Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Day 50 BP Oil Spill: Presidential Ass Kicking & More Oil Recovery

Jun 8: Adm. Thad Allen, National Incident Commander for the BP oil spill reported earlier today that BP had recovered nearly 15,000 barrels of oil in the past 24 hours. BP reported that on June 7, approximately 14,800 barrels of oil were collected and 30.6 million cubic feet of natural gas flared. BP said the total oil collected in the last four days since the riser pipe cap was installed was approximately 42,500 barrels. However, the overriding question remains as to how much oil is actually being leaked from the well -- estimates seem to range from 15,000 to 95,000 and perhaps more. A new update from the Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG) is expected soon [See WIMS 6/7/10].
    In an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today broadcast, President Obama defended his actions on the Gulf oil spill crisis and reminded that he was in the Gulf a month ago before "most of these talking heads were even paying attention." The President also said that BP's CEO Tony Hayward "wouldn't be working for me" based on the statements he's made about the "wanting his life back" and characterizing the spill damage as "modest." Also, in response to a question from Lauer about whether someone's butt should be kicked, President Obama said, ""I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick." 

    As part of the previously announced commitment to fund the entire $360 million cost of six berms in the Louisiana barrier islands project, BP announced that it would make an immediate payment of $60 million to the State of Louisiana. In a letter to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and as previously announced, BP detailed its plans to make payments in stages based on the project's completion milestones. The initial $60 million payment is intended to permit the State to begin work on the project immediately. BP will then make five additional $60 million payments when the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) independent analysis of water samples provided from the May 22-28 research mission of the University of South Florida's R/V Weatherbird II confirmed the presence of very low concentrations of sub-surface oil and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) at sampling depths ranging from 50 meters to 1,400 meters. The Weatherbird II samples came from three stations: 40 and 45 nautical miles to the northeast of the well head and 142 nautical miles southeast of the well head. NOAA's analysis of the presence of subsurface oil determined that the concentration of hydrocarbons is in the range of less than 0.5 parts per million, and PAH levels in range of parts per trillion. NOAA announced its analysis in conjunction with the University of South Florida.
    Dr. Steven Murawski, chief scientists for NOAA Fisheries said, "NOAA's analysis of the Weatherbird II samples shows that concentrations of hydrocarbons decrease with depth, with a notable exception of samples at 300 meters from Station 07, which warrants additional research attention. Also, PAH levels are very low in all samples, with only five of 25 having reportable concentrations of the priority pollutant PAHs." NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco said, "We have always known there is oil under the surface; the questions we are exploring are where is it, in what concentrations, where is it going, and what are the consequences for the health of the marine environment? This research from the University of South Florida contributes to this larger, three-dimensional puzzle we are trying to solve, in partnership with academic and NOAA scientists."
    NOAA also announced that it has opened 339 square miles of previously closed fishing area off the Florida panhandle -- the northern boundary now ends at the Florida Federal-state water line on the east side of Choctawhatchee Bay.The area was initially closed on June 5 as a precaution because oil was projected to be within the area over the next 48 hours. However, the review of satellite imagery, radar and aerial data indicated that oil had not moved into the area. The Federal closed area does not apply to any state waters. Closing fishing in these areas is a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers. The closed area now represents 78,264 square miles, which is approximately 32 percent of Gulf of Mexico Federal waters. This leaves approximately 68 percent of Gulf federal waters available for fishing.
    The Incident Command Post in Mobile, AL indicated that a Sentry plan has been initiated to provide real-time ocean monitoring off the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. Vessels will be used to conduct maritime patrols to provide early identification of any weathered oil products such as light sheen, which will naturally dissipate, or mousse mats and tar balls that could potentially threaten the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida. A vessel departed from John's Pass, near St. Petersburg, Fla. on the first patrol and patrols will generally last from four to 10 days.  Additional vessels and aircraft Sentry patrols may be implemented as necessary to provide early warning detection of any weathered oil products. These vessels are intended to provide a minimum of 48-hours additional notice so responders can maximize preparedness and response activities and notify the public. A June 6, release indicates, "There have been no reports of Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill-related oil products reaching shore in the Florida Peninsula and there is no indication that it will have impacts from weathered oil products in the near future." 
    Yesterday (June 7) at a Cabinet meeting on the BP spill, the President offered promise and encouragement. He stated that he is confident that the Gulf Coast ecosystems and people affected by the crisis will make a full recovery. He said, Let me just make one final point, and I think this was something that was emphasized by everybody here, and it's something that I want to say to the American people. This will be contained.  It may take some time, and it's going to take a whole lot of effort. There is going to be damage done to the Gulf Coast and there is going to be economic damages that we've got to make sure BP is responsible for and compensates people for.
    "But the one thing I'm absolutely confident about is that as we have before, we will get through this crisis.  And one of the things that I want to make sure we understand is that not only are we going to control the damages to the Gulf Coast, but we want to actually use this as an opportunity to reexamine and work with states and local communities to restore the coast in ways that actually enhance the livelihoods and the quality of life for people in that area. It's going to take some time.  It's not going to be easy. But this is a resilient ecosystem. These are resilient people down on the Gulf Coast. I had a chance to talk to them, and they've gone through all kinds of stuff over the last 50, 100 years. And they bounce back, and they're going to bounce back this time. And they're going to need help from the entire country. They're going to need constant vigilant attention from this administration. That's what they're going to get."

    Access more information and a video of the NPC interview with the President (click here). Access a release from BP on the berm payment plan (click here). Access a release on the NOAA sampling and link to the sampling report (click here). Access a release and map on the NOAA closed fishing area report (click here). Access a release on the Sentry plan (click here). Access the President's statement at the Cabinet meeting and a video (click here).