The World’s Biggest Oil Industry Scandals

What motivates the world more than oil and the mighty dollar? Nothing. With all the money that oil companies generate, their transactions can become as dirty as the oil itself.

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From foreign affairs and oil spills to national scandals between petroleum companies and high-ranking politicians, oil is an American necessity that is full of dirty little secrets that span over almost a century. Money can cause corruption and greed. And the world of oil is full of all three. Next time you are filling your H2 Hummer, these scandals will give you a new outlook on gasoline, making you think twice about what is powering your vehicle.

Nothing Like Good Ol’ Bribery

Call it the Oil Reserves Scandal or the Elk Hills Scandal, but this famous oil corruption is best known as the Tea Pot Dome Scandal. Occurring in the 1920s, this was considered one of the most greatest and lucrative scandals in American History: the secret leasing of federal oil reserves in Wyoming (Tea Pot Dome) and California (Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills).

Nothing Like Good Ol’ Bribery

The scandal took place during the short presidency of Warren G. Harding. Harding transferred the supervision of the oil reserves to the Department of Interior in 1921. That’s when secretary of interior, Albert Bacon Hall began to secretly (and illegally) accept bribes for exclusive rights to the Navy oil reserves. The briber came from big name companies such as Mammoth Oil Company and Pan American Petroleum Company. Hall became the first Cabinet member to go to prison.

Global Warning of Global Warming

Gas emissions are said to be one of the many contributors to global warming. Yet, even knowing about oil’s dirty hand in climate change, Exxon mobile looked to refute this information. Beginning in the 1980s until the early ’90s, Exxon had hired an army of scientists to study climate change in the Arctic for the future of their oil rigs in the ocean. What the scientists found was that global warming was a legitimate thing.

Global Warning of Global Warming

Of course, this information was going to hurt Exxon’s profits. So, what the company did, instead of lending a hand to the issue, was create a hefty campaign disputing that global warming was a real problem. This is a classic example of corruption from greed and money.

Oil Spills in Kuwait

Kuwait has a big hand in oil production. And the Iraqi Military Forces knew this as they set fire to over 605 oil wells. This, of course, meant oil companies would lose millions of dollars in wasted oil. But what is worse, is that this meant extreme environmental damage. 42 million gallons of oil spilled into Kuwaiti waters.

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The Gulf War Oil Spill is considered one of the largest oil spills in history, taking place from January 16, 1991, to November 6, 1991, with 60 miles of oil slick covering the Persian Gulf coast. During the uncontrolled burning phase from February to April, an estimated 70 to 100 cubic meters of gas was burned per day.

How To Clean

The burning was said to continue for two to five years without extinguishing. Some people had estimated that the clean up would take decades to achieve a complete recovery. But with 200 lagoons, a million gallons of sea water, and help from over 35 nationalities, the area was set to prewar and cleaned within 12 months.

How To Clean

Lasting one year opposed to 20, the oil spill turned out not to be as catastrophic as it was once thought to be. Even with a delayed clean up because of the war, foreign help made the clean up possible. Ponds were built in the desert by American and Dutch citizens, in order to store the oil that was pumped from the water.

The Macondo Blowout

Dubbed “the worst environmental disaster in American history,” by President Barrack Obama. Best known as the BP Oil Spill, occurred on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded one mile under water in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion caused 11 deaths and 17 injuries, with 210 million gallons intoxicating US waters.

The Macondo Blowout

Oil continued to seep from the well for five months. It was not until September 19, 2010 that the oil well was confirmed to be sealed. After being convicted of 11 counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors and a felony, BP Oil Company ended up forking out $18.7 billion in legal fees.

The Clean Up

BP Oil Company was said to refuse to spend $125,000 for a cement inspection of the oil rig. This may have prevented the colossal blowout of The Deepwater Horizon. To make matters worse is that BP was using a chemical called Corexit 9527 to clean up the oil, which ended up making matters worse.

The Clean Up

Marine toxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw, on BP’s use of the chemical: “They’ve been used at such a high volume that it’s unprecedented. The worst of these – Corexit 9527 – is the one they’ve been using most. That ruptures red blood cells and causes fish to bleed. With 800,000 gallons of this, we can only imagine the death that will be caused.” On 15 April 2014, BP claimed that cleanup was complete. Experts say otherwise.

Bribery at Its Finest

Unaoil. Ever heard of it? Probably not. Most people have never heard of this private oil entity from La Rousse, Monaco. But it is the ring leader to the world’s biggest bribes scandal. Owned by the Ashani Family, this company began in 1991, but was “allegedly” not involved in bribery until a decade later.

Bribery at Its Finest

The company thrived off bribery from 2001 to 2012 and is now under deep investigation with UK, USA, and Australian police. The business plan of Unaoil is to use fear as leverage, making large corporations, such as Samsung and Hyundai, think they cannot win contracts without the company’s help. So, they bribe the leaders of oil-producing nations to win over government projects, paying multi-million dollar amounts to high-ranking politicians.

Lakeview Gusher

As large as the oil spill was in the Gulf of Mexico, it was only the largest leak on a body of water. Taking place in 1910 in California the nine million barrels of oil gushing out to create a lake of oil, the Lakeview Gusher owns the title of the largest oil spill on land.

Lakeview Gusher

It was not always a lake, of course. In order to obtain the oil, drilling deep into the ground needed to happen. A piece of equipment was stuck inside the well which ended up causing oil to blast out from the surface at 200 feet.

18 Months of Gush

From March 15, 1910 to September 9, 1911, there was a healthy 18-month flow. On September 9th the well caved in, ending its own destruction. The daily flow of oil spilled about 18,800 barrels per day, and workers created a barricade to contain the oil in hope of salvaging it.

18 Months of Gush

Half the oil was able to be saved within those 544 days of spillage. The rest evaporated into the land. This created a tourist attraction that some consider as exciting as watching paint dry. Of course, Lakeview Gusher would have been a lot more interesting a century ago.

Ixtoc I Oil Spill

On June 3, 1979, Mexico’s very own Petróleos Mexicanos (or Pemex) had been drilling deep (about 1.8 miles) for oil in the Bay of Campeche. The drilling rig lost drilling mud circulation causing a blowout with three million barrels dumping into the water.

Ixtoc I Oil Spill

At the beginning, an estimated 30,000 barrels of oil leaked out per day for the first month. Then by the second month was reduced to 20,000 barrels per day. But it was not until ten months later the the oil was finally capped with mud and other “junk,” in March of 1980.

The Cleaning

With currents and winds aiming the oil towards Texas, the US government was given two months to prevent the oil from reaching the coastline. After the 10 month mark, Pemex had stated that half of the oil that was leaked to the surface was burned and a third of the spillage had evaporated. The rest was allegedly contained.

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Pemex forked out a handsome $100 million to help clean up their mess. However, being a state-run company, they were able to avoid most compensation claims by using sovereign immunity.

SS Atlantic Empress

The year 1979 was just a bad year for oil companies. First was the Ixtoc I malfunctioning and now there were oil tankers crashing into one another. The Aegean Captain and SS Atlantic Empress made a face-off in the Caribbean and the results became less than pleasant, creating the fifth largest oil spill in history.

SS Atlantic Empress

With heavy rain fall and fog, the two colossal rigs did not see each other until it was too late. People abandoned ship as there was not much else for the crew to do. The wreck caused over 88 thousand gallons of oil to spill into the Caribbean.

Preventing the Worst

“If we had rammed the other ship straight into the side, there would have been a big explosion and a 100 percent loss,” said Piskopianos Christos, the Captain’s second officer in command.

Preventing the Worst

With each ship towing a hefty amount of oil (200,000 tons of oil), results could have been far worse, environmentally speaking. The death of 26 crew members is what made the incident catastrophic. There ended up being very minor shore pollution.

Mingbulak Oil Spill

The early 1990s was another span of time that was not good to oil companies. The Mingbulak Oil Spill (also known as the Fergana Valley Oil Spill) became the worst terrestrial oil spill in the history of Asia in 1992.

Mingbulak Oil Spill

The blowout caused the spillage of 2 million barrels of crude oil. Eventually the oil flow stopped on its own. But the 285,000 tons of oil released makes this event considered the largest inland oil spill in history.

Nowruz Oil Field

During the war between Iran and Iraq in 1983, Nowruz became the battle ground of several oil spills. One spill, in March, was the outcome of a tanker crashing into a platform. The platform was attacked by Iraqi helicopters causing the spill to light on fire. The war between the two countries prolonged the capping of the well until September 18, 1983.

Nowruz Oil Field

Another nearby platform was attacked by Iraqi helicopters in March as well. However this one was capped in May, taking the overall damage of oil spillage to about 80 million gallons into the Persian Gulf.

A Prolonged Clean Up

Until the seven months of war between Iraq and Iran had ended in August of 1983, clean-up was unable to take place. It took two years to put out the fire and skimmers and pumps were utilized by the Norwegian company, Norpol, to clean up the mess. Eleven people died during this excruciating process.

A Prolonged Clean Up

The animals are what suffered the most. Ecosystems were ruined within the Persian Gulf, killing thousands of birds and mammals from the 80 million gallons of oil. This ended up becoming the fourth largest oil spill in history.

ABT Summer

Another oil spillage took place in 1991. The oil tanker MV ABT sank 900 miles off the Angolan coast. The tanker spilled over 80 thousand gallons of crude oil after an explosion occurred on May 28, 1991.

ABT Summer

Burning for three days before it finally sank on the first day of June, the efforts to pinpoint the wreckage were unsuccessful. Oil scattered across 80 miles of water. Since the leak took place so far away from the shore, most of the oil was expected to dissipate with minimal effects to the environment.

Exxon Valdez

One of the most famous oil disasters in history took place on March 24, 1989, in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The Exxon Valdez was a massive rig hauling a shipment of oil to Long Beach, California. The tanker collided with a reef and rapidly began spewing oil.

Exxon Valdez

The leak eventually dumped an estimated 11 to 38 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The Valdez’s secluded location made assistance difficult, and rescue efforts were severely delayed. One of the worst environmental disasters ever, the oil leak flooded 11,000 square milesof ocean water with toxins and killed massive amounts of wildlife.

A Repeat Offender

According to Greenpeace International, the environmental organization with a presence in more than 40 countries, Russia spills 30+ million of gallons of oil each year, and most of these spills go unnoticed by the world. The amount of oil that Russia pollutes the earth with annually is equivalent to seven times the gallons that flowed during the Deepwater Horizon crisis.

A Repeat Offender

The Greenpeace website says that the local oil companies run extensive PR campaigns that indicate “that oil drilling and production are absolutely harmless and will positively contribute to the overall development of the region and its infrastructure.” This secrecy is how four million barrels of oil make their way into the Arctic Ocean every 18 months.