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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

Russian leader Medvedev plugs into Silicon Valley

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2010 at 4:33 am

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev started his first US visit with a stop in California to tap into the innovative power that has made Silicon Valley a hotbed for winning technology firms.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) looks on as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (C) and Victor Vekselberg (L), chairman of the board, Renova Group of Companies, sign a memorandum of understanding to preserve Fort Ross State Park during a visit to San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, June 22, 2010.

Medvedev met with actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger late Tuesday after arriving in San Francisco.


Apple, Google, Twitter, and Cisco were on his itinerary for the following day and he is reportedly interested in getting talent or pacts from the Silicon Valley stars.


“My purpose is not just to see what is going on there, it is not a guided tour,” Medvedev said through an interpreter while chatting with Schwarzenegger at a hotel in San Francisco’s upscale Russian Hill neighborhood.


“I would like to have my visit be translated into full-fledged relations and into cooperation with those companies.”


Schwarzenegger offered to put together a trade delegation to “help in any way possible to improve and build on the already fast growing economy in Russia.”


Medvedev welcomed the proposal, referring to California as a linchpin in the US economy.


The Russian president is interested in recreating Silicon Valley’s winning formula in a technology “hub” outside of Moscow to diversify the economy, which relies heavily on oil production.


“We know you are very interested not only in developing and diversifying the economy but also you are very interested in nuclear disarmament,” Schwarzenegger said to Medvedev.


“I want to tell you how much I appreciate that.”


Former US secretary of state George Shultz was at the meeting and took the opportunity to hand Medvedev a copy of the newly released documentary “Nuclear Tipping Point” he helped to create.


Russian-US ties are enjoying a renaissance after Medvedev and his US counterpart Barack Obama signed the long-awaited landmark Cold War-era nuclear disarmament treaty in Prague in April.


Schwarzenegger drew laughter from Medvedev with recollections of spending a snowy winter in Russian filming “Red Heat” during his action hero movie star days and of being motivated by Russian weightlifters to become a body builder.


“San Francisco is a beautiful city,” Medvedev said as his chat with Schwarzenegger turned social.


“The weather keeps changing every two or three minutes so the picture is changing all the time. It is very difficult to work in this city because one wants to enjoy it.”



 

Source: SGGP