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Schlumberger: planet-killer

Cambridge's planet-killer

Fracking and tar sands extraction on unceded Indigenous lands?

There’s Schlumberger technology, making it possible.

By looking at payments by Schlumberger to governments around the world, it is possible to trace some of their most egregious activities. Their "Reports on Payments to Governments for the year ended 31 December 2020" reveals extensive fracking activity in unceded Indigenous territories. Alma mine in Wisconsin is on the unceded lands of the Menominee people. Monahans mine in Texas is on the unceded lands of the Jumano, Mescalero Apache and Lipan Apache peoples. The resource extracted at these sites is frac sand - a vital component in the highly destructive fracking process.

Tar sands are one of the most climate-polluting forms of oil. Schlumberger technology has been used for tar sand extraction operations in the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta, Canada, where Indigenous land has been consumed by vast open pit mines. Once extracted, these tar sands are transported away through pipelines, including several that run without consent through unceded Indigenous land, or threaten the land and water of nearby Indigenous communities. In a letter from jail following her arrest for nonviolent direct action against construction of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, Ojibwe Water Protector Tara Houska said, "It seems our water doesn't matter. Our physical bodies don't matter. Our rights don't matter. Our children's chance at a habitable future doesn't matter."

The ocean on fire at a Pemex oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico?

There’s Schlumberger, having “optimised” drilling performance and pipeline monitoring to reduce costs.

In July 2021, people across the globe were shocked by images of an eye of fire raging in the ocean. The cause of the blaze was a gas leak from an underwater pipeline connected to an offshore oil platform in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field, owned and operated by Pemex. Just one month later, five workers were killed when a fire broke out on another Pemex oil platform in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field.

Schlumberger has worked extensively with Pemex in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field.

A decades-long environmental and public health crisis in the Niger Delta?

There’s Schlumberger, kickstarting an oil boom responsible for more than $100bn of environmental damage.

The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is one of the most polluted places on Earth. With a life expectancy of just 41 years, local people are forced to pay the price for decades of exploitation by the fossil fuel industry.

To many, oil extraction in the Niger Delta is synonymous with Shell, due to the company's appalling record of environmental destruction and human rights abuses in the region. Schlumberger has worked with Shell in the Niger Delta since day one, when it helped to drill the region’s first commercial oil well at Oloibiri in 1956.

66 years later, Oloibiri's land and water are poisoned, and Indigenous Ijaw people are dying of tumours, cancer and neurological diseases as a result. Across the Niger Delta, affected communities have been resisting the fossil fuel companies who destroy their land and lives for profit. Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of the nine Indigenous Ogoni activists murdered by the Nigerian military dictatorship in 1995, said, "Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow."

Since their work at Oloibiri, Schlumberger has assisted a wide variety of fossil fuel companies on their oil wells in the Niger Delta. In 2014, they helped Nigerian Agip Oil Corporation (NAOC) - a subsidiary of the multinational oil and gas company Eni - by providing new technology to "maximise field production," while allegedly "reducing the environmental impact for multiple confirmed flowline leaks." This jargon obscures the reality that Schlumberger is happily enabling the continued operation of remote and hazardous wells where it knows oil will be spilled. In the four years following the implementation of Schlumberger's technology, Eni was found to be seriously negligent in its prevention and reporting of oil spills in the Niger Delta.

Court-halted seismic testing on South Africa’s Wild Coast?

There’s Schlumberger technology, endangering local communities and marine ecosystems with underwater shockwaves.

On 21st November 2021, a ship belonging to Shearwater Geoservices arrived on South Africa's Wild Coast. It had been contracted by Shell to conduct seismic testing in the area, searching for new fossil fuel deposits to extract. This process involves sending powerful shockwaves through the ocean and into the Earth’s crust, and is known to have a disastrous impact on marine life. The cacophony of blasting was set to interfere with the sounds made by whales and dolphins, as well as harming many smaller creatures.

The ship was Amazon Warrior, and the proprietary seismic technology onboard was Q-Marine. Both were sold to Shearwater by Schlumberger in 2018, as part of a transaction in which Schlumberger became one of Shearwater's co-owners. Q-Marine was co-invented by Schlumberger employee Dr Simon Bittleston; the former Director of Schlumberger Gould Research Centre, and current honorary fellow at Churchill College.

The companies showed no apparent concern for the environmental impact, nor for the Wild Coast’s Indigenous communities, who were not consulted before the seismic tests. Local campaigner Nonhle Mbuthuma said, "As coastal communities we have relied on the sea for centuries … our ocean livelihoods must not be sacrificed for short term profit."

However, not everybody was so willing to stand by. Groups including Extinction Rebellion Cape Town, Oceans Not Oil and the Green Connection gathered at Cape Town Harbour to tell the fossil fuel corporations they were not welcome. Next, communities along the Wild Coast took the battle to the courts. On 28th December, a High Court judge ordered an immediate halt to Shell’s Wild Coast seismic tests. While the struggle is not over, this victory represents a beacon of hope.

Drilling for oil in the Amazon rainforest?

There’s Schlumberger, facilitating the destruction of Yasuní National Park at the expense of Ecuador’s only remaining uncontacted tribes.

The Yasuní-ITT initiative promised to leave the estimated 850 million barrels of oil in Ecuador's Ishipingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oilfield in the ground. In return, the international community would donate half of ITT's predicted revenue, to support Ecuadorian poverty reduction efforts. However, rich Global North countries were unwilling to hand over just a fraction of the wealth they built from colonial exploitation of countries like Ecuador. In 2014, Ecuador's President controversially ended the initiative, opening up ITT to the fossil fuel industry.

ITT is located in Yasuní National Park; an area of rainforest more biodiverse than the entire North American continent. ITT covers ancestral lands of the Indigenous Kichwa and Waorani peoples, including Ecuador's only remaining tribes living in voluntary isolation. Kichwa tribal leader Holmer Machoa said, "If the oil companies come, they will cut and they will kill. They will be the destruction of the forest. They will kill the water and poison the land."

Of course, you can't drill for oil without infrastructure. But Schlumberger was ready to assist, providing technology for PetroAmazonas (now PetroEcuador) and Sinopec to "optimise drilling." Schlumberger later boasted of "outstanding drilling optimisation results" on ITT's first 100 wells. They even made the claim that the project had "zero environmental impact," despite aerial images revealing that PetroAmazonas has violated government-approved plans by constructing secret access roads - which are known to trigger a cascade of colonisation, illegal logging and over-hunting.

The largest accidental marine oil spill in history?

There’s Schlumberger, buying a company whose faulty technology contributed to the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

On 20th April 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform exploded. Eleven workers were killed and millions of barrels of oil from the Macondo Prospect spilled out into the Gulf of Mexico, devastating wildlife populations over a vast area of one of the world's most biodiverse marine habitats. Children on the Gulf Coast who were exposed to oil from the spill would go on to be 4.5 times more likely to experience physical and mental illness.

In the aftermath of the disaster, a court in New Orleans awarded a $250m settlement payment… to BP. This was to be paid by the oilfield services company Cameron International.

Cameron had manufactured the blowout preventer on Deepwater Horizon. This critical component was supposed to prevent oil spills. Instead, a United States congressional hearing found that Cameron’s blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a "useless" test version of a key component, and a cutting tool that wasn't strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil.

Schlumberger was so impressed by Cameron that it decided to buy it. In 2016, Schlumberger completed a merger with Cameron, and it's now a Schlumberger company.

We've barely scratched the surface of the trail of destruction left by Schlumberger. If there's a story about Schlumberger's ecocide that you think should be told, let us know at info@xrcambridge.org


Fracking and tar sands
Niger Delta
Wild Coast
Yasuní National Park
Deepwater Horizon

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