The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Behind the BP Oil Spill:
The Drive for Profits

May 31, 2010

BP, one of the largest and richest companies in the world, shaved on safety during its Deepwater Horizon drilling order to cut its costs. As one example: the standard practice in drilling in waters that are more than a mile deep is to use two pipes, one inside another, as an extra level of protection against dangerous gases escaping from the well. But since these pipes are long and expensive, BP decided to use only a single pipe.

By mid-April, BP had completed drilling the well. But until the company could complete plans to pump the oil out, it decided to plug the well up with cement and abandon it temporarily. To make sure that explosive gas was not escaping, either out the sides of the well or up into the drilling pipe, the well had to be completely sealed in cement–a job that was done by Haliburton–and then tested. But to save time and money, BP drastically reduced how much it tested for escaping gases.

Only hours before the explosion, technicians said that one test showed that gas was still leaking. But the top BP manager refused to do more extensive testing, and instead ordered the final work to prepare to abandon the well, including removing heavy fluid from the drilling pipe and substituting much lighter sea water. Many workers are reported to have challenged the rig manager, saying they feared this would allow gases to escape and cause an explosion.

And that’s what happened. After the drilling fluid was removed, gas began to rush out of the well. As a final fail safe, workers hit an emergency switch to activate the blowout preventer, an enormous 450 ton machine positioned near the sea floor that is supposed to cut the drilling pipe and seal the well. But the blowout preventer didn’t work. It turns out the blowout preventer was known to have had many problems, including a history of leaking hydraulics.

The escaping gases ignited and caused an enormous fire that killed 11 employees, and caused the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

BP was carrying out the same policy as every big company. Just look at the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and how Shell has poisoned the Niger delta in Nigeria. All these companies maximize their profits at the expense of their workforce, the people in the surrounding areas, and the environment.