Friday, July 02, 2010

Day 74 BP Oil Spill Update: Oil Threat Models; 550 Skimmers

Note: WIMS will not be publishing on Monday, July 5, which is the official Federal holiday for observance of Independence Day.
Jul 2: BP reported that for the last 12 hours on July 1 (noon to midnight), approximately 9,515 barrels of oil were collected and approximately 4,150 barrels of oil and 28.6 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared. On July 1, total oil recovered was approx. 25,150 barrels (16,915 barrels of oil were collected; 8,235 barrels of oil were flared; and 57 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. 534,900 barrels. An additional 22,000 barrels were collected from the RIT tool earlier in May bringing the total recovered to approx. 556,900 barrels.
    NOAA released an announcement discussing a report on, "Models Long-Term Oil Threat to Gulf and East Coast Shoreline." According to the announcement, NOAA has used modeling of historical wind and ocean currents to project the likelihood that surface oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill will impact additional U.S. coastline. This modeling, part of NOAA's comprehensive response to the unprecedented Gulf oil disaster, can help guide the ongoing preparedness, response and cleanup efforts.

    In the NOAA technical report, the model's results aggregate information from 500 distinct scenarios (model outcomes). Each assumes a 90-day oil flow rate of 33,000 barrels per day -- the net amount from the flow rate ceiling of 60,000 barrels per day (the lower bound is 35,000 barrels/day) minus the daily estimated amount being skimmed, burned, and/or collected by the Top Hat mechanism. The model also accounts for the natural process of oil "weathering" or breaking down, and considers oil a threat to the shoreline if there is enough to cause a dull sheen within 20 miles of the coast. If, for example, 250 of the 500 scenarios indicated a shoreline threat for a particular area, the overall threat for that area would be a 50 percent probability.

    Considering these factors, the NOAA model indicates: (1) The coastlines with the highest probability for impact (81 to 100 percent) extend from the Mississippi River Delta to the western panhandle of Florida where there has been and will likely continue to be oil impacts. (2) Along U.S. Gulf of Mexico shorelines, the oil is more likely to move east than west, with much of the coast of Texas showing a relatively low probability of oiling (ranging from less than one percent in southern Texas to up to 40 percent near the Louisiana border).

    (4) Much of the west coast of Florida has a low probability (20 percent down to less than one percent) of oiling, but the Florida Keys, Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas have a greater probability (61 to 80 percent) due to the potential influence of the Loop Current. Any oil reaching this area would have spent considerable time degrading and dispersing and would be in the form of scattered tar balls and not a large surface slick of oil. (5) There is a low probability of shoreline impacts from eastern central Florida up the Eastern Seaboard (20 percent diminishing to less than one percent). Potential impacts become increasingly unlikely north of North Carolina as the Gulf Stream moves away from the continental U.S. at Cape Hatteras. If oil does reach these areas, it will be in the form of tar balls or highly weathered oil.

    National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen provided an update on the Federal government's "aggressive skimming strategy" -- specifically addressing efforts to increase the number of skimmers in the Gulf of Mexico. He said since the beginning of June, skimming capability in the Gulf has increased more than fivefold -- from approximately 100 large skimmers at the beginning of June, to 550 skimming vessels of various sizes working to collect oil in all parts of the Gulf of Mexico as of today. To date, 28.2 million gallons of an oil-water mix has been skimmed from the Gulf surface. Skimming, as with many other response activities, can be impacted by weather conditions.

    Admiral Allen said, "From the beginning our response has been dynamic to match the ever shifting threat posed by this disaster, and that is why in early June we aggressively increased our focus on skimmers to combat the oil leaking from BP's well. We will continue to fight oil with as many skimmers as we can bring to bear on the water, while looking at every possible option for marshalling additional assets to impacted areas along the entire Gulf Coast. We will not rest until BP's well has stopped leaking, the oil is cleaned up, and our communities are made whole."

    At the request of the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy is in the process of providing 22 additional shallow-water skimmers, 35 tow boats and three harbor buster skimmers normally stationed around the country -- expected to arrive in the coming days. As of July 1, seven shallow-water skimmers, two harbor buster skimmers and eleven tow boats are in the area, in addition to 23 skimming systems provided by the Navy to the Coast Guard under an existing agreement. The Unified Command (UC) will continue ramping up skimmer capability throughout the coming weeks, with a baseline target of more than 750 skimmers collecting oil in Gulf waters by mid July, and more by the beginning of August.

    To meet the various areas that are impacted by oil -- including oil far off shore, near shore, and even in beach, bay and marsh areas -- the Coast Guard has deployed several different types of skimmers and skimming technology to meet these unique conditions. The Coast Guards goal is to ensure the responders have the right tools for the various challenges that are faced, and will continue to surge the resources necessary.

    In the UC daily briefing Admiral Allen reported on the relief well operations, indicating that Development Driller III, which is leading the relief, the first relief well, is now at 11,817 feet below the sea floor. At this point, BP is conducting ranging operations and they drill 15 feet, stop, and do a position vis-à-vis the well bore. This is in anticipation of slowly closing and being able to get to a point where they've exactly located the well for the purpose of an intercept.The second well, Development Driller II is 7,775 feet below the sea floor and proceeding on pace as well.

    Allen said BP hopes to hook up the connection to the Helix Producer around the 7th of July to begin production which is expected to bring the oil recovery to a total of 53,000 barrels a day and provide a better assessment of how much oil is actually escaping. The current flow rate range is 35 to 60,000 barrels a day. He said "We should get an idea on the accuracy of that flow rate, but just by the visual evidence of how much oil is actually coming out around that cap once the Helix Producer is in place." He also said there is a second vertical riser being installed that by the 15th of July would go to another production platform and expand recovery to between 60 and 80 thousand barrels.  

    Access information on BP activities from the BP response website (click here). Access the NOAA Model announcement and link to the extensive modeling report (click here). Access the release on the status of skimmers (click here). Access the latest July 2 UC briefing transcript including Q&As  (click here). Access the UC website for further updates as they become available (click here). Access the latest operations and response statistics (click here).