Why is it the skeptics always have to be right?

source: NASA

I so wished this was over. The containment cap on the Deepwater Horizon well had stopped the leak finally and I was thinking about researching on what could be done to speed along the clean up process and help nature come into some kind of balance again. “Not so quick”, said some, they only say they plugged it. “Wait and see”. And now, instead of posting about the clean up efforts necessary, I am posting about the oil spill and yet another failure.

The Oildrum (who else?) were the first to report it.

Admiral Allen’s letter via The Oildrum:

Dear Mr. Dudley,

My letter to you on July 16, 2010 extended the Well Integrity Test period contingent upon the completion of seismic surveys, robust monitoring for indications of leakage, and acoustic testing by the NOAA vessel PISCES in the immediate vicinity of the well head. Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period. As a continued condition of the test, you are required to provide as a top priority access and coordination for the monitoring systems, which include seismic and sonar surface ships and subsea ROV and acoustic systems. When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed. (read more)

AP reports:

NEW ORLEANS — A federal official says scientists are concerned about a seep and possible methane near BP’s busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico

Both could be signs there are leaks in the well that’s been capped off for three days.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because an announcement about the next steps had not been made yet.

The official is familiar with the spill oversight but would not clarify what is seeping near the well. The official says BP is not complying with the government’s demand for more monitoring.

So it is not over yet and BP is obstructing again on the issue. Washington’s Blog has a post up on this. And read this discussion about the obstruction by BP , too:

There are 4 alternative explanations for the unexpectedly low oil pressure in the BP well: (1) A leak in the pipe in the well bore; (2) flow under the well between sand layers; (3) a blockage in the well; or (4) depletion of the oil reservoir.

This essay focuses on the fourth possibility: depletion of the oil reservoir. Specifically, BP claims that the oil well pressure is perhaps 1,200 pounds per square inch less than expected because the oil reservoir has been depleted.

The size of the reservoir is crucial in testing BP’s theory. While there are other factors which determine oil pressure, the size of the reservoir is probably the most important. (read more)

What makes me really nervous is the obvious unwillingness of BP to answer Congress’ questions about the geology at the drilling site. As one of our Zoosters (please forgive me, I can’t quite remember who it was) has pointed out a while ago, no drilling will even be considered without a doing geological survey first. So why is BP keeping mum about the findings of this survey? The geology is key to any efforts to shut down the well permanently and compromising the geological structures at the well site would finally make the spill permanent, if it isn’t permanent already.

For those of you, who don’t have the time to read all of the above, I’m reposting the video of Anderson Cooper’s interview with Ed Markey found at Washington’s blog:

Bring out the handcuffs for the BP management and jail them until they comply and then some!

The Watering Hole: July 16 – Has the oil spill been stopped?

Picture source:Yahoo

BP has announced yesterday that the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon well has been stopped for the first time since the accident.

Video feeds from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico continue to show no leaking oil

Oil firm BP is awaiting test results from the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, a day after staunching the flow of oil for the first time since April.

The firm is checking how much pressure the well can withstand while the valves on its new capping device are closed. (read more)

This is, of course, good news. But there is scepticism, too:

We will need to wait another 24 hours or so – and engineers will have to continue monitoring sonar and visual images (both help determine if any oil is leaking from the seafloor), and seismic data (to determine if there are any new leaks below the seafloor) – before engineers can determine how stable the well is. (read full story)

Admiral Allan says (via The Oildrum):

“We’re encouraged by this development, but this isn’t over. Over the next several hours we will continue to collect data and work with the federal science team to analyze this information and perform additional seismic mapping runs in the hopes of gaining a better understanding on the condition of the well bore and options for temporary shut in of the well during a hurricane. It remains likely that we will return to the containment process using this new stacking cap connected to the risers to attempt to collect up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day until the relief well is completed.” (read post)

The video from the oil well shows no obvious spill right now. Yesterday, however, I thought I saw something spilling in the background. My eyesight sucks so don’t take my word for it. If, God forbid, I really saw it, it would mean the entire well is compromised and this would be disastrous.

The relief wells  are generally seen as the sure-fire solution to the oil spill. If, that is, those wells are up to standard.

HOUSTON, July 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a memorandum that problems were identified “in recent weeks” with blowout preventers on BP Plc’s (BP.L: Quote) (BP.N: Quote) relief wells, which are seen as the only proven way to kill the Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

In a 29-page memo to Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) dated Monday, Salazar said “performance problems” with the blowout preventers were found when new testing requirements were imposed after the April 20 blowout that preceded the gushing leak. (read full story)

I am not surprised at all. Not at BP’s producing yet another blunder, neither, I must say, at the watchfulness of your government, who found out before yet another blowout preventer failed. There are many voices out there, who claim the government’s response was inadequate. I beg to differ. The Obama administration made sure there were live cams down there, so the claims “only” 1’000 barrels/day flowed from the well were quickly and obviously debunked. The Obama administration insisted on two relief wells being drilled, so there was a second shot, if the first failed to hit target. The Obama administration has delayed the testing of the new cap, because increasing the pressure was a dangerous proposition and needed to be done in the best possible way, not hurriedly. I still believe this is not over yet and I still believe this catastrophe is mostly unmanageable by us humans who caused it. But everybody who thinks the government should do more ought to sit back, think and go back in time only three years. And then honestly assess, what the Bush administration would have done.

Never mind my lengthy post, this is still our open thread so feel free to comment on this or on anything else  on your mind.

The Watering Hole: June 16 – Calculations

Oil Spill Diver

picture source: http://www.recursosmarinos.net/?p=81

The damaged well of the Deepwater Horizon site issues up to 60’000 barrels of oil into the Gulf per day. This is ongoing for 57 days now, that makes a total of 3.4 million barrels. The worst oil spill ever caused by Iraqi forces during Gulf War I added up to 8 million barrels leaked into the environment. If the relief well is in place and stops the spill, say mid August, there will be 7 million barrels in the Gulf of Mexico. There is no reason to be that optimistic, however. The Ixtoc oil spill, which occurred 160 ft below surface and not 5000 ft, took nine months to plug. If we take this as a model, there will be 16 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico by January.

There is nothing BP, or all of the oil industry or your President can do about it now.

This time mankind has overreached itself and lost.

This is our open thread.

The Watering Hole: June 1 – It’s Hurricane Season

Hurricane Katrina

The National Hurricane Center

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is projecting a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:

  • 14 to 23 Named Storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 8 to 14 Hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
  • 3 to 7 could be Major Hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

“If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared.” (read more)

Here’s the NHC’s fact sheet on Hurricanes and the Oil Spill. I feel so much better now. /sarc

Nuking the Spill: Pro: You’re doing something about it – Contra: You’re doing the wrong thing

The above video is about to go viral as desperation about the gulf oil spill mounts. Otherwise quite sensible people are all for it, because it seems so easy and the US has lot’s of nukes, don’t they? Russia has reported five incidents where they used a nuclear explosion to shut down oil or gas leaks and there are reportedly hundreds that have been used for non military means:

The Soviet Union, a major oil exporter, used this method five times to deal with petrocalamities. The first happened in Uzbekistan, on September 30, 1966 with a blast 1.5 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb and at a depth of 1.5 kilometers. KP also notes that subterranean nuclear blasts were used as much as 169 times in the Soviet Union to accomplish fairly mundane tasks like creating underground storage spaces for gas or building canals.

Looks like Obama is just a sissy who doesn’t dare to do the right thing, because of, as the above post says, anti nuclear political correctness. Maybe, however, he’s just a little smarter than the “nuke it” crowd. The procedure has never been tested in deepwater environment. At Crooks & Liars there are two discussions and it was this comment on the earlier thread, that gives us an idea about how bad this would possibly come out: Continue reading

Breaking News: BP Purchases Gulf of Mexico

Roiters International: Florida

Invoking the widely used rule of Commerce “You broke it, you bought it” British Petroleum announced earlier today it has purchased the Gulf of Mexico. Although the rule is most frequently enforced in fine china and crystal shops, lawyers for BP said it does have application elsewhere and could find nothing to prohibit its application here.

The deal for an undisclosed amount was closed with one Felipe Aguadel DeLeon, the last known surviving heir of the renowned explorer Ponce DeLeon who dedicated his life searching for a Fountain of Youth reported to be somewhere in Florida.

According to centuries old documents, DeLeon was convinced that the Fountain’s waters flowed into the Gulf. While land grants from the Spanish Crown were common at that time, DeLeon asked for, and received, a grant for the entire Gulf of Mexico. Later, when Spain ceded Florida to the United States, nothing in the transaction included the Gulf, which remained in the sole possession of the DeLeon estate.

Constitutional Law professor Joe Furley explained, “This is totally out of the realm of anything the Constitution was designed to deal with. It was always presumed that the waters of the sea, beyond the range of a fortress’ guns, belonged to no one. ”  The Grant appears to be authentic, he added, which means the transaction will stand up in U.S. Courts.

UPDATE: A convoy of trucks loaded with No Trespassing, No Fishing, No Swimming signs has been spotted heading towards the Gulf Coast.

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Top Kill failed – BP is running out of options

UPDATE: IT’S OFFICIAL, TOP KILL FAILED

The top kill effort to plug the well at the Deepwater Horizon disaster site has failed. Never mind what BP says or the question mark on the following story. Fact is:

Hope is dimming for the attempt by BP (NYSE:BP) to quickly plug the oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico through Top Kill, as BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles confirms they haven’t been able to stop the oil spill yet. (read more)

Robert L. Cavnar says:

I’m now hearing that BP determined the top kill failure sometime in the last 24 hours, but rather than announce it, have decided to just keep pumping until the next alternative is decided, either the LMRP (lower marine riser cap) cap to bring flow to the surface, or removing the LMRP and landing a new BOP on top of the failed one. (read more)

There is something more he says:

As a side note, I do find it interesting that the BP feed no longer includes the bent riser view of the last couple of days,and now looks like the end of the riser where the riser insertion tool had been used previously.

Interesting indeed. What’s more, to me it looks as if the leak they are showing now is in a cavity that keeps getting deeper. I fear there are significant geological shifts going on, too. It can be the angle of the camera, but those pictures scare me silly. If the ground ruptures some more there, Heaven help us.

So after the top kill the top hat is back in the equation. That has failed already. The only sure fire way, according to BP, is the relief drill, but that can take until August and happens to be the one solution that would keep the well available for exploitation. I was very reluctant to believe that buying time was the real driving force behind all the “failures”. I thought that was too cynical. Not anymore.

The Watering Hole: May 18, Red Adair

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Am I the only one who keeps thinking Red Adair would know how to help? I don’t know if he would, but the gulf oil spill is huge enough and menacing enough to wish for a hero who just takes over and gets the situation under control like in the movies. Red Adair was one of the American Heroes we over here in Europe admired so much when I was a teenager. Quite a while ago.

The situation is indeed desperate. BP is celebrating the fact that they now syphon off 1’000 barrels a day from the leak, which spills at least 5’000 if not 26’000 per day. If that doesn’t make you wish for a hero, knight in shining armour, what would?

So what are the options?

For some days there is chatter out there, that BP is not considering the option of closing the leak by a controlled explosion, because it would finally seal the oilfield and thus their profits.This makes for good copy, bad corporations and all that, but I am more inclined to think all involved are at a complete loss for what to do.

I doubt there is someone out there who knows how to controlledly blow up an oil well in a deep sea level environment. Suggestions run from nuking the well, to a controlled explosion using plastic explosives. President Obama has involved the Pentagon right at the beginning of the catastrophy in April, and while this was initially to enlist the navy for oil spill containment, it would be naive to think, in a situation as desperate as this, they are not considering their options to stop the spill either. They have a huge arsenal of explosives from conventional to nuclear. I seriously doubt BP would get a say in whether the well was sealed by any explosion if this was really considered a viable way to do it.

The sad truth is: Nobody knows what to do really. Offshore drilling in such depths is a risk mankind took but has never assessed properly before the drilling started. (Like so many things we do.) Now we are out of our depth to find a solution to a self made problem.

So. Where’s Red? Red’s dead and heroes like the one we’d need now, really only exist in movies and books.

While I was writing this another 850 barrels (medium estimate)  of oil have spilled from the leak.

This is an open thread. Feel free to somment on this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Bobby Jindal discovers he’s really green.

That’s what he said in 2008:

Now he sings to a different tune:

“We’re concerned about the subsea application of dispersent. He asked that the entire column be tested. Asked BP to make a long-term commitment to monitoring the water. “You’re talking about an impact that could hurt multiple generations of wildlife. These are the ocean’s nurseries.”

I couldn’t agree more with Mr Jindal, but off shore drilling came first, then the spill and now his eco consciousness kicks in?

How about: “We made a huge mistake, by pushing offshore drilling to it’s limits. We will have to rethink our priorities.”?

He’s pro nuclear energy and coal, too. Can’t he remember Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and West Virginia?

Results and yet ..

Last week I closely followed four stories. None of the results were in any way really pleasing. Except maybe for the drubbing Merkel and more important Westerwelle received, but that’s just me.

Gulf of Mexico Oil

The Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico cannot be stopped.

The dome that was supposed to funnel the oil from the well into ships on the surface has failed. BP and everybody else are at a loss with what can be done about it.  I submitted the above link to reddit and the discussion there starts with a toungue in cheek remark to “nuke it” and results in some serious discussion of whether this was possible. Yes folks, the situation is that desperate.

UK elections gave us a result, but no government.

Forget about the dire warnings of “senior bankers” that a government pact rather be quick, but from what I see there is no real compatibility amongst the prospective partners of a coalition to lead to a lasting government. Electoral reform is necessary, but how much will come out of it, if the parties you can choose out of still suck?

The elections in Germany’s biggest Bundesland (state) ends in  a tie and gets the German government in a fix.

That’s wat Angela Merkel needed most. Instead of wiping the sweat of  a heroic rescue mission from her brow (see below) she returns to Berlin as a sad loser. By her own making. Or rather, by her own government, cause her junior partner helped this defeat along a goodish bit. Germany being the biggest still functional economy in Europe, this will have an impact.

The EU agreed on an financial umbrella for debt stricken members, which amounts to € 750 bn (almost $ 1 trillion) .

Markets are upbeat about that. Up somewhere between 4% and almost 7%  today. Now what is it really? The secure feeling that the Euro and with it European economies are really more stable now, or the prospect of another trillion dollars in liquidity on their way right from European taxpayers pockets  into the assets lists of international banks?

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The Watering Hole: May 7 – And now the chemical spill

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They must be kidding. To break up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill the dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 are used by the hundreds of thousands of gallons. Right into the ecosystem of the Gulf. But what is it they use?

As ProPublica reported Monday, information about dispersants is “kept secret under competitive trade laws.” I’ve spent the last several days trying to confirm what many in the ocean-ecology and public health worlds seemed to know, but no one would say officially: that two different dispersants sold under the banner of Corexit were being used in vast quantities. The Corexit brand is owned by an Illinois-based company called Nalco, which entered the dispersant business back in 1994, when it merged with Exxon’s chemical unit. (By 2004, Exxon had divested and Nalco was a standalone company, according to Nalco’s company history.)

[…]

So, what’s in the stuff? According to their data sheets, both 9500 and 9527 are composed of three potentially hazardous substances. They share two in common, organic sulfonic acid salt and propylene glycol. In addition to those two, Corexit 9500 contains something called “Distillates, petroleum, hydrotreated light,” while Corexit 9527 contains 2-Butoxyethanol. Frustratingly, the sheets don’t give exact information about how much of the substances are in the dispersants; instead they give ranges as a percentage of weight. For example, Corexit 9500 can be composed of anywhere from 10 to 30 percent petroleum distillates, while 2-Butoxyethanol makes up anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of 9527.

(read more)

Protected under competitive trade laws? My foot, they are dumping it in our ecosystem the more the better and don’t even have to let us know what’s in it? I know, you can already hear me shout: “Regulation!”

There would be an alternative chemical, I seriously doubt that it is really environmentally friendly, but obviously it’s use wasn’t even considered properly.

Called Dispersit, it’s manufactured by the U.S. Polychemical Corporation and has been approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency. Both Corexit and Dispersit were tested by the EPA, and according to those results, Corexit was 54.7 percent effective at breaking down crude oil from the Gulf, and Dispersit was 100 percent effective.

Not only did Corexit do a worse job of dispersing oil, but it was three times as lethal to silverfish – used as a benchmark organism in toxicity testing — and more than twice as lethal to shrimp, another benchmark organism and an important part of Gulf fisheries.

[…]

Relief agencies were not immediately available for comment about Dispersit. In a Tuesday press conference, Charlie Henry, the scientific support coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the potential effects of Corexit’s use in the Gulf are unknown. “Those analyses are going on, but right now there’s no consensus,” he said. “And we’re just really getting started. You can imagine it’s something we’ve never thought about.” (read more)

Never thought about it? Figures.

You can find more information on the toxicity of Corexit here, here and here.

It is all just a matter of “Now you see me, now you don’t.”

This is our Open Thread. Spill your thoughts!