Despite lingering questions about the safety of deepwater drilling operations, the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan has agreed to let BP drill for oil in the Caspian Sea.
The deal is the first signed by BP’s new chief executive, Bob Dudley, who took over from Tony Hayward on October 1.
“We in BP very much hope that the combination of our leading technology and expertise with Azerbaijan’s experience and potential will lead to new discoveries in the Caspian,” Dudley said in a statement.
Considering that BP’s technological failures and lax enforcement of safety regulations contributed to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, their “expertise” might be a debatable attribute.
What’s At Risk?
The Caspian Sea is the biggest enclosed body of water on Earth, having an even larger area than that of the American Great Lakes or Lake Victoria in East Africa.
Due to its unique and diverse habitats, the Caspian Sea has become home to many rare species of flora and fauna, including the sturgeon fish, often referred to as a living fossil.
Although rich in commercially developable hydrocarbon deposits, the magnitude of oil and gas extraction and transport activity in the Caspian Sea constitutes a major risk to water quality. The proposal of underwater oil and gas pipelines only increases these potential environmental threats.
BP has been selling off many of its assets since it was ordered to foot the bill for the Gulf Oil spill disaster. However the company has maintained its Azerbaijan holdings, and even approved a $6 billion plan to increase offshore oil production in that country.
The U.S. Department of Interior first established a temporary ban on deepwater oil drilling on July 12. The current moratorium is set to expire on November 30.
Image Credit: Flickr - dsbnola