Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Update: BP Oil Spill - "Greatest Environmental Disaster Of Its Kind"

Jun 1: On May 29, BP reported that the "top kill" attempt to stop the leaking oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not work. They said despite pumping a total of over 30,000 barrels of heavy mud, in three attempts at rates of up to 80 barrels a minute, and deploying a wide range of different bridging materials, the operation did not overcome the flow from the well. Therefore, the Government, together with BP, decided to move to the next step in the subsea operations, the deployment of the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) Cap Containment System.
    BP said the operational plan first involves cutting and then removing the damaged riser from the top of the failed Blow-Out Preventer (BOP) to leave a cleanly-cut pipe at the top of the BOP's LMRP. The cap is designed to be connected to a riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and placed over the LMRP with the intention of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well. The LMRP cap is already on site and it is currently anticipated that it will be connected in about four days to seven days. Today (June 1) BP said that preparations are ongoing for deployment of the LMRP cap containment system. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are engaged in preliminary operations, including preparing for operations to cut through and separate the damaged riser from the LMRP at the top of the Deepwater Horizon's failed blow-out preventer (BOP).
    Meanwhile, work on the first relief well, which started on May 2, continues and it has currently reached a depth of 12,090 feet. Work on the second relief well, which started on May 16, had reached a depth of 8,576 feet before drilling was temporarily suspended on May 26. Drilling operations on the second relief well resumed on May 30. Both wells are still estimated to take around three months to complete from commencement of drilling. The relief wells are expected to completely stop the flow of oil to the Gulf.
    Following the announcement that the "top kill" method had not worked, on May 29, President Obama issued a statement indicating, "Rear Admiral Mary Landry today directed BP to launch a new procedure whereby the riser pipe will be cut and a containment structure fitted over the leak [i.e. the LMRP]. This approach is not without risk and has never been attempted before at this depth. That is why it was not activated until other methods had been exhausted.  It will be difficult and will take several days.  It is also important to note that while we were hopeful that the top kill would succeed, we were also mindful that there was a significant chance it would not.  And we will continue to pursue any and all responsible means of stopping this leak until the completion of the two relief wells currently being drilled.

    As I said yesterday, every day that this leak continues is an assault on the people of the Gulf Coast region, their livelihoods, and the natural bounty that belongs to all of us.  It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole."

    On May 30, the President was briefed by the National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner regarding the ongoing efforts to contain the BP oil spill. Among other things, the President was informed that during the LMRP procedure the flow rate could increase as much as 20% until the containment device is applied over the leak.

    Regarding the spill flow rate, as WIMS reported on May 28, Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) indicated that one reason it is important to have an accurate flow rate estimate is that, "BP's financial liability are directly tied to the size of the spill. Under current law -- the Clean Water Act as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, following the Exxon Valdez disaster -- a company that spills oil is subject to fines up to $1,000 per barrel, or up to $3,000 per barrel in the case of gross negligence. Markey indicated that based on the latest estimates by the Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG) of between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day, BP could be subject to between $444 million and $2.1 billion in potential fines for the oil spilled thus far [See WIMS 5/28/10]. However, a hearing by Representative Markey of various researchers indicated estimates as high as 70,000 to 120,000 barrels per day.

    On May 28, Steven Wereley, of Purdue University, one of the researcher that testified before Representative Markey's hearing on May 19, that the BP leak was much larger than previously estimated clarified the differences in his previous estimates (70,000 to 120,000 barrels/day) and the FRTG's estimate of between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels/day [See WIMS 5/29/10]. In a release from Purdue, Wereley indicates that "the consensus of his Plume Modeling Team [one of three teams of the FRTG] is that the leakage at the time of the viewed video clips averaged at least 12,000-25,000 barrels of oil per day, plus considerable natural gas." That figure, he said, "could possibly be significantly larger if the conservative assumptions used to make the estimate were relaxed." On May 19, Wereley testified, based on the limited, preliminary video feed available at the time, that the baseline flow was 95,000 barrels/day with a plus or minus 20% degree of accuracy.

    Additionally, NOAA has expanded considerably the area of the Gulf that is closed to commercial and recreational fishing including catch and release effective on June 1, 2010 at 6 PM eastern time. The closure measures 75,920 sq mi (196,633 sq km), which is slightly more than 31% of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone.

    Today (June 1) the President met with former Senator Bob Graham of Florida and former EPA Administrator, Bill Reilly who will lead the National Commission on the BP oil spill in the Gulf, which he said is now "the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history."  The commission, (other members yet to be appointed) is charged with thoroughly examining the spill and its causes and make recommendation to avoid any such catastrophe again.

    The President said, "At the same time, we're continuing our efforts on all fronts to contain the damage from this disaster and extend to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. We've already mounted the largest cleanup effort in the nation's history, and continue to monitor -- minute to minute -- the efforts to halt or capture the flow of oil from the wrecked BP well.  Until the well is stopped, we'll multiply our efforts to meet the growing threat and to address the widespread and unbelievably painful losses experienced by the people along the Gulf Coast. What's being threatened -- what's being lost -- isn't just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure."

    At the direction of the President, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco will return to the Gulf region this week as they continue their work, aggressively responding to the BP oil spill. The officials' actions on scene will be coordinated by National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, who is leading the administration-wide response and directing all interagency activities.

    Access the status latest update from BP (click here). Access a May 30 statement from the White House (click here). Access the May 29 statement from the President (click here). Access the latest NOAA no fishing area map and advisory (click here). Access the President's June 1 statement (click here). Access a White House summary of May 30 & 31 Gulf response activities (click here). Access a release on Administration officials in the Gulf this week (click here). Access the BP response website for complete details on their response efforts (click here). Access the White House website on the BP spill which contains links to all Federal agency response websites (click here). [*Energy/OilSpill]


Update: BP Oil Spill - "Greatest Environmental Disaster Of Its Kind"
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                WIMS Daily & eNewsUSA