BP stops one of three leaks, oil still gushing

BP has stopped one of three oil leaks from its well in the Gulf of Mexico, advancing efforts to end a spill after a drilling rig sank last month, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Crews successfully closed a valve installed Tuesday, stopping leakage near the well head, Petty Officer Brandon Blackwell said today in a telephone interview. There is no change in the official estimate that the well is leaking 5,000 barrels of oil a day.

BP is planning to have an underwater containment structure on the well working within five days that would capture oil from the largest leak and pump it to a ship on the surface, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of exploration and production for the London-based company, said at a press conference Tuesday in Robert, Louisiana.

Source:  Bloomberg


Despite plan, not a single fire boom on hand on Gulf Coast at time of oil spill

Alabama Live – By Ben Raines

If U.S. officials had followed up on a 1994 response plan for a major Gulf oil spill, it is possible that the spill could have been kept under control and far from land.

The problem: The federal government did not have a single fire boom on hand.

The “In-Situ Burn” plan produced by federal agencies in 1994 calls for responding to a major oil spill in the Gulf with the immediate use of fire booms.

But in order to conduct a successful test burn eight days after the Deepwater Horizon well began releasing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf, officials had to purchase one from a company in Illinois.

When federal officials called, Elastec/American Marine, shipped the only boom it had in stock, Jeff Bohleber, chief financial officer for Elastec, said today.

At federal officials’ behest, the company began calling customers in other countries and asking if the U.S. government could borrow their fire booms for a few days, he said.

A single fire boom being towed by two boats can burn up to 1,800 barrels of oil an hour, Bohleber said. That translates to 75,000 gallons an hour, raising the possibility that the spill could have been contained at the accident scene 100 miles from shore.

“They said this was the tool of last resort. No, this is absolutely the asset of first use. Get in there and start burning oil before the spill gets out of hand,” Bohleber said. “If they had six or seven of these systems in place when this happened and got out there and started burning, it would have significantly lessened the amount of oil that got loose.”

In the days after the rig sank, U.S Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said the government had all the assets it needed. She did not discuss why officials waited more than a week to conduct a test burn…]

ADDITIONAL READING



Petroleum leak in the Gulf of Mexico can be eliminated by nuclear explosion

In the USSR, and not as fountains and stopped using the peaceful atom

Komsomolskaya Pravda – Vladimir Lagowski – 03/05/2010 (English Translation)

It is possible that unsuccessful attempts to stop the leakage of oil from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico through the underwater robots compel professionals to take extreme measures. Namely – to blow up next to the damaged wells nuclear warhead.

It sounds terribly and incredibly – the idiotic joke. But in fact there were several cases where catastrophes in the fields of fighting in this way. In the former USSR – five times. When nothing else has not helped. It’s now in the Gulf of Mexico, where oil oozes out of the way from three places.

First underground nuclear explosion was used to extinguish burning gas wells in “Urt-Bulak (80 km from Bukhara) 30 September 1966. Power charge was 30 kilotons. For comparison, the Hiroshima bomb exploded about 20 kilotons. But at a height of 600 meters. A near Bukhara – at a depth of six kilometers.

The idea of the method is simple: an underground explosion pushes the rock, presses it and actually squeezes the channel well.

Powerful nuclear “plugs” – sometimes 3 Hiroshima – we have enjoyed until 1979. And only once failed. In 1972 in Kharkov region failed to block the emergency gas blowout. The explosion was mysteriously left on the surface, forming a mushroom cloud. Although the charge was minimal – just a 4 kiloton. And laid deep – for more than two kilometers.

Total probability of failure in the Gulf of Mexico – 20 percent. Americans could take a chance. The chance of dying during the flight to the moon they were even higher. Of course, we used a civilian nuclear program on the ground, the Americans as to the sea – under water where the ocean depth reaches 1500 meters.

But in principle there is no difference – you still need to drill a well at a distance from leaking. And it lowered the bomb. As in the movie “Armageddon” with Bruce Willis in the role of a driller. It is desirable that the calculations were done correctly. Such hope is: the U.S. is full of smart scientists and powerful computers. And Russia could have contributed. We still live peaceful nuclear demolition.

(Original Link)(RU)



U.S. exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling from environmental impact study

By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post S

The Interior Department exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.

The decision by the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP’s lease at Deepwater Horizon a “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 — and BP’s lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions — show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf.

Rethinking the rules

Now, environmentalists and some key senators are calling for a reassessment of safety requirements for offshore drilling.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who has supported offshore oil drilling in the past, said, “I suspect you’re going to see an entirely different regime once people have a chance to sit back and take a look at how do we anticipate and clean up these potential environmental consequences” from drilling.

BP spokesman Toby Odone said the company’s appeal for NEPA waivers in the past “was based on the spill and incident-response history in the Gulf of Mexico.” Once the various investigations of the new spill have been completed, he added, “the causes of this incident can be applied to determine any changes in the regulatory regime that are required to protect the environment.”

“I’m of the opinion that boosterism breeds complacency and complacency breeds disaster,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) on Tuesday. “That, in my opinion, is what happened.”

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said it is important to learn the cause of the accident before pursuing a major policy change. “While the conversation has shifted, the energy reality has not,” Gerard said. “The American economy still relies on oil and gas.”

While the MMS assessed the environmental impact of drilling in the central and western Gulf of Mexico on three occasions in 2007 — including a specific evaluation of BP’s Lease 206 at Deepwater Horizon — in each case it played down the prospect of a major blowout.

In one assessment, the agency estimated that “a large oil spill” from a platform would not exceed a total of 1,500 barrels and that a “deepwater spill,” occurring “offshore of the inner Continental shelf,” would not reach the coast. In another assessment, it defined the most likely large spill as totaling 4,600 barrels and forecast that it would largely dissipate within 10 days and would be unlikely to make landfall.

“They never did an analysis that took into account what turns out to be the very real possibility of a serious spill,” said Holly Doremus, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who has reviewed the documents.

The MMS mandates that companies drilling in some areas identify under NEPA what could reduce a project’s environmental impact. But Interior Department spokesman Matt Lee-Ashley said the service grants between 250 and 400 waivers a year for Gulf of Mexico projects. He added that Interior has now established the “first ever” board to examine safety procedures for offshore drilling. It will report back within 30 days on BP’s oil spill and will conduct “a broader review of safety issues,” Lee-Ashley said.

BP’s exploration plan for Lease 206, which calls the prospect of an oil spill “unlikely,” stated that “no mitigation measures other than those required by regulation and BP policy will be employed to avoid, diminish or eliminate potential impacts on environmental resources.”

While the plan included a 13-page environmental impact analysis, it minimized the prospect of any serious damage associated with a spill, saying there would be only “sub-lethal” effects on fish and marine mammals, and “birds could become oiled. However it is unlikely that an accidental oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.”

Kier?n Suckling, executive director of the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, said the federal waiver “put BP entirely in control” of the way it conducted its drilling.

Agency a ‘rubber stamp’

“The agency’s oversight role has devolved to little more than rubber-stamping British Petroleum’s self-serving drilling plans,” Suckling said.

BP has lobbied the White House Council on Environmental Quality — which provides NEPA guidance for all federal agencies– to provide categorical exemptions more often. In an April 9 letter, BP America’s senior federal affairs director, Margaret D. Laney, wrote to the council that such exemptions should be used in situations where environmental damage is likely to be “minimal or non-existent.” An expansion in these waivers would help “avoid unnecessary paperwork and time delays,” she added.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill were talking Tuesday about curtailing offshore oil exploration rather than making it easier. In addition to traditional foes of offshore drilling such as Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.), Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and centrists such as Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said they are taking a second look at such methods.

“It’s time to push the pause button,” Baucus told reporters.



DSCC capitalizes on oil spill

Politico – Ben Smith

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee emailed to ask supporters today to sign a petition to “stand with President Obama to hold BP accountable.”

Petitioning the White House to keep doing what it’s doing is a bit of an odd stance, but the world of political email is always a bit detached from reality, and petitions are a great way both of harvesting email addresses and of bringing supporters smoothly onto the contribution page, which is where a petition signature takes you.

Says the email:

[H]ere’s a perfect example of why we must keep fighting:

Last week’s deadly oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico has unleashed an oil spill that threatens livelihoods, pristine beaches, and wildlife along America’s coast. The spill could eclipse the damage done by the 1989 Exxon-Valdez disaster.

The Obama administration has vowed to “keep a boot on the throat” of BP to ensure the corporation is held accountable for the spill. But Republican Leader Rush Limbaugh has a different plan. He said there’s no need to clean up the spill because “the ocean will take care of this on its own,” and that oil is “natural. It’s as natural as the ocean water is.”

Sign our petition. Stand with President Obama to hold BP accountable for this disastrous spill. Rush Limbaugh is entirely wrong: This oil will not clean itself up. Corporations must be held accountable for their actions….



Oil rig survivors recall a hiss before the blast

HOUSTON CHRONICLE – By ERIC NALDER and LINDSAY WISE

Minutes before the Deepwater Horizon exploded in fire, workers on the deck heard a thump, then a hissing sound. Gas alarms sounded and the rig shook.

Seawater and mud containing gas from the well spewed up through the crown of the derrick and rained down on the drilling floor; fumes reportedly moved into the “safe zones” where the electric generators are located. The generators raced out of control as they sucked gas into the air intakes.

When the electric power surged, light bulbs exploded, computers and other electric systems were destroyed, leaving the rig in darkness except for the light from fires and explosions that ripped apart walls, according to accounts derived from interviews with attorneys representing survivors, missing rig workers and their families, as well as experts in the field of offshore drilling operations.

Before the blowout, the rig’s crew had been replacing heavy and valuable drilling mud with lighter salt sea­water in the top section of pipe known as the riser — the purpose being to extract the mud so they could remove the riser, several sources said. While doing so, they had to secure the wellhead to keep oil and gas from blowing out.

But blow out it did.

Kevin Eugene, a steward on the rig, said he was in his bunk watching TV about 10 p.m. when a “big old loud boom” and an alarm went off “almost simultaneously.”

The lights went out. The platform began shaking.

“I thought the place was falling in the ocean, that the whole rig was collapsing,” said the father of four from Slidell, La.

Ceiling tiles, dust and debris rained down from overhead. Clad only in his pajama pants and undershirt, he scrambled down a hallway toward an exit to a stairwell that would lead to a lifeboat up on deck. He heard more explosions, but can’t remember how many.

When he got onto the deck, he felt a blast of heat and saw flames about 200 yards away.

“I mean it was the hugest, biggest fire I’ve ever seen,” Eugene said. “It was just a big old ball of fire up there on the derrick. The whole derrick was on fire. The fire was shooting from out the well over there that the derrick was connected to and you could hear the gas gushing out.”

The deck was covered with oily mud.

Blowout preventer failed

All these things — the mud, the alarms and the job that was being done that day — will be key in determining why the Deepwater Horizon exploded, and ultimately sank, killing 11 and causing one of the nation’s worst oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alarms designed to detect escaping gas sounded on the drilling floor minutes before the eruption, said attorney Ronnie Penton of Bogalusa, La., whose client, a rig worker, escaped by jumping off the rig and whose job included maintaining the alarms.

When the alarms go off “you shut it down,” said Daniel Becnel, an attorney from Reserve, La., who has filed lawsuits on behalf of fishermen, oystermen and other Louisiana residents claiming damages from the spill. “They’ve got panic switches all over the place.”

Those switches are supposed to activate a blowout preventer on the ocean floor, a huge and complex tower of valves and pipe crimpers designed to shut down a well in an emergency. It didn’t work.

Although it had been tested beforehand, BP now says robot submarines have discovered at least one problem with the blowout preventer, though it is unclear whether it caused the malfunction.

“We have found that there are some leaks on the hydraulic controls,” said Bob Fryar, senior vice president of BP’s exploration and production operations in Angola, in southwestern Africa.

Investigations will be done by the Minerals Management Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, plaintiffs’ attorneys, BP and others. The probes likely will focus in part on whether all safety standards were followed, or whether any critical shortcuts were taken…


Related Links:

Yahoo News (AP): SPIN METER: There since Day One? Maybe not

White House Blog: The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill

Times Online: We’re mastering the oil slick, says BP chief facing flood of lawsuits

Real Clear Politics: Gov. Haley Barbour on the BP Oil Spill

Sarah Palin Facebook: Domestic Drilling: Why We Can Still Believe

Rigzone: Fooled by Randomness

HotAir: Obama biggest recipient of BP money over past 20 years

Flopping Aces: When they cap the Horizon well, can they also put a lid on Obama?

ABC News: While Oil Slick Spread, Interior Department Chief of Staff Rafted with Wife on “Work-Focused” Trip in Grand Canyon


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