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Gulf Oil Spill Disaster: Top Kill Fails, According to BP
May 12, 2010 - 8:47pm — GettingOutside
May 29 Update: *Read our recommendations for fixing the mess.* No end in sight. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles announced today that the Top Kill method has failed. After pumping 30,000 barrels of drilling mud into the well and after attempting the Jump Shot technique, BP let the government and press know that these options have failed to halt the spill.
The next attempt will be a variation of the previously failed Top Hat maneuver, now being called the Lower Marin Riser Package or LMRP, whereby they put an apparatus over the end of the pipe in attempt to capture as much oil as possible.
However, Mr. Suttles was quick to point out that they have no expectation that this will capture all the oil that is gushing out of the well. Best case scenario for this method is to capture most of the gusher.
Recommendation: One company alone cannot handle this crisis, especially with the federal government handcuffed on the sidelines. It's time that the Administration take over this operation, and put the world's best and brightest minds to work on solving the crisis. Here's how they do it:
- Congress needs to give the President Emergency Powers to handle this situation as needed.
- The President needs to conscript ALL the leading industry experts, regardless of corporate affiliation. (Get the best people for every company, university and agency out there.)
- Commandeer ALL the equipment needed from all the companies that are involved in the oil business.
This effort calls for real leadership, out-of-the-box thinking, deployment of massive resources, and a real sense of urgency. They should have done this weeks ago, but there is no time like the present. We can't wait any longer. Spread the word!
May 27 Update: See Live Feed Video! Top Kill Efforts Inconclusive, Government Declares Commercial Fishing Failure, President Obama Halts Arctic, Virginia Drilling and Announces New Safety Rules, Elizabeth Birnbaum Resigns as Head of the Mineral Management Service.
It has been a busy 24 hours for the BP Oil Spill Disaster. As of this writing, BP has been unable to assure the public that it’s efforts to seal the oil well using the “top kill” procedure, forcing in drilling mud at high pressure and then finally capping with cement. Though according to the major news networks, like CNN and MSNBC, and their experts, there seems to be some reason for guarded optimism.
|Oil Spill in the Gulf - Live Cam
Federal Government Declares Commercial Fisheries Failure for Louisiana
At the request of Governor Bobby Jindal, the U.S. Department of Commerce has declared a commercial fisheries failure for Louisiana, triggering much-needed aid for commercial fishermen from the Economic Development Administration.
Governor Jindal said, "As more and more oil washes into Louisiana marshland and onto the shores of our beaches, aid to the fishing community is critical so that our coastal communities can get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Speedy assistance is necessary to restore our fisheries and to protect the livelihoods of fishermen and their families."
Sierra Club Wants Long-Term Protections
“It's very encouraging to see President Obama taking steps to end the lax safety regulations the oil industry has fought so hard to maintain and to put a stop to more drilling in areas like the Arctic and Virginia, said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “The changes President Obama announced will help reduce the risk of another catastrophic oil blowout. We know this disaster is the worst of its kind in U.S. history. These are important short-term moves, but these steps won't solve the underlying problems caused by our reliance on oil.”
Elizabeth Birnbaum Resigns
With a disaster of this magnitude and all the various happenings within the larger event, it’s hard to keep track of all the players. So the surprise wasn’t that Ms. Birnbaum resigned, but rather that it took so long for the Administration to figure out that she had to go.
“The resignation of Elizabeth Birnbaum as head of the Mineral Management Service is a sign that a culture of accountability may finally be taking hold but the cozy relationship Big Oil has with our government is pervasive, said Mr. Brune. “To end the industry’s reign of self-regulation, pollution and profiteering, BP must be held fully responsible for their negligence, the government must stop subsidizing these polluting companies, and there must be a massive new effort to move America away from oil dependence. “
Best Case Flow Rate Estimates
In a statement, USGS Director Dr. Marcia McNutt today announced that the National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG) has developed an independent, preliminary estimate of the amount of oil flowing from BP’s leaking oil well.
Based on three separate methodologies, the independent analysis of the Flow Rate Technical Group has determined that the overall best initial estimate for the lower and upper boundaries of flow rates of oil is in the range of 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day.
The FRTG used three separate methodologies to calculate their initial estimate, which they deemed the most scientifically-sound approach, because measurement of the flow of oil is extremely challenging, given the environment, unique nature of the flow, limited visibility, and lack of human access to BP’s leaking oil well.
These estimates seem like a best case scenario. Site members can log in to download the latest map from NOAA, outlining the scope of the closed fisheries (below)
NOAA data paints a grim picture. The new Gulf Fisheries closure measures 54,096 sq mi (140,109 sq km), which is slightly more than 22% of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone. While the majority of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico are open to commercial and recreational fishing, 54K square miles is still a lot of ocean.
And Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries LDWF Secretary Robert Barham announced additional precautionary closures to recreational and commercial fishing activities near Marsh Island effective May 26. These closures are a result of confirmed reports of oil.
Disaster Response To Date: Below are the resources amassed to date to mitigate the impacts of the spill.
- Approximately 1,300 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
- More than 1.85 million feet of containment boom and 1.25 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 300,000 feet of containment boom and 1 million feet of sorbent boom are available.
- Approximately 11 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.
- Approximately 840,000 gallons of total dispersant have been deployed—700,000 on the surface and 140,000 subsea. More than 380,000 gallons are available.
- 17 staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, including: Dauphin Island, Ala., Orange Beach, Ala., Theodore, Ala., Panama City, Fla., Pensacola, Fla., Port St. Joe, Fla., St. Marks, Fla., Amelia, La., Cocodrie, La., Grand Isle, La., Shell Beach, La., Slidell, La., St. Mary, La.; Venice, La., Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., and Pass Christian, Miss.
Oil Spill Update May 18: NOAA has extended the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico to include 45,728 square miles, which is roughly 19 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters, as a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.
The newly closed area is more than 150 miles from the nearest port and primarily in the deep water used by pelagic longline fisheries that target highly migratory species, such as tuna and swordfish. Coastal fisheries, such as grouper, snapper and shrimp, will not be affected by the expansion of the closed area.
”The BP oil spill is unprecedented and quickly changing. The administration’s response since the beginning has been aggressive, strategic, and science-based," said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "As we expand the fishing closed area, we are doing what science demands of us and are acting with caution to ensure the safety of the seafood Americans will put on their dinner plates. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Gulf coast fishermen and their families during these challenging times.”
Oil Spill Update May 17: BP tested a partial siphon method, somewhat successfully, resulting in partial capture of oil and gas. This may point the direction for future efforts, but make no mistake, oil is still gushing into the ocean. Even mitigation efforts, using dispersion chemicals, may be contributing to the overall environmental disaster.
Riser Insertion Tube Leak Mitigation Tactic Tested
The Unified Area Command reports that overnight the Riser Insertion Tube Tool was successfully tested and inserted into the leaking riser, capturing some amounts of oil and gas. The oil was stored on board the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship 5,000 feet above on the water’s surface, and natural gas was burned through a flare system on board the ship.
While not collecting all of the leaking oil, this tool is an important step in reducing the amount of oil being released into Gulf waters.
Secretary Salazar and Secretary Napolitano issued a joint statement on these efforts: "Today, BP attempted another test to contain some of the oil leaking from the riser. This technique is not a solution to the problem, and it is not yet clear how successful it may be. We are closely monitoring BP’s test with the hope that it will contain some of the oil, but at the same time, federal scientists are continuing to provide oversight and expertise to BP as they move forward with other strategies to contain the spill and stop the flow of oil. We will not rest until BP permanently seals the wellhead, the spill is cleaned up, and the communities and natural resources of the Gulf Coast are restored and made whole."
NOAA’s Fisheries Service has modified the area closed to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico due to the BP oil spill, which will include federal waters seaward of Louisiana state waters in the vicinity of Timbalier Island to waters off Florida’s Choctawhatchee Bay. In just 4 days, and additional 2.5 percent of the federal waters have been closed.
At this point, these changes will leave more than 93 percent of the Gulf’s federal waters open for fishing, and supporting productive fisheries and tourism. The new boundaries will take effect at 6:00 p.m. EDT May 11, 2010.
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Offshore Drilling Threatens Economies and Ecosystems
“There are two important lessons from this disaster: 1.) There is no such thing as safe offshore drilling. 2.) Disaster response plans are grossly inadequate," said Sierra Club Lands Protection Director Athan Manuel in a statement. "We need a presidential moratorium on all new offshore drilling.”
Beginning today, area boundaries could be modified daily, based on where and how fast the oil spill is moving. “We’ve met with Gulf fishermen over the last few weeks and understand their need to receive rapid information,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “NOAA stands shoulder to shoulder with Gulf coast fishermen and their families during these challenging times. Providing frequent updates about closed areas will allow fishermen to make good business and recreational decisions throughout this oil spill event, and will maintain public confidence in seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.”
NOAA also will expedite updates to the areas closed to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as public notice of those changes. The closure process is being improved to cut down on the red tape necessary to modify the boundaries of the closure area.
NOAA will provide daily updates online by 12:00 p.m. EDT. Any changes to the closed area will become effective at 6:00 p.m. EDT the same day. The six-hour window is meant to give fishermen time to retrieve their gear from any areas that are about to close, and advance notice of areas that will soon open for fishing. A status message will be updated daily, even when closed area has not changed.
This message will also be available on NOAA Weather Radio and by calling NOAA Fisheries southeast regional office at 727-824-5305.
Changes to the area closed to all fishing will be based on the present location and trajectories of the oil spill, which are affected by wind speed and direction, currents, waves, and other weather patterns. Adjustments will take into account fisher and consumer safety, while keeping open those areas not affected by the oil spill.
“Our plan is to use this new expedited process to open fisheries as well,” said Roy Crabtree, NOAA’s Fisheries Service southeast regional administrator. “If an area no longer exhibits oil and we determine through analysis that fish and shellfish are safe to eat, we will re-open that area to commercial and recreational fisheries.”
Oil continues to spread with winds and currents. With the persistent SE winds this week, the oil may pose a threat to Breton Sound and the Mississippi Delta.
Environmental Groups Express Concern Over Cleanup Methods
"We're now looking at a scenario where our best cures are nearly as bad as the disease. Response to this disaster has required lighting the sea on fire and pouring potent chemicals into the water, said Sierra Club's Manuel. "Now they are considering dredging the ocean to create manmade barrier islands, and using trash and human hair to prevent the spread of oil. If this is the backup plan, we need to rethink the logic of taking the risk in the first place. If the oil industry isn't capable of responding to the consequences of drilling, they shouldn't be taking the risk. The BP disaster is a wakeup call. It's time to rethink our energy."
“Now, it increasingly looks like the dispersants that BP has been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico has formed a toxic mixture of oil, chemicals and water that could be in the hundreds of millions of gallons," said Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of National Wildlife Federation in a statement. “These dispersants contain proprietary chemicals that have unknown effects. For the sake of cleanup workers, volunteers and wildlife we call on BP to disclose what chemicals are in their dispersants, and what effects they cause when mixed with oil. We cannot afford to compound one tragedy with another."
Response to Date
- Total response vessels: more than 517
- Boom deployed: more than 1.5 million feet (regular plus sorbent boom)
- Boom available: more than 1.4 million feet (regular plus sorbent boom)
- Oily water recovered: approximately 4 million gallons
- Dispersant used: approximately 436,246 gallons
- Dispersant available: approximately 120,00 gallons
- Overall personnel responding: approximately 13,000
In the meantime, NOAA strongly advises fishermen not to fish in areas where oil or oil sheens are present, even if they are outside the closed area.
Fishermen interested in being hired by BP to help clean up from the spill and deploy boom in the Gulf of Mexico should call 281-355-5511. Fishermen who wish to contact BP about a claim should call 800-440-0858.