Could Secret Saudi 1993 Oil Spill Hold Fix for Gulf Slick?

Posted on June 6, 2010


 Even as proposals pour in for cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, one veteran of a massive (and secret) crude spill in the Persian Gulf says he has a tried-and-true solution.

Now if only the people who could make it happen would return his calls.

“No one’s listening,” says Nick Pozzi, who was an engineer with Saudi Aramco in the Middle East when he says an accident there in 1993 generated a spill far larger than anything the United States has ever seen.

According to Pozzi, that mishap, kept under wraps for close to two decades and first reported by Esquire, dumped nearly 800 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf, which would make it more than 70 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

But remarkably, by employing a fleet of empty supertankers to suck crude off the water’s surface, Pozzi’s team was not only able to clean up the spill, but also salvage 85 percent of the oil, he says. 

“We took [the oil] out of the water so it would save the environment off the Arabian Gulf, and then we put it into tanks until we could figure out how to clean it,” he told AOL News.

While BP, the oil giant at the center of the recent accident, works to stanch the leak from the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, Pozzi insists the company should be following his lead.

AOL News could not independently verify Pozzi’s account, but one former Aramco employee did acknowledge that there was a large spill in the region in the early ’90s, and that Aramco had used tankers to clean up earlier oil slicks.

Pozzi, now retired, spent 17 years of his career in Saudi Arabia, part of it as a manager in Aramco’s technical support and maintenance division.

Shortly after the April 22 sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, he and a friend, Houston attorney Jon King (with whom Pozzi recently launched a business called Wow Environmental Solutions), traveled to Houma, La., headquarters for BP’s response center, to offer up the lessons he’d learned working in the Persian Gulf.

Ever since, he says, the pair’s been stonewalled.

When he called the manager at BP in charge of the cleanup effort, Pozzi says he was told “don’t bother me.”

“He said, ‘Follow procedures,’ ” Pozzi recalls. “He said, ‘I’m taking names and I’m going to sue you.’ “

Next, Pozzi and King phoned the president of BP and left a message with his secretary. An hour later, though, they received a call from “from a young lady in BP headquarters” who asked how she might assist them. They told her about their plan — but have received no further contact.

Then, early this week, the duo say they spoke with Capt. Ed Stanton, the Coast Guard commander overseeing a length of the affected coastline. Stanton asked for a written proposal. That’s the last Pozzi and King heard from him.

“It sounds so simple that they turn around and say, ‘That was years ago. We’ve got modern technology now,’ ” Pozzi says. “But their modern technology isn’t working too well.”

MORE…...By CHanan Tigay,