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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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