Secret U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that BP suffered a blowout after a gas leak in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan in September 2008, a year and a half before another BP blowout killed 11 workers and started a leak that gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
As cables about the 2008 blowout come to light, the Justice Department announced Wednesday it filed a civil suit seeking damages from BP and eight other companies for violating the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act.
In both the Azerbaijan blowout and the Gulf oil spill, BP blamed the accidents on a "bad cement job", the Guardian newspaper of London reported Wednesday evening.
The disclosure comes from the trove of secret State Department cables released to a number of news outlets by the document-dumping website WikiLeaks.
"Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was 'a lot of mud' on the platform, which BP would analyze to help find the cause of the blowout and gas leak," the September 2008 cable reads.
BP was able to evacuate the British company's 212 workers from the site in Azerbaijan's largest oil field in the Caspian Sea, the Guardian reported. Several weeks after the blowout, Bill Schrader, BP's chief in Azerbaijan, said it was possible BP "would never know" the cause, a 2008 cable reads, the Guardian reported.
A January 2009 cable reads: "Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. Schrader said although the story hadn't caught the press's attention, it had the full focus of the [government of Azerbaijan], which was losing '$40-50m each day'."
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