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Palast reports: "Two years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the US regulators and Congress."

Greg Palast uncovers the story of another BP oil rig blow out. (photo: Greg Palast)
Greg Palast uncovers the story of another BP oil rig blow out. (photo: Greg Palast)

Another BP Cover-Up

By Greg Palast, Ecowatch

21 April 12


wo years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the U.S. regulators and Congress.

This week, located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out which BP had concealed from government and the industry.

The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival. But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their fate.

One cause of the blow-outs was the same in both cases: the use of a money-saving technique—plugging holes with "quick-dry" cement.

By hiding the disastrous failure of its penny-pinching cement process in 2008, BP was able to continue to use the dangerous methods in the Gulf of Mexico—causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. April 20 marks the second anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster.

There were several failures in common to the two incidents identified by the eyewitness. He is an industry insider whose identity and expertise we have confirmed. His name and that of other witnesses we contacted must be withheld for their safety.

The failures revolve around the use of “quick-dry” cement, the uselessness of blow-out preventers, “mayhem” in evacuation procedures and an atmosphere of fear which prevents workers from blowing the whistle on safety problems.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “We have laws that make it illegal to hide this kind of information. At the very least, these are lies by omission. When you juxtapose their knowledge of this incident upon the oil companies constant and persistent assurances of safety to regulators, investigators and shareholders, you have all the elements to prove that their concealment of the information was criminal.”

The first blow-out occurred on a BP rig in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan, in September 2008. BP was able to conceal such an extraordinary event with the help of the ruling regime of Azerbaijan, other oil companies and, our investigators learned, the Bush Administration.

Our investigation began just days after the explosion and sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010 when this reporter received an extraordinary message from a terrified witness—from a ship floating in the Caspian Sea:

"I know how …. Would not be wise for me to communicate via [official] IT system, …."

When the insider was contacted on a secure line, he stated that he witnessed a blow-out and the panicked evacuation of the giant BP “ACG” drilling platform.

To confirm the witness’ story, British television’s premier investigative program, Dispatches, sent this reporter under cover into Baku, Azerbaijan, with a cameraman. While approaching the BP oil terminal, the Islamic republic’s Security Ministry arrested the crew.

To avoid diplomatic difficulties, we were quickly released. However, two new witnesses suddenly vanished, all communication lost with them, after they confirmed the facts of the 2008 blow-out. Both told us they had been evacuated from the BP off-shore platform as it filled with methane.

Furthermore, witnesses confirmed that, "there was mud (drill-pipe cement) blown out all over the platform." It appears the cement cap failed to hold back high-pressure gases which, "engulfed the entire platform in methane gas,” which is highly explosive.

In both cases, the insider told us, BP had used "quick-dry" cement to cap their well bores and the cost-saving procedure failed catastrophically.

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.

Kennedy told me, “This is a critical piece of information. The entire government is basing its policy on the assurances of this company that this process can be done safely and it never failed before. This is what they were telling everybody. Yet, the whole time they knew that this was a process that had failed disastrously in the Caspian Sea.”

Why haven’t these stories come out before? This week our witness explained that in Azerbaijan, “People disappear on a regular basis. It’s a police state.”

But even in the U.S. and Europe, BP and other industry workers are afraid to complain for fear their files will be marked “NRB,” for Not Required Back­­—which will end a workers’ offshore career. Jake Malloy, head of the Offshore Oil Workers Union, reached in Aberdeen, Scotland, independently confirmed statements of the whistleblowers. He noted that companies create an atmosphere of fear for one’s job with the “NRB” system and its latest variants, which discourage reports on safety problems.

BP refused an interview for this investigation, though the company responded to our written questions regarding the Caspian blow-out. Notably, the company does not deny that the blow-out occurred, nor even that it concealed the information from U.S. and UK regulators. Rather, the company says there was a “gas release”—a common and benign event, not a blow-out. As to the accusation of concealment, BP states:

“BP has shared findings from its investigation into the incident with the Azerbaijan government, [Azerbaijan] regulators, its partners and within BP.”

While BP says it issued a press release at the time of the September 2008 Caspian blow-out, the company did not tell the whole truth as reported by workers and witnesses.

The BP press release of that day admitted only that, “a gas leak was discovered in the area of” the platform when, in fact, it was an explosion of cement and methane, say our witnesses, “which engulfed the platform.”

BP later stated that all operations on the platform were suspended as a “precautionary measure,” suggesting a distant, natural leak. In fact, the workers themselves said that, like the workers on the Deepwater Horizon, they were one spark away from death, with frightened minutes to escape.

While BP called the evacuation a by-the-textbook procedure, in fact, said our witness, “It was total mayhem,” and that a lifeboat rammed a rescue ship in the chaos. U.S. government investigators in the Gulf cite BP’s confused and chaotic evacuation procedures for possibly adding to the Deepwater Horizon’s death toll. Information about the 2008 blow-out should have led to improved procedures and possibly could have saved lives.

More seriously, BP PLC’s official filing to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, which requires reporting of all “material” events in company operations, again talked about a “subsurface release,” concealing that the methane blew out through its drilling stack.

Both the safety of quick-dry cement (which some drillers won’t use) and deep water drilling itself were in contention before the April 20, 2010 Gulf blow-out. In fact, the U.S. Department of Interior was refusing BP, Chevron and Exxon the right to expand the area of their deep water drilling in the Gulf over safety questions.

However, 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.

BP itself states that if not for Halliburton’s quick-dry cement failures, the Deepwater Horizon would never have blown out. Halliburton defends itself by saying that BP’s methods created air channels in the cement that caused it to fail.

Notably, BP’s court Motion states, “Halliburton has deprived the Court and parties of uniquely relevant evidence.” BP claims that hiding the information about problems with the cement caused the loss of lives.

Kennedy suggests that if Halliburton’s withholding evidence was deadly, so was BP’s concealment of the cement failure in the Caspian.

Stefanie Penn Spear, editor of, says that BP’s hiding evidence ultimately led to, “The biggest oil spill in U.S. history. It entirely turned the Gulf Coast economy upside down and threatened—and continues to threaten—the health and livelihoods of the people in the Gulf region.”

How is it that a major oil disaster, a blow-out that shut down one of the world’s biggest oil fields and required the emergency evacuation of 211 rig workers could be covered up, hidden from U.S. regulators and Congress?

The answer: pay-offs, threats, political muscle and the connivance of the Bush Administration’s State Department, Exxon and Chevron.

For that story, read Part 2 of Greg Palast's investigation BP Covers up Blow-Out—Bush, Big Oil and WikiLeaks on on April 20.


Re-prints permitted with credit to and the author.

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic (Penguin 2011), which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry. Palast, whose reports are seen on BBC-TV and Britain’s Channel 4, will be providing investigative reports for your social media marketing partner


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+33 # lisamoskow 2012-04-21 11:40
Thanks Greg Palast.

This a very important story!
+31 # genierae 2012-04-21 12:04
Corporations have no conscience, they are destroying the very systems that we must have for survival. Is there another planet that they are planning to relocate to when this one is unfit for habitation, or are they just completely insane? Either way, the rest of us will be extinct if we don't wake up soon.
+23 # angelfish 2012-04-21 12:09
Is ANYONE going to be held accountable and FINED commensurate with the damages sustained? Ever? Hell NO! They're passing out new Permits as fast as they can print them! Their methods for dealing with these spills is NO different than they were THIRTY (30) years ago! We're done for!
+18 # PABLO DIABLO 2012-04-21 12:34
When do they go to jail?
+18 # Vardoz 2012-04-21 12:36
I think we all know that BP doesn't give a damn what they destroy or who they kill. The problem is, is that all our reps and the President are afraid of super powerful BP and oil companies in general. And this is a wide spread problem among all rich, abusive corporations. The fate of the world is in the hands of the polluters and there doesn't seem to be the impedous on the part people to protest in huge numbers. I know one thing we will Never go to Florida again. And perhaps a big boycott of Florida would have an impact and all sea food from Florida. The last time we were there on Prisitne Don Pedro Island across from Englewood, Brown foam was rolling up on the shores. there were dead birds and fish all around and we did not go into the water or drink it. BP has poisoned the area and all that oil is still there and will destroy and poison everything for generations. But BP does not care nor do any of the oil comes. They are on a suicide mission, they will drill till we drop.
+13 # radical2013 2012-04-21 13:24
Yeah here in Ohio they are doing alot of "fracking" that is not only pushing the gases up into the entire areas water supply for miles in each direction, but also setting off earthquake meters as if a earthquake just happened. BPs environmental damage in the Gulf and Coastline is way out of control that will effect the gulf, marine life, and people there for decades to come. Has anyone ever googled or looked at the EPA Stats on how much gallons of water is contamined by just ONE quart of oil??? Check it out it will blow your mind, and then think about what MILLIONS of BARRELS of oil did...
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-21 13:37
Yes a Pa person knowing the feeling
+18 # Vermont Grandma 2012-04-21 14:00
Life in prison for multiple homicides. Civil suits that leave all those responsible penniless. Dissolution of BP as a corporate criminal.

Even if all of these occurred, it wouldn't be sufficient consequences for the loss of life, the damage to aquatic and land habitat and loss of trust.
+13 # Eliza D 2012-04-21 14:46
Forty percent of all the shrimp sold in the US is from the Gulf, while most of the rest is from China. I doubt I will eat shrimp again in my lifetime and I'm wondering about fish too. Sylvia Erhle of the National Geographic Society says she doesn't eat any fish because "she knows too much" ( SciFry Fridays) In their race for profits, these greedy ignoramuses, like Halliburton and BP have just about destroyed our oceans, aided and abetted by our government. I don't know which is worse- evil or stupid. We must scream for alternative energy sources to our elected officials and pray that somehow the oceans heal if we humans STAY AWAY.
+12 # Liberalthinker 2012-04-21 15:42
IF conservationist s don't win over Earth's carpet baggers Ie: Halliburton, B.P.and the rest of of the avarice at the expense of our environment ,will turn EARTH INTO THE SCORCHED brown planet if they aren't stopped. Dreams of jail terms, indictments etc.don't appear to be a possibility since too many in
power seem to support their destructive acts.We CANNOT just "give up' and say "We're done for". SCREAM long and loud and don't sit idly by and watch our children's only planet be destroyed by greed ,stupidity AND EVIL ...Yell, people and bug the heck out of your elected officials , PLEASE
+2 # fobsub 2012-04-21 21:44
This may be the second planet this scenario has happened to. Could be thats how Mars got to be the way it is now. It was, after all, a live, thriving planet at one time.
+9 # jwb110 2012-04-21 16:10
BP is an Eco-Terrorist and should be treated as such.
+5 # tbcrawford 2012-04-21 16:22
Read Vultures Picnic...the man a raging genius we ignore at our peril
+9 # fobsub 2012-04-21 16:33
The test of a functional Democracy is the positive response of its government to major and reasonable outcries and protests of the owners of that government and in the case of the US the owners are the general public, supposedly.
Wake up people! You've long known your government has gone renegade,, it is not a Democracy. Constitutional, Democratic methods of recourse won't work. Protests, grumbling and complaining, even attempts at corrective legislative process are ignored or crushed. Words and Democratic procedures have no effect on walls and deaf ears except to irritate and produce harsh and often violent retaliation. Thats because our government and us are owned by corporations, ie we have no government of, by and for the people.
No amount of words and protests will change a thing. Only by destroying their $$ and economic domination of us through organizing and the use of their own methods, ruthlessly, against them will we reclaim our democratic government.
If we don't have what it takes to organize and act, then we need to shut up and enjoy what we get.
+7 # Vardoz 2012-04-21 18:01
And then there is this on the horizon. If the polluters continued unregulated they will and are dastroying us.


Isn’t this a news worthy story?

More bad news coming from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. While speaking to Swiss lawmakers last month – Japan's former ambassador to Switzerland warned that if the building housing reactor four at the plant were to collapse – as many officials fear might happen – then it would lead to a global catastrophe like the world has never seen before. According to a former official with the U.S. Department of Energy – if building four collapses – exposing thousands of spent fuel rods to the atmosphere- then it could trigger a radioactive fire involving 85-times more radiation than that of the Chernobyl accident. Our addiction to nuclear power has put our planet – and every human living on it – at risk today.
+1 # tedrey 2012-04-21 19:25
I foresee, but IN NO WAY advocate, the following sequence of events. The pressure will soon be too much for some previously subservient citizens. They will not be able to succumb quietly to the callous destruction of our lives and our world. There will be industrial bombings and assassinations. Many lives, guilty and inocent, will be lost. The government will then harden and retaliate indiscriminativ ely. This country, and perhaps the world, will go down snarling. The terrorists at the top of society, and those at the bottom of society, will catalyse to destroy us all. But the ones at the top have started it, and will most deserve their destruction. Which is small comfort for the rest of us. Again (since our communts are being monitored by our herders)this is a nightmare prophecy, not something I personally want to see happen.
0 # fobsub 2012-04-21 21:39
Don't be so paranoid, you give those clowns too much credit. Most of them can't even read and the ones that can are unable to hold their attention long enough to figure out what they just read. They rely entirely on the results of electronic keyword monitoring processes that were designed for them by normal people who were coerced into reluctantly writing the programs. I'll bet there were plenty of misleading bugs designed into them as well.
+4 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-04-22 00:25
Let me see if I get this picture right.
First you have BP, an 'oil' company that has been around a long time, and knows who's who, what's what and that's that!
Then you have the Halliburton company, which has its fat middle finger in every tasty pie**** and refuses to pull out until it is totally satisfied and sated.
Finally you have the Bush administration, with its wonderfully arranged set-up, whereby the self appointed Vice President, who just happens to be the 'former' head of the above mentioned Halliburton Company, pulling the strings of the puppet de jour, George W. Bush, as instructed to do so by his own handlers behind the scenes, who themselves have their own little secret handshakes, and eye-winking protocols.

Now isn't that special! Get the picture? Do we get the picture now, or do we need to get our rose colored glasses replaced with something that is crystal clear and unbreakable?
+2 # lin96 2012-04-22 04:40
If this information has trickled down to the people, it means that the President knows this, our Congress knows this, and every higher eshalon all over the world knows this. It means that the international financiers are in control and there is virtually know one who can control the financiers, except massive numbers of the people themselves. Romney, we know, is a small financier himself and he's not going to do anything about this. Obama can't do much about this because he's not powerful enough and they'd probably eliminate him as they did the last President who tried o something. JFK. Yet, if not attempting to do anything about this, everyone becomes a tout for the international financier who is changing the world for their own self-serving purposes. It will take millions of people banning together to thwart the efforts of the international financier.
0 # cordleycoit 2012-04-26 08:33
As usual the oil companies are without scruples,is that anything new? The blowouts are world wide the failure of current capitalism is world wide. Capitalism depends on shortage of keys to survival. People wanting to change this had best strike at the root. Think resistance, live resistance.

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