Monday, May 10, 2010

BP Gulf Oil Spill Containment Dome Fails; Alternatives Pursued

May 10: BP provided an update on developments in the response to the MC252 oil well incident in the Gulf of Mexico. BP indicated in a company release that subsea efforts continue to focus on two fronts: first, reducing the flow of oil spilled by physical containment and second, further work on stopping the flow using a "top kill" option. Also, work on the first relief well, which began on May 2, continues. It is expected to take some three months to complete.

    The containment dome that was deployed last week has been parked away from the spill area on the sea bed. Efforts to place it over the main leak point were suspended at the weekend as a build up of hydrates prevented a successful placement of the dome over the spill area.
A second, smaller containment dome is being readied to lower over the main leak point. The small dome will be connected by drill pipe and riser lines to a drill ship on the surface to collect and treat oil. It is designed to mitigate the formation of large hydrate volumes. This operation has never been done before in 5,000 feet of water.

    In addition, BP indicated that "further work on the blow out preventer has positioned us to attempt a 'top kill' option aimed at stopping the flow of oil from the well. This option will be pursued in parallel with the smaller containment dome over the next two weeks."
All of the techniques being attempted or evaluated to contain the flow of oil on the seabed involve significant uncertainties because they have not been tested in these conditions before. BP said it "continues to do everything it can, in conjunction with governmental authorities and other industry experts, to find a solution to stem the flow of oil on the seabed."

    Work also continues to collect and disperse oil that has reached the surface of the sea. More than 275 vessels are being used, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels. The volume of dispersant applied to the spill on the surface amounts to over 315,000 gallons since the spill response began. Intensive operations to skim oil from the surface of the water also continued. Some 90,000 barrels of oily liquid has now been recovered. The total length of deployed boom is now more than 1 million feet as part of the efforts to stop oil reaching the coast. BP said the cost to date of the response amounts to about $350 million, including the cost of spill response, containment, relief well drilling, commitments to the Gulf Coast States, settlements and federal costs.
    On May 10, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar announced that Director of the National Park Service Jon Jarvis and Acting Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Rowan Gould have been dispatched to command centers along the Gulf Coast to help lead efforts to protect coastal communities and natural resources from BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Jarvis, who is stationed in the Mobile, Alabama Incident Command Center, and Gould, who is stationed in the Houma, Louisiana Incident Command Center, are among the more than 380 DOI personnel who have been deployed as part of the oil spill response. Additional DOI personnel already stationed in the region are among the more than 10,000 personnel currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife. Jarvis and Gould will work with federal and state natural resource managers to help protect state and federal natural resources.
    DOI said that the Gulf Coast, which is one of the most ecologically complex regions in the country and site of a number of National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks protected by Interior on behalf of the American people. The National Park Service, which manages Gulf Islands National Seashore, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Everglades National Park, Padre Island National Seashore, and other parks along the Gulf Coast, has activated two incident management teams in the Gulf. DOI indicated that the Fish and Wildlife Service manages 24 national wildlife refuges that could potentially be affected by the spill, including Breton National Wildlife Refuge, where oil has been confirmed on the Chandeleur Islands.
    U.S. EPA announced that Administrator Lisa Jackson will make another visit to the gulf region May 10-11, to oversee efforts to mitigate the environmental and human health impact of the ongoing BP oil spill. She will be meeting with EPA response managers on the scene and review the Agency's on-going air and water monitoring efforts. She will also meet with scientists from inside and outside the Federal government -- including scientists at local universities and from local organizations -- who have unique knowledge of the environmental challenges facing the gulf coast region and to discuss the potential impact of the use of dispersants on the spill on and below the surface of the water. Jackson will also meet with BP officials, the Coast Guard and other federal agencies to discuss ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of the spill.   
    Greenpeace issued a release indicating that they had found the first traces of oil onshore at Port Eads, the southernmost tip of Louisiana during a visit to the area at the mouth of the Mississippi River May 9, 2010. Dan Howells, Deputy Director of Campaigns at Greenpeace, and conservation specialist Rick Steiner collected samples of the oil on the beach and documented what they saw with photographs. Greenpeace said, "The oil onshore at Port Eads shows that it is reaching the mouth of the Mississippi, putting even more species of Louisiana's coastal habitats at risk—including animal and plant species that thrive only in these wetlands. The oil was found both in globules scattered on the beach and within the wet marshy areas as discoloration and a sheen on the marsh water. Oil had collected on reeds, which prevent erosion of the coastline, highlighting more evidence of this disaster."
    Access a release from BP (click here). Access a release from DOI (click here). Access a release from EPA (click here). Access a release and link to photos from Greenpeace (click here). Access further updates on a joint companies and government unified command website (click here).