pressure or electricity is cut off or manually.

    The one that failed was 9 years old, nearly 57 feet tall and weighed about 400 tons. After it broke down, an estimated 172 million gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf for 87 days.

    Robert Bea, a professor of engineering and expert in oil pipelines at the University of California Berkeley, praised the report and said blowout preventers are like cruise ship lifeboats, used only in last resort but crucial. In this case, and potentially in some others still out there, a blowout preventer may be “deeply flawed” or full of holes, said Bea, who was not involved in the new study.

    Various investigations have found that the cause of the initial explosion involved multiple screw-ups with cement, drilling mud, fluid pressure, botched tests, management problems and poor decisions. The blowout preventer sealed the well temporarily, but then it failed and that caused the massive spill, the new 166-page report found.

    The report faulted well owner BP and rig operator Transocean. The problem, said safety board investigator Mary Beth Mulcahy, was that they didn’t test the blowout preventer’s individual safety systems but the device as a whole. It turned out there were two sets of faulty wiring that caused problems and a dead battery.

    Mulcahy said the companies were following a testing standard set by the industry, not the individual testing suggested by the manufacturer.

    The safety board also found that the drill pipe in the mechanism bent far earlier in the accident and from a different cause than determined by a presidential oil spill commission. It is the type of bending that could happen even if operators are doing everything right, Mulcahy said.

    The board said the same device design is being used on at least 30 rigs worldwide and some general problems with operations and testing could affect other types of preventers.

    Donald Boesch, a University of Maryland professor who was on the presidential oil spill commission, agreed with the latest investigation. He said the chemical safety board was able to do what his board didn’t do, a hands-on testing of the device.

    “The board said the same device design is being used on at least 30 rigs worldwide and some general problems with operations and testing could affect other types of preventers.” Well, it looks like another preemptive mass apology to the future may be in order. We’re sorry! We’re Sorry!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 9, 2014, 6:46 pm

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