Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 72 BP Oil Spill Update: Dispersant Analyses; Foreign Assistance

Jun 30: Even though hurricane Alex is not a direct threat to the immediate oil spill area in the Gulf, it continues to cause problems for the recovery and cleanup operations due to rough waters with waves up 5-7 feet. Alex is predicted to reach landfall in Mexico overnight. Skimming operations have been very limited the last two days and will likely extend to the weekend.

    BP reports that for the last 12 hours on June 29 (noon to midnight), approximately 8,545 barrels of oil were collected and approximately 4,065 barrels of oil and 28.7 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared. On June 29, total oil recovered was approx. 25,220 barrels (17,025 barrels of oil were collected; 8,195 barrels of oil were flared; and 57.4 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared). Total oil recovered from both the LMRP Cap and Q4000 systems since they were implemented is approx. 486,700 barrels. An additional 22,000 barrels were collected from the RIT tool earlier in May bringing the total recovered to approx. 508,700 barrels.

    On June 30, U.S. EPA released peer reviewed results from the first round of its own independent toxicity testing on eight oil dispersants. EPA conducted testing to ensure that decisions about ongoing dispersant use in the Gulf of Mexico continue to be grounded in the best available science. EPA's says the results indicated that none of the eight dispersants tested, including the product in use in the Gulf, displayed biologically significant endocrine disrupting activity. While the dispersant products alone -- not mixed with oil -- have roughly the same impact on aquatic life, JD-2000 and Corexit 9500 were generally less toxic to small fish and JD-2000 and SAF-RON GOLD were least toxic to mysid shrimp. EPA indicated that while this is important information to have, additional testing is needed to further inform the use of dispersants.
    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "EPA is performing independent tests to determine the potential impacts of various dispersants. We will continue to conduct additional research before providing a final recommendation. We want to ensure that every tool is available to mitigate the impact of the BP spill and protect our fragile wetlands. But we continue to direct BP to use dispersants responsibly and in as limited an amount as possible." 
    EPA said it continues to carefully monitor BP's use of dispersant in the Gulf. Dispersants are generally less toxic than oil and can prevent some oil from impacting sensitive areas along the Gulf Coast. EPA believes BP should use as little dispersant as necessary and, on May 23, Administrator Jackson and then-Federal On-Scene Coordinator Rear Admiral Mary Landry directed BP to reduce dispersant usage by 75 percent from peak usage. EPA and the Coast Guard formalized that order in a directive to BP on May 26. Over the next month BP reduced dispersant use 68 percent from that peak.
    Before directing BP to ramp down dispersant use, EPA directed BP to analyze potential alternative dispersants for toxicity and effectiveness. BP reported to EPA that they were unable to find a dispersant that is less toxic than Corexit 9500, the product currently in use. Following that, EPA began its own scientific testing of eight dispersant products on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule (NCP-PS). Those dispersant products are: Dispersit SPC 1000, Nokomis 3-F4, Nokomis 3-AA, ZI-400, SAF-RON Gold, Sea Brat #4, Corexit 9500 A and JD 2000. Today's results represent the first stage of that effort. EPA tested these eight products for endocrine disrupting activity and potential impacts on small fish and mysid shrimp.

    On June 29, the National Incident Command and the Federal On Scene Coordinator indicated that they had determined that there is a resource need for boom and skimmers that can be met by offers of assistance from foreign governments and international bodies. The U.S. State Department (DOS) indicated that the U.S. will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies, including two high speed skimmers and fire containment boom from Japan. DOS said, "We are currently working out the particular modalities of delivering the offered assistance. Further details will be forthcoming once these arrangements are complete."
    The 27 countries which have offered the U.S. Government assistance are: the Governments of Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. The international bodies offering assistance are: the European Maritime Safety Agency, the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre, the International Maritime Organization, and the Environment Unit of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Environment Program. DOS has released a chart of offers of assistance that the U.S. has received from other governments and international bodies.

    Access additional information on BP activities from the BP response website (click here). Access additional information updates and links to releases and briefings on the Administration's response from the Unified Command website (click here). Access a release from EPA on the dispersant analyses (click here). Access the first round of dispersant test results (click here). Access a release from DOS and link to the chart of foreign assistance (click here).