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US sues BP, eight others over Gulf oil spill

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:44 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States filed suit for the first time against BP and eight other companies for uncounted billions of dollars in damages from a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst in US history.


The complaint was filed by the Justice Department with a federal court in New Orleans, where thousands of individuals and small businesses have already sued the oil giant.

AFP file – A photo taken in April 2010 shows fire boat crews battling the blazing remnants of the BP operated off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the complaint alleges that “violations of safety and operational regulations” caused the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which sent nearly five million barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf.


“We intend to prove… that the defendants are therefore responsible under the Oil Pollution Act for government removal losses, economic losses, as well as environmental damages,” he said.


“We’re also seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, which prohibits the unauthorized use of oil in the waters,” he added.


Holder went on to list a series of failures that led to the disaster.


He said necessary precautions weren’t taken to secure the well, the safest drilling technology was not used to monitor its condition, continuous surveillance was not maintained and safety equipment was faulty.


The defendants named in the suit were BP Exploration and Production Inc; Transocean Deepwater Inc; Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc; Transocean Holdings LLC; Anadarko Exploration and Production LP; Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; and QBE Underwriting Ltd/Lloyd’s syndicate 1036.


QBE/Lloyd’s, an insurer, was not being sued under the Clean Water Act and can be held liable only up to the amount of Transocean’s insurance policy coverage, the Justice Department said.


BP said in a statement that it would “answer the government?s allegations in a timely manner and will continue to cooperate with all government investigations and inquiries.”


The world’s third largest oil company has defended its response to the spill, which has included selling off assets around the world to raise 30 billion dollars to cover both clean-up and compensation costs.


It has estimated its exposure at nearly 40 billion dollars.


“Alone among the parties, BP has stepped up to pay for the clean-up of the oil, setting aside 20 billion dollars to pay all legitimate claims,” the company said.


“We took these steps before any legal determination of responsibility and will continue to fulfil our commitments in the Gulf as the legal process unfolds.”


BP owns 65 percent of the ruptured Macondo well, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. owns a 25 percent share, and MOEX Offshore, a unit of Mitsui Oil Exploration Co, owns 10 percent. Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig itself.


Justice Department lawyers have been conducting parallel civil and criminal investigations since the fiery explosion, which killed 11 workers and toppled the giant rig into Gulf of Mexico.


The rig’s collapse ruptured underwater risers, unleashing a torrent of oil that fouled environmentally fragile Gulf coasts and disrupted local fishing and tourism industries for three months before it was sealed in September.


Among the losses listed in the US complaint were “hundreds of miles of coastal habitats, including salt marshes, sandy beaches, and mangroves; a variety of wildlife, including birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals.”


In the Gulf itself, the potential damage extended to “various biota, benthic communities, marine organisms, coral, fish, and water-column habitat,” it said.


And it said the spill resulted in lost opportunities for “fishing, swimming, beach-going, and viewing of birds and wildlife.”


Holder said the Justice Department would continue to investigate the disaster and ways of preventing future spills, adding that the legal action taken Wednesday “is not a final step.”


“As our investigations continue, we will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those responsible for this spill,” he said.


“The full extent of potential injuries, destruction, loss and loss of services is not yet fully known and may not be fully known for many years.”

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Source: SGGP

BP did not put profit before safety on Gulf well: probe

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2010 at 6:22 am

US lifts Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling ban

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

The United States lifted a ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico imposed after the BP oil spill, but set operators tough new safety conditions, officials said.


“We have decided it is now appropriate to lift the suspension on deepwater drilling for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set” for safety, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.


President Barack Obama ordered a six-month freeze on deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after a blowout on the BP Deepwater Horizon undersea well that killed 11 rig workers and sparked the worst oil disaster in US history.


The moratorium was due to expire at the end of next month.

Oil rigs are seen in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2010.

The new rules, which were laid out by the Interior Department two weeks ago, toughen up companies’ obligations on drilling and workplace safety, well containment and spill response, said Salazar.


Key among the tough new rules is an obligation for the CEO of any company wishing to drill in deep water to “certify that the rig has complied with all new and existing rules,” he said.


Executives from the companies involved in the BP-leased well that blew out have blamed each other for the accident which happened some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana.


But even if the moratorium was being lifted, deepwater drilling was not expected to resume soon, said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM).


Oil and gas companies need time to implement the new rules and draw up applications for offshore leases “and it will obviously take us time to review those applications and do due diligence,” said Bromwich.


American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard welcomed the lifting of the drilling ban but worried that “a de facto moratorium could be created by delays in the processing and approval of permits, which will reduce production, government revenues and American jobs.”


Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, where residents were hard hit by the moratorium on drilling, was relieved that the ban had been lifted, but voiced concern that a slow-moving permitting process would end up smothering the local oil and gas industry.


We hope that the new regulations and new policies will make drilling safer for both the people working offshore and the environment in the future.


“At the same time, we hope the regulations will not delay the permitting process for deepwater or other drilling, which ends up smothering the industry,” Nungesser said.


Republican Congressman Darrell Issa also urged the government to “avoid a de facto moratorium-by-regulatory-delay … that would be just as damaging to the Gulf economy as a blanket moratorium.”


A study in July estimated that a six-month moratorium would cost more than 8,000 jobs in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and wipe out nearly 2.1 billion dollars in economic activity in the Gulf states.


Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who has called the moratorium a “reckless” move that endangered the environment and jobs, welcomed Tuesday’s announcement as “a step in the right direction.”


“But it must be accompanied by an action plan to get the entire industry in the Gulf of Mexico back to work,” including an acceleration of the permitting process, she added.


Environmental groups, meanwhile, said the ban had been lifted too soon.

“Scientists haven’t even assessed the full ecological impact of the BP disaster and yet the government is in a rush to allow oil companies to get back to drilling. It is irresponsible to say the least, reckless at worst,” said Greenpeace USA director Phil Radford.

Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the moratorium should have stayed in place.

“To ensure a disaster like this never happens again, we must know what caused it in the first place. We?re still waiting for that answer and until we get it, the moratorium should remain in place,” he said.

The Sierra Club said the moratorium had been only a temporary fix, and the real solution was to wean the United States off oil.

“The only way to make sure we don?t see another drilling disaster is to end our dependence on oil,” said Sierra Club president Michael Brune.

“The BP disaster was a wake up call, but our leaders keep hitting the snooze button,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Experts say most Gulf spill oil still in water

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 at 7:24 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Nearly 80 percent of the oil spilled from a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico is still in the gulf, US scientists have estimated, challenging a more optimistic assessment by the US government earlier in the month.


In its August 4 report, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration found that half the 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled by the April 20 blowout had been evaporated, burned, skimmed or dispersed.

A ship is seen close to the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill zone in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. AFP

A team of five scientists from the University of Georgia did their own analysis of the government data and came to a different conclusion.


“We just reanalyzed this report…and then we calculated how much oil is still likely to be out there and that is how we came up to 70 to 79 percent that must be out there,” said Charles Hopkinson, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia.


“One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and therefore, harmless,” he told AFP.


“The oil is still out there and it will likely take years to completely degrade. We are still far from a complete understanding of what its impacts are,” he said.

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Source: SGGP

Tropical depression halts drilling at Gulf well

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

Drilling the final feet of a relief well intended to permanently plug the busted BP oil well deep below the Gulf of Mexico will have to wait two to three days as a strengthening tropical depression bears down on the site.


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.

– In this Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010 picture, a support vessel, foreground center, and others surround the Helix Q4000, background center, used to perform the static kill operation, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.


Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation because southeast Louisiana is the “geographic and psychological ‘center of gravity'” for the cases.

Source: SGGP

Tropical depression halts drilling at Gulf well

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

Drilling the final feet of a relief well intended to permanently plug the busted BP oil well deep below the Gulf of Mexico will have to wait two to three days as a strengthening tropical depression bears down on the site.


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.

– In this Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010 picture, a support vessel, foreground center, and others surround the Helix Q4000, background center, used to perform the static kill operation, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.


Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation because southeast Louisiana is the “geographic and psychological ‘center of gravity'” for the cases.

Source: SGGP

BP spends 6.1 bln dollars on Gulf spill response: company

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

LONDON, Aug 9, 2010 (AFP) – British energy giant BP said Monday that it has spent a total of 6.1 billion dollars in response costs to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, days after plugging the damaged well with concrete.


“The cost of the response to date amounts to approximately 6.1 billion dollars (4.6 billion euros), including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, static kill and cementing, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid, and federal costs,” BP said in a statement.


An estimated 4.9 million barrels, more than 205 million gallons, spewed from BP’s ruptured well in the 87 days from the beginning of the disaster until the leak was finally capped on July 15, the US government has said.

A BP mobile claims office is seen on August 4, 2010 in Chalmette, Louisiana. AFP

The company revealed on Thursday that it had finished pumping cement into the damaged well after a five-hour operation.


“The MC252 well has been shut-in since July 15; there is currently no oil flowing into the Gulf,” the group said on Monday.


It added: “Following the completion of cementing operations on the MC252 well on August 5, pressure testing was performed which indicated there is an effective cement plug in the casing. BP believes the static kill and cementing procedures have been successful.”

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Source: SGGP

BP plugs runaway oil well in Gulf of Mexico

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2010 at 7:21 am

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, Aug 5, 2010 (AFP) – BP plugged its runaway well in the Gulf of Mexico with cement Thursday, one of the final steps in permanently sealing the gusher at the center of the worst US environmental disaster on record.


Some 15 weeks after the well ruptured and 21 days after the flow was fully stemmed with a temporary cap, the massive oil slick that once stretched for hundreds of miles is rapidly disappearing from the Gulf.

This still image from a live BP video feed shows a view from a submersible of the BP well area on August 5, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. AFP

But officials cautioned that a great deal of clean-up work remained and that the long-term impact of the disaster could be felt for years, even decades.


“This is not the end, but it will virtually assure us that there will be no chance of oil leaking into the environment,” said spill response chief Thad Allen, adding, “I think we can all breathe a little easier.”


In a long-awaited breakthrough, BP brought the well under control Wednesday after pumping heavy drilling fluid into the busted Macondo well for eight hours, forcing the oil back down into the reservoir miles beneath the seabed.


The British energy giant then began pumping cement at 09:15 CDT (1415 GMT), and the “static kill” operation was completed in five hours.


“Monitoring of the well is underway in order to confirm the effectiveness of the procedure,” BP said in a statement.


Work will resume on finishing a relief well, once the cement has dried, that will pierce the base of the well and entomb a pipe no bigger than a dinner plate in mud and cement.


It will likely be mid-August before that operation is complete and the well is finally “killed.”


It took 106 days to shut the well down in the wake of a devastating explosion on April 20 that killed 11 workers and sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig two days later, unleashing a torrent of oil into the Gulf.


At 4.9 million barrels — or enough oil to fill 311 Olympic-sized swimming pools — the disaster is the biggest maritime spill on record.


Heavy brown oil coated fragile coastal wetlands, sullied sandy white beaches, and smothered thousands of birds, turtles, dolphins and other marine life.


The disaster crippled the Gulf’s multibillion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industry and plunged residents of coastal communities into months of anguish over their livelihoods and the region’s future.


A government report released Wednesday found that a third of the oil was captured or mitigated through burning, skimming, chemical dispersion and direct recovery from the wellhead.


Another twenty percent or so was “completely removed” from the system through natural processes as waves and currents broke the slick up into smaller patches and the warm waters helped speed biodegradation and evaporation.


“Most of the remainder is degrading rapidly, or is being removed from the beaches,” Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told a White House briefing.


But Lubchenco was quick to stress that the oil will likely have “very considerable impacts” on the ecosystem for “years and possibly decades to come.”


That has fishermen worried about what they’ll find when they are finally allowed back out on the water with their boats, and whether consumers will be willing to eat what they catch.


And with tourists likely to avoid Gulf beaches for years and oil industry jobs under threat from President Barack Obama’s moratorium on new deep sea drilling permits, the future remains bleak for many coastal communities.


“It’s impossible to know how this thing is ultimately going to play out,” said Matt O’Brian, owner of a shrimp and crab processing dock in the coastal town of Venice, Louisiana.


O’Brian welcomed the news that the well was finally under control, but said it “can’t overcome the atmosphere of uncertainty lingering out at sea.”


He’s worried about the oil’s impact on crab and shrimp populations and wonders if there will ever be a market for Louisiana seafood.


Todd Goodman, who works for the local government and runs a trailer park as a sideline, agreed.


“There is enormous pressure on BP to claim that everything is fine now. But what scares me and a lot of other folks around here is the notion that everybody – BP, the Coast Guard, law enforcement, cleanup crews – will suddenly pull up stakes and leave,” he said.


“Then, two months later — boom! — more oil washes up on us.”

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Source: SGGP

Hope for Gulf as BP plugs well, most of the oil gone

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 at 7:22 am

An end to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was in sight as BP plugged its runaway well and US officials said most of the toxic crude has been cleaned up or dispersed.


Though undoubtedly the best day since the disaster began more than 15 weeks ago, US officials cautioned that a great deal of clean-up work remained and that the long-term impact could be felt for years, even decades, to come.


BP’s long-awaited “static kill” was conducted overnight as heavy drilling fluid was rammed into the busted Macondo well for eight hours, forcing the oil back down into the reservoir miles beneath the seabed.


We “have reached a static condition in the well that allows us to have high confidence that there will be no oil leaking into the environment,” US spill response chief Thad Allen told reporters at a White House briefing.

A Brown Pelican flies at the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station as the center prepares to transfer the birds after they were rehabilitated from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.

The breakthrough came 106 days after a devastating explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20 killed 11 workers and unleashed a torrent of oil into the Gulf.


“So, the long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end. And we are very pleased with that,” US President Barack Obama said. “Our recovery efforts, though, will continue. We have to reverse the damage that’s been done.”


Allen later authorized BP to cement over the busted well, an operation that the British-based energy giant said would begin Thursday.


The US pointman also said, however, that he had “made it clear” to the company that the cementing should “in no way delay the completion of the relief well,” expected to be finished mid-August to seal the well sealed permanently.


At 4.9 million barrels — or enough oil to fill 311 Olympic-sized swimming pools — the disaster is the biggest maritime spill on record.


It threatened the fish and wildlife-rich US Gulf coast with environmental ruin and plunged residents of coastal communities into months of anguish over their livelihoods and the region’s future.


A government report released Wednesday found that a third of the oil was captured or mitigated through burning, skimming, chemical dispersion and direct recovery from the wellhead.


Heat from the sun helped some of the chemicals in the crude evaporate. Waves and currents broke the slick up into smaller patches. Then the microbes which feed on natural oil seeps in the Gulf got to work, it said.


“At least 50 percent of the oil that was released is now completely gone from the system,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


“And most of the remainder is degrading rapidly, or is being removed from the beaches.”


But Lubchenco was quick to stress that scientists will not be able to determine for a long time the full extent of the damage.


“The oil that was released and has already impacted wildlife at the surface, young juvenile stages and eggs beneath the surface, will likely have very considerable impacts for years and possibly decades to come,” she told reporters at the White House briefing.


The problem, she explained, is that oil is still toxic even when it has been broken down into very small droplets. And there was simply so very, very much of it.


About 24 percent of the Gulf’s federal waters remain closed to fishing, and even when fishermen are able to fill their nets they fear consumers might not believe the seafood is safe to eat.

With tourists likely to avoid Gulf beaches for years and oil industry jobs under threat from Obama’s moratorium on new deep sea drilling permits, the future remains bleak for many coastal communities.

BP, meanwhile, is hoping to rebuild its shattered reputation but must also meet the claims of thousands of individuals and businesses whose livelihoods have been washed away, while a mammoth civil trial looms.

BP senior vice president Kent Wells expressed relief that 20 days after the flow of oil in the sea was stemmed with a temporary cap “it’s very difficult for us to find any oil anywhere on the surface.”

He refused, however, to declare victory until the well is permanently sealed.

Source: SGGP

BP begins crucial well ‘kill’ in Gulf of Mexico

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 7:19 am

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – BP began operations to permanently plug the runaway well that has brought environmental and economic ruin to the Gulf of Mexico and spilled more oil into the sea than ever before.

Ships work near the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. AFP

Engineers launched their long-awaited static kill at 2000 GMT Tuesday, ramming heavy fluid into the blown-out Macondo well to force the crude back down into a reservoir almost 3.5 miles (5.7 kilometers) beneath the surface of the sea.


BP was optimistic after conducting “text-book” tests that showed the oil could be subdued, though senior vice president Kent Wells said it was too early to know if the process would take hours or days.


Once the heavy drilling fluid, known as mud, is holding down the oil, the aim is to pour in a cement plug that will permanently seal off the reservoir.


Any leaks in the steel casing of the well would complicate matters as it would mean the area between the pipe and the outer well bore, known as the annulus, would also have to be filled up with mud.


The best case scenario could see the well put permanently out of action by Wednesday, although a “bottom kill” will be performed through a relief well in mid-August to cement in the outer well bore and be certain of success.


If the well casing has leaks, a decision could be taken to hold off on the cement job until the relief well is ready.


“We’re so early in the process there’s no way for me to give you any early indication. The only thing I would say is the injectivity test went well and so that gives us the encouragement,” said Wells.


Thad Allen, the US government point man in the disaster, was emphatic that the static kill “will increase the probability that the relief well will work.” In the long run, “drilling into the annulus and into the casing pipe from below, filling that with mud and then filling that with cement is the only solution to the end of this,” he told reporters.


The extent of the spill was confirmed when US government experts on Monday announced that the oil had been pouring out at a rate of 62,000 barrels a day — more than 12 times faster than BP originally admitted.


This was also higher than any previous official estimate, and meant 4.9 million barrels of crude — more than 205 million gallons — spewed into the Gulf in the 87 days it took to cap it, making it the biggest maritime spill ever.


If BP is found guilty of negligence, the flow rate means it could face up to 17.6 billion dollars in fines. The firm has also set up a 20 billion dollar fund to pay claims from individuals and businesses hit by the disaster.


Shutting the well will bring some relief to coastal residents who have been uncertain about their future and frustrated at the cleanup effort since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April and sank to the bottom of the Gulf.


The full economic and environmental cost of the spill will remain unknown for some time, but a hint of what is to come was found in a report out Tuesday by researchers at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University.


Of 1,200 coastal Gulf coast residents the researchers surveyed last month, 40 percent said they had been directly exposed to the spill, a third said it had affected their kids, and 20 percent said it had hit their wallets.


Parents reported that their children had developed mental, behavioral or physical problems — everything from respiratory problems and rashes to feelings of sadness or nervousness, difficulty socializing with other children, or trouble getting to sleep.


One in five residents told the Columbia researchers that their household income had fallen, with poor residents — those who earned less than 25,000 dollars a year — feeling the pinch more than the better-off.


While there is hope that Louisiana’s marshes and fragile wetlands may recover relatively quickly, no one knows the real spill impact on the Gulf food chain.

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Source: SGGP