Mon Aug 20, 2018 | 02:07
Of BP, Total, Gulf of Mexico and the Caspian Sea
Thu, 06 May 2010 14:10:59 GMT
Font size :
By Arash Rezazadeh

The sinking of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig and the death of 11 of its crew in the Gulf of Mexico has once again highlighted the inherrent dangers of working offshore environments. Sadly, such incidents can occur at any moment in more environmentally fragile areas such as the Caspian Sea.

The environmental failure of BP in The Gulf Of Mexico has highlighted its inadequacies and put the future of offshore development in the United States under a cloud of uncertainty; however, these irresponsible multinationals will continue to work with impunity in other parts of the world such as the Caspian Sea.

Nobody doubts that offshore oil and gas operations are among the hardest, most perplexing and intriguing projects anywhere. They take place under harsh, taxing conditions in a variety of climates around the world, ranging from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico.

According to an article entitled: "Carry on producing," published in the March issue of Offshore Engineering Magazine "an offshore network of 7000 production platforms, 180,000 kilometers of pipelines and 40,000 producer wells" are already installed in various locations around the world contributing to the development of the world's economy.

The majority of these offshore activities take place in open seas off the coasts of the United Kingdom, Norway, the eastern coast of South America, West Africa, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, the Persian Gulf and Newfoundland in Canada. Despite this there are certain environmentally sensitive areas, such as the Arctic and Alaska, that are protected from exploration, pending further studies and technological advances. The Caspian Sea naturally falls under such category as well.

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has been dubbed a "potentially unprecedented environmental disaster [for the United States]." In fact, this disaster has many similarities to the disastrous mess created by Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

During that war, on January 21, 1991, Saddam's army in Kuwait opened the taps in the Sea Island oil terminal near the capital of the kingdom releasing vast amounts of crude oil into the Persian Gulf. Based on the "Congressional Report" published in 1992, an estimated 4 to 6 million barrels of oil were released into the Persian Gulf. Most of this oil eventually moved south and along the northern coastal areas of Saudi Arabia."

In his research paper, "Environmental Warfare: 1991 Persian Gulf War," Professor Paul R. Baumann of department of Geography at the State University of New York describes the flow of currents in the Persian Gulf as counterclockwise where the current moves the water coming through the Strait of Hormuz along the coast of Iran and then along the very shallow Saudi coastline. And these shallow areas are where most of the oil spill gathered eventually. He further elaborates that an estimated quarter of a million barrels of oil pollute the Persian Gulf each year and that "it takes more than five years to flush contaminated water through the narrow Strait of Hormuz."

In another part of his report Baumann describes the aftermath of the oil disaster saying that, with much luck, apparently half of the oil evaporated under the Persian Gulf's warm clime, and about 1.5 million barrels were recovered by the Saudis.

He then discusses the problems the oil spill caused when it reached the Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian coasts saying that the remaining 0.5 to 1.5 million barrels coming ashore jeopardized Kuwaiti and Saudi desalination plants, fouling nearly 400 miles of coast line, inundating salt marshes and killing wildlife.
Baumann also compares the similarities between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Mexico explaining that both have tropical temperatures, very warm nonturbulent waters with shallow sandy shores that are a much different marine environment to Valdez in Alaska.

Unfortunately this is not the case for the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is in fact not a sea at all. It is the largest enclosed body of water on the planet, a lake, and a very unique environment. In other words what gets into the Caspian, stays in the Caspian, unless it evaporates. This is why the Caspian Sea is so susceptible to environmental disasters.

Referring to the issue of multinational offshore drillings in the Caspian Sea as well as the proposal for the construction of oil and gas pipelines, on 9 June 2006, IHS Global Insight published an article informing, "Several oil companies with a stake in Kazakhstan's massive Kashagan oilfield are contemplating a US$4-billion transportation system that would carry oil across the Caspian Sea, where it could be exported via Azerbaijan and the 1,770-km Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline."
The report further explains "The four companies that have stakes in both the Kashagan project and the BTC pipeline - Eni, Total, ConocoPhillips, and Inpex - together hold more than 50% of the [oil pipeline] Kashagan project."

In another article, on 25 January 2007, RIA Novsti reported that according to Amirkhan Amirkhanov, a deputy head of the department for state policy on environmental protection in Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources any gas or oil pipelines in the Caspian Sea is environmentally unacceptable.
Mr. Amirkhanov further elaborated on the reasons for such opposition to the Trans-Caspian pipelines by saying, "This [the Caspian Sea] is a closed system, with no outlets to the world's oceans, and everything that happens there remain there." "This is a problem that concerns the future of the Caspian Sea … the projects could have dangerous consequences."

Having said that, many contributed such comments to Russia and Iran's opposition on their desire to have control over the flow of Central Asia's oil and gas from safe and economically viable routes passing through their territory.

Given the unique and fragile environment of the Caspian Sea and the occurring incidents such as BP's sinking of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the argument for the protection of the Lake and its environment far outshines any other arguments.

Your Name
Your Comment
Enter the code shown
terms of use

  • last 24 hours
  • last week
  • last month
© 2009 Press TV. All rights reserved.