The BP Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon has been pumping oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly two months,BP stocks are plumetting and the gulf coastal region and it's inhabitants are picking tar balls off their beaches. But Scriptonite asks: what ARENT BP saying?
So what happened?
On April 20th this year, thanks to a bubble of methane gas, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off in the Gulf of Mexico exploded. Eleven workers (a.k.a people) died and a pipe ruptured, leaking anything from 12,000-100,000 barrels of oil per day into the sea.The estimate is so braod because BP refuse to let independant assessors measure the rate of the leak....cute.
That doesn’t sound good....but what’s the bottom line?
Well, ecological and socio-economic disaster in short. Tourism and fishing...pretty much THE Louisiana economy wiped off the map for a couple of years together with vital marine and fish stocks, animal, plant and bird life, including habitats and food chain devastation. To date, oilspill-kill found by rescue teams has included 594 dead birds, 250 sea turtles, 30 dolphins and other mammals, and 1 reptile and counting. It aint good.
So far the mass of oil has spread out to cover the surface of the Gulf between 2500 and 9100 square miles (that’s bigger than the surface area of Wales!). This doesn’t include dangerous underwater oil plumes which could be reaching out farther. What’s worse, is it’s already licking the coast of Florida where it will do exactly the same, and if we’re really unlucky and it gets into the Atlantic then all bets are off. The Gulf has the flow travel at about 50/60 miles a day and the Atlantic is around 100. The spill rolling into the Atlantic would be the equivalent of upgrading its wheels from a Nissan Micra to a Lamborghini Diablo.
What the f---?! Why aren’t they stopping it?!
In short, they can’t. Several attempts at closing the leak have been made from chucking a load of mud down the pipe (topkill), to sticking a tank over the top of the spill to collect the oil (it grew icicles and had to be ditched), to siphoning off the oil (providing some but not nearly enough relief), but none have as yet proved to be the long sought after silver bullet. In fact, most now realise that until relief wells are completed in August, the oil will continue to be spewed out into the Gulf.
This might push one to question how on earth any oil rig can be authorised without an answer to the most obvious of risk assessment questions ‘what happens if the pipe bursts?’
The pipe is 5000 feet down and BP seem to be incapable of dealing with it. So what was the risk assessment that let this happen? Well, BP told the US Department of the Interior that they didn’t have an answer as to how they would stem the flow of a burst pipe 5000 feet below the ocean’s surface except by building a relief well, an operation which takes months but reassured them that chances of this happening were small. The US Interior said ‘Drill baby, drill!’ That’s it folks.
What are BP saying about all this?
Chief Exec Tony Hayward has employed a number of incredible unsympathetic and irresponsible claims around responsibility for the situation.
First he blamed the owners of the rig, Transocean, saying "This was not our accident … This was not our drilling rig ... This was Transocean's rig. Their systems. Their people. Their equipment."
That failed so he tried to play the whole thing out as a storm in a teacup stating that the gulf is a ‘very big ocean’ and ‘the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest’.
Finally, he seemed to just give up caring and told the baying reporters in Venice, Louisiana ‘I’d like my life back’. Nice... like the eleven men who lost theirs when your rig exploded Tony?
Where’s Obama? I need Obama!
Obama has been all over the news and made several visits to the Gulf and Louisiana to have people feel like he is trying to get to the bottom of things. The normally mild and balanced behaviour of President Obama has been a casualty of this, as his ratings plunged amidst public outrage Obama stepped up stating not only that “He (Hayward) wouldn't be working for me after any of those statements." But went one further in recent days to say that he’s spending time in Louisiana and with experts on the subject ‘so I know whose ass to kick’.
He was successfully arrange for BP to be fully financially accountable for not only ecological impacts of the disaster but the socio-economic consequences too, including paying the wages of unemployed neighbouring oil rig workers to the jobless of the Louisiana and Florida coasts in the coming months. The bill for BP is going to be a whopper.
Sounds like they’re doing their best...why are they bashing our good old British Petroleum?
In three words: they have form! The mood music around BP has been, let’s say, ‘unpleasant’ for a while. You don’t need to do much digging around to see how BP’s attitude of expedience and cost savings over health and safety was absolutely responsible for this disaster.
Firstly, the US coastguard has issued 18 citations for pollution against Deepwater Horizon since 2000 and investigated no fewer than SIXTEEN fires and other incidents. It has been reported that multiple oil rig workers and managers aboard Deepwater Horizon had expressed concern about well control and gas pressure on Deepwater Horizon from 2009 through to March and April 2010.
In fact, the rig mechanic Doug Brown has stated on record that the well had problems for months and that the drill repeatedly kicked due to high gas pressure providing resistance. The levels of gas coming up from the well were twice as high as he'd ever seen in his career.
On the day that bubble of methane blew out the drilling pipes and exploded, BP had won the argument against it’s chief driller Drewey Revette, Doug Brown and other workers. The workers were concerned at BPs choice to use sea water rather than heavy mud to suppress gas. BP wanted to use the sea water as it was quicker and therefore less costly. BP won, Doug and Drewey lost. Drewey Revette died that night.
CNN provide further insight into the survivors’ story below.
And this was just the latest crap decision in a long line of crap decisions for BP as they continued in vain self interest at the cost of lives and the natural environment. The BBC reports that:
“In 2006, a US congressional hearing accused BP of "unacceptable" neglect of pipelines in Alaska after it was forced to shut down oil operations in Prudhoe Bay because of leaking pipes.
In 2007, the company was fined a total of $373m by the US Department of Justice for environmental crimes and committing fraud.
The fine included $50m relating to a Texas refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people and injured 170 more.
The largest single fine of $303m related to a price manipulation scam in the propane market.
Last October, BP was fined a further $87m for failing to correct safety hazards at the Texas refinery.
The company has also faced harsh criticism, from shareholders and environmental campaigners, about its plans to develop oil sands in Canada”.
They’re criminals! Why on earth are we supposed to be defending them?
In a word: pensions. The current share collapse of circa £45 billion from the value of this British pension fund favourite translates into the average £15000 a year pension dropping in value by £400 a year. The threats to stop BP paying this year’s dividend would also see £10 billion effectively taken from shareholders....that’s not the fat cats, that’s BP workers shareplan savings, that’s your Nan and Granddad’s pension. This argument completely ignores the fact that 39% of BP shareholders are in the US, so portrayals of this being US versus UK are really only for placating the ‘patriot’ vote in the US and avoiding political contamination in the UK.
Basically folks, they're saying 'sssshhhh or your pension gets it!".
Well, thanks for depressing me, now what?
Now we wait and see what happens with the rig and the relief wells and the ecology and economy and the FTSE.
That’s not good enough! I have to do something about this!
Glad you said that, because this situation calls for the kind of emphatic response that you need when disaster hits. Donate your time, your money or your expertise and make a difference....and follow the Scriptonite Mantra: Don’t get angry, get involved!
In the US?
Outside the US?