In 2008, two years before the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP offshore oil rig suffered a blowout in the Caspian Sea. According to a new report on which was released today, the company had concealed the details of the earlier accident from the energy industry and the U.S. government. The investigation reveals a trail of cost-cutting measures and shoddy construction methods similar to what unfolded in the Gulf during 2010.

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A satellite view of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

The earlier blowout occurred off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan in September 2008. A cement cap failed to contain high pressure gasses and the result was drill pipe cement and other debris dispersed all over the platform. As workers were evacuated from the chaotic scene, a BP crew attempted to plug well bores with “quick-dry” cement, which failed while the platform became smothered in methane gas.

EcoWatch’s investigation of the earlier disaster started a few days after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began in April 2010. A worker who had witnessed the Caspian Sea accident contacted a reporter to share the details, but when a British team of journalists was sent to Baku, they were immediately arrested by Azerbaijan’s Security Ministry forces. The reporters were quickly released to avoid any diplomatic tangles, but two witnesses who had been at the scene had vanished and no were no longer in communication with the journalists.

Meanwhile BP had not notified the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) about the incident, a standard procedure within the oil and gas industry. In addition to working with Azerbaijan’s government to conceal the incident, BP withheld the information from the U.S. government as it lobbied with other energy companies for increased drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Testimony from BP executives to Congress included a statement that “releases from oil and gas operations are rare.” According to  Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, BP’s lack of disclosure about the Caspian incident and the cement failure could have proved deadly in the long run. Meanwhile BP still denies any responsibility for the incident.


Photos via Wikipedia (U.S. Coast Guard), Wikimedia Commons (NASA)