Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say

Monday, September 20, 2010

A worker cleans up oily waste on the coast of an island in the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of workers are cleaning up oil from the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead that reached the shore a month after the ultra-deepwater oil rig exploded, killing 11 people.

The Deepwater Horizon is dead. Almost five months after an explosion rocked an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana and caused a natural disaster on a scale not seen before, BP yesterday announced that that the well has been completely shut off. Thad W. Allen, the former Coast Guard admiral who is heading up the response to the oil spill on behalf of the U.S. government said in a statement that the well now “poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.” He also released a U.S. goverment department’s confirmation of the news. “The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has confirmed that the cementing operation on the Macondo well was successful, that the well has been permanently sealed with cement plugs, and that pressure tests verify the integrity of the plugs,” it read. BP released a statement, describing the sealing of the well as “a significant technological accomplishment and another important milestone in our continued efforts to restore the Gulf Coast.”

Early on Sunday morning, those aboard Development Driller III drill rig, which aided in the shutting down of the well, successfully conducted a pressure test, and concluded that cement pumped through a relief well into the Macondo well was going to hold. The tests concluded that the cement finally put an end to an environmental disaster that has affected BP, the wildlife on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and the hundreds of people who make their living by fishing in the area. Forrest Travirca, who lives in Louisiana, said he was very angry with the response by BP and the authorities. “All the brown spots and patches you’ll see on this beach for the next nine miles is oil, too… And if you dig down a few inches or a few feet, you’ll see oil, too. And if you walk into that marsh back there, you’ll find oil,” he said. “So don’t tell me we dodged any bullets. Or that it wasn’t so bad. ‘Cause I’ve been out there every day since May dealing with all that oil we dodged. It just makes my blood boil.”

Admiral Allen admitted that the disaster was far from over. “Although the well is now dead, we remain committed to continue aggressive efforts to clean up any additional oil we may see going forward,” he said, adding that the response, lead by his team and BP “has been driven by the best science and engineering available. We insisted that BP develop robust redundancy measures to ensure that each step was part of a deliberate plan, driven by science, minimizing risk to ensure we did not inflict additional harm in our efforts to kill the well. I commend the response personnel, both from the government and private sectors, for seeing this vital procedure through to the end.”

The spill began in April, when Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing eleven people, after the blowout preventer failed. Oil began to leak into the Gulf, soon developing into the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. 4.9 million barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Extensive measures were used to prevent the oil from reaching the coastline of Louisiana, including skimmer ships, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, and sand-filled barricades. Scientists have also reported immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil not visible at the surface. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party, and officials have committed to holding the company accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage.

BP released their internal review into the spill last week, but it was rebuffed by the head of Greenpeace‘s energy campaign, Jim Footner, who said that it was “highly likely that a truly independent report would be even more damning for BP.” However, he said, “the real problem is our addiction to oil, which is pushing companies like BP to put lives and the environment at risk. The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now. The time has come to move beyond oil and invest in clean energy.” The report concludes by stating that decisions made by “multiple companies and work teams” contributed to the accident which it says arose from “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.” In their statement, BP said that they “will continue sharing what we have learned in an effort to prevent a tragedy like this from ever being repeated. We also believe that the industry will gain important insights on how to be better prepared to respond to any future incidents.”


Sources[edit]

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BP report into Gulf of Mexico disaster lays blame on other contractors

Friday, September 10, 2010

In their report on the disaster, BP shifts a large proportion of the blame to other contractors, including Transocean and Halliburton. The report was likely written with the company’s legal liability for the disaster in a prominent position. The executive summary is four and a half pages long—and the first page is made up entirely of legal disclaimers—if BP was found to be negligent in their operations of the rig, they could be fined a good deal more.

BP released their report into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster earlier this year on Wednesday, and shifted much of the blame for the explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, onto Transocean, the company managing the rig. The report concludes by stating that decisions made by “multiple companies and work teams” contributed to the accident which it says arose from “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.” The report, the product of a four-month investigation conducted by BP’s Head of Safety Operations, Mark Bly, criticizes the oil rig’s fire prevention systems, the crew of the rig for failing to realize and act upon evidence that oil was leaking from the surface of the ocean, and describes how BP and Transocean “incorrectly accepted” negative pressure test results. The document goes on to note that the blow-out preventer failed to operate, likely because critical components were not operational.

Bob Dudley, who will become chief executive of BP, described the accident as “tragic”. He said, “we have said from the beginning that the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon was a shared responsibility among many entities. This report makes that conclusion even clearer, presenting a detailed analysis of the facts and recommendations for improvement both for BP and the other parties involved. We have accepted all the recommendations and are examining how best to implement them across our drilling operations worldwide.” The report included 25 recommendations, according to a press release, “designed to prevent a recurrence of such an accident.” The oil company has previously blamed Transocean and Halliburton, the well contractor, for the disaster and BP executives feel they have been unfairly blamed by US politicians for the disaster, and the report continues this view.

Tony Hayward, who was fired from the position of BP’s chief executive following multiple public relations issues, squarley places the blame for the disaster on Halliburton. “To put it simply, there was a bad cement job,” he said in a statement, also claiming that BP should not be the only company to take the blame for the explosion. “It would appear unlikely that the well design contributed to the incident,” he argues. The report blames the type of cement used by Halliburton, designed to prevent harmful hydrocarbons from reaching the seabed, as well as criticizing the crew of Deepwater Horizon, for failing to realize for forty minutes that oil had started to leak from the well, and once it was realized, the crew “vented” the hydrocarbons “directly onto the rig”.

Describing how the explosion, which killed eleven rig personnel, occurred, the report states that “the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system probably transferred a gas-rich mixture into the engine rooms,” where the hydrocarbons ignited and a fireball engulfed the rig. But, the report states, the blowout preventer, the ultimate failsafe on the Deepwater Horizon failed, likely due to the fire on the rig. An automated system was not operational because the batteries powering it, located in a control pod, had gone flat, and another control pod contained a faulty solenoid valve.

The report was likely, however, written with the company’s legal liability for the disaster in a prominent position, since they are facing hundreds of lawsuits and criminal charges as a result of the spill. The executive summary is four and a half pages long and the first page is made up entirely of legal disclaimers saying if BP was found to be negligent in their operations of the rig, they could be fined a good deal more.

Questions have also been raised as to why BP has chosen to release their report before authorities examine the blowout preventer. The energy editor of The Guardian, Terry Macalister, wrote that the “catalougue of errors – both human and mechanical” in the report “demolish” the oil industry’s “much quoted mantra” of safety first. “It may come first in the board room but it does not down at the wellhead where the real dangers are faced,” he wrote. “It is worth remembering that BP, its rig operator Transocean and the main well contractor Halliburton are the blue chip companies in the wider oil and gas sector. If the shoddy work practices highlighted here are what the best-in-class do, then what is happening in the lower reaches of this industry?”

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Transocean described the report as a “self-serving” attempt to “conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP’s fatally flawed well design. In both its design and construction, BP made a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk – in some cases, severely.” In a statement, the company listed five issues they felt had contributed to the disaster that were no fault but BP’s. “Transocean’s investigation is ongoing, and will be concluded when all of the evidence is in, including the critical information the company has requested of BP but has yet to receive.” Members of Congress, who are also carrying out a review into the disaster, also dismissed the report. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts democrat who has been investigating the spill in Congress, said that he felt the report was simply a lengthy defense of the oil company’s handling of the spill. “BP is happy to slice up blame, as long as they get the smallest piece,” he said.

Bly acknowledged during a press conference in Washington that the report did not detail the charges raised against the company in Congress and that BP permitted a culture of recklessness to flourish. He did, however, reject suggestions that cost-cutting had put lives at risk and the rig was a disaster waiting to happen. “What we see instead is, where there were errors made they were based on poor decision-making process or using wrong information,” he said. The Guardian reported that “the report is narrowly focused on the final days before the explosion rather than on earlier decisions about well design and safety procedures. It is also closely focused on the rig itself. No BP officials have been sacked for their role in the explosion, and Bly said there was no indication of any blame beyond the well-site managers.”

The Associated Press reported that Bly “said at a briefing in Washington that the internal report was a reconstruction of what happened on the rig based on the company’s data and interviews with mostly BP employees and was not meant to focus on assigning blame. The six-person investigating panel only had access to a few workers from other companies, and samples of the actual cement used in the well were not released.” The report continued, “Steve Yerrid, special counsel on the oil spill for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, said the report clearly shows the company is attempting to spread blame for the well disaster, foreshadowing what will be a likely legal effort to force Halliburton and Transocean, and perhaps others, to share costs such as paying claims and government penalties.”

Heavily oiled Brown Pelicans wait to be cleaned of crude oil in Louisiana. Jim Footner of Greenpeace said that “the real problem is our addiction to oil, which is pushing companies like BP to put lives and the environment at risk … The time has come to move beyond oil and invest in clean energy.”

Head of Greenpeace‘s energy campaign Jim Footner said that it was “highly likely that a truly independent report would be even more damning for BP.” However, he said, “the real problem is our addiction to oil, which is pushing companies like BP to put lives and the environment at risk. The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now. The time has come to move beyond oil and invest in clean energy.” Alfred R Sunsen, whose oyster company operating in the Gulf of Mexico is facing the prospect of going out of business after 134 years, reacted angrily the the report. “The report does not address the people, businesses, animals, or natural resources that have been impacted by the disaster and will be dealing with the consequences of their inadequate and slow response to the disaster,” he said. The New York Times said that the report is “unlikely to carry much weight in influencing the Department of Justice, which is considering criminal and civil charges related to the spill,” and described it as “a public relations exercise” and a “probable legal strategy as it prepares to defend itself against possible federal charges, penalties and hundreds of pending lawsuits.”

Wayne Pennington, head of the geological engineering department at Michigan Technical University, also alleged that BP was wrong to blame other parties involved with the disaster. “The blowout and subsequent explosion and spillage appear to the result of an overall attitude that encouraged unwarranted optimism in the quality of each component of the job, allowing the omission of standard testing procedures, and the misinterpretation of other tests in the most-favorable light.” He continued: “Instead, skepticism should reign on any drilling job, and testing and evaluation at each stage of the drilling and completion would then be routine; instead of questioning the need for such things as the cement bond log, the companies involved should insist on checking and double-checking quality at each step of the process. This was clearly not done, repeatedly, in the case of the Macondo well, and disaster resulted.”

4.9 million barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Extensive measures were used to prevent the oil from reaching the coastline of Louisiana, including skimmer ships, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, and sand-filled barricades. Scientists have also reported immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil not visible at the surface. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party, and officials have committed to holding the company accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage.

Dudley went on to say that BP “deeply regret” the disaster. “We have sought throughout to step up to our responsibilities. We are determined to learn the lessons for the future and we will be undertaking a broad-scale review to further improve the safety of our operations. We will invest whatever it takes to achieve that. It will be incumbent on everyone at BP to embrace and implement the changes necessary to ensure that a tragedy like this can never happen again.”


Sources[edit]

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No oil spillage after platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Map highlighting location of Deepwater well and Vermillion 380 platform.
Image: Edbrown05.

An oil platform owned by Mariner Energy has exploded in the Gulf of Mexico throwing thirteen people into the water, reports indicate. All thirteen men who fell into the water have been accounted for, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. No injuries were reported. Smoke was billowing from the oil rig named Vermilion 380, which is reported to still be on fire.

The blast occurred at around 9:19 a.m., approximately 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay off the coast of Louisiana. The Coast Guard confirms the platform was producing oil and gas at the time it exploded. They earlier reported a one mile long and 100 foot wide oil sheen which was spotted at the site of the explosion shortly after authorities responded to the scene, but later backtracked saying they could not confirm the presence of a sheen. Coast Guard chief petty officer John Edwards of the US Coast Guard earlier said that the platform, “was not actively producing any product.” Mariner Energy also released a statement earlier saying no oil sheen was spotted.

“In an initial flyover, no hydrocarbon spill was reported,” said Mariner Energy in a press release following the explosion. “The cause is not known, and an investigation will be undertaken. During the last week of August 2010, production from this facility averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate.” According to Bureau of Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement spokesperson Melissa Schwartz, the platform was authorized to produce natural gas and oil at those depths, but “there were ongoing maintenance activities underway” which caused it to stop producing. The platform sits in about 2,500 feet of water, though some reports put the platform in 340 feet of water.

As a result of the explosion and fire, Bobby Jindal, the governor for the state of Louisiana said that the Vermillion 380 platform had been “shut” and that oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf has been stopped. At least 6 other platforms are said to be connected to the well that Vermilion 380 was part of. Jindal also said the fire was burning due to flammable materials on the platform.

Apache Corporation, which has agreed to, but has not yet completed a merger with Mariner Energy, did not comment on whether the explosion would have any effect on the deal. The vice-president Bob Dye told Wikinews that “Apache and Mariner agreed to merge in April, 2010, however, the transaction has not yet closed so Mariner remains the operator of this platform”.

All 13 people have been rescued by an oil support vessel and have been transported to a nearby platform. Edwards earlier told MSNBC that all those who were in the water were “wearing some sort of an immersion suit that protects them from the water. Right now we’re focused on search and rescue and then, ultimately, as this thing progresses we’re going to be looking into the cause.”

The explosion comes only four months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig run by BP exploded in April, resulting in a massive oil spill. The platform is located about 200 miles west of the Deepwater incident.


Sources[edit]

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Oil-eating microbe found in the Gulf of Mexico

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A group of researchers led by Terry Hazen, a senior ecologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have discovered a new species of microorganism. Hazen’s team started research in May this year. Their findings were based on more than 200 samples collected from 17 deep-water sites in the Gulf of Mexico between May 25 and June 2. The new species is distinctive for its oil-consuming activity in a wide range of conditions, and is playing a role in depletion of oil spills in the area.

Scientists had been puzzled by the disappearance of oil in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Detailed maps were made on how the spilled oil went underwater and how far it was spread; however, some of it seemed to have disappeared.

A grant from the Energy Biosciences Institute, and a partnership led by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois that is funded by a USD 500 million, 10-year grant from BP, was the basis for support of the research. The U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Oklahoma Research Foundation also supported it.

The field study was conducted during the first week. As Hazen said, “We deployed on two ships to determine the physical, chemical and microbiological properties of the deepwater oil plume. The oil escaping from the damaged wellhead represented an enormous carbon input to the water column ecosystem and while we suspected that hydrocarbon components in the oil could potentially serve as a carbon substrate for deep-sea microbes, scientific data was needed for informed decisions.”

Sample analysis was eased because the researchers used the pocket-sized Berkeley Lab DNA sampler PhyloChip. It allowed researchers to detect the presence of thousands of species of bacteria in samples from a wide range of environmental sources, without the culturing procedures usually performed in a furnished lab workplace. With the device, Hazen and his co-researchers discovered that a dominant microbe, making up 90 percent of all the bacteria in the oil plume, is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales family, more specifically Oleispirea antarctica and Oceaniserpentilla haliotis.

The previous works were measuring low levels of oxygen in certain areas to detect microbes activity. Researchers thought that increased activity would lead to more aerobic activities, such as breathing, which depletes the oxygen content in water. However, the newly discovered species doesn’t seem to be consuming much oxygen from the water column. The study found that oxygen saturation outside the oil plume was 67-percent, while within the plume, it was 59-percent. By Terry Hazen’s words, “The low concentrations of iron in seawater may have prevented oxygen concentrations dropping more precipitously from biodegradation demand on the petroleum, since many hydrocarbon-degrading enzymes have iron as a component… There’s not enough iron to form more of these enzymes, which would degrade the carbon faster but also consume more oxygen.”

Analysis of changes in the oil composition as the plume extended from the wellhead pointed to faster than expected biodegradation rates with the half-life of alkanes ranging from 1.2 to 6.1 days. This microbe thrives in cold water, with temperatures in the deep recorded at 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit).

The summer observations showed the bacteria managed to consume the oil spill relatively quickly in June. Some commenters noted that the previously released oil dispersant COREXIT can have significantly eased the process of interaction of the microbes with the oil by making oil particles smaller and easier to access. As Hazen explained, “We’ve been out there continuously… Once the oil flow stopped on July 15, within two weeks we saw most of the plume disappear.”

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Wikinews Shorts: August 4, 2010

 
Correction — August 13, 2010
 
This article incorrectly describes BP as ‘British Petroleum’. In fact, such a company has not existed for many years as BP dropped this name when becoming a multinational company. The initials no longer stand for anything.
 

A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, August 4, 2010.

BP starts “static kill” to permanently stop oil spill[edit]

With “static kill”, BP hopes to get rid of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for good.
Image: NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response.

BP (British Petroleum) engineers began injecting drilling mud into the capped Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico as the first part of a “static kill” procedure intended to permanently stop the flow of oil into the Gulf coast. Earlier in the day, the multi-national energy company ran “injectivity tests” to find out if the well, which had been leaking for months, could withstand the pressure of the procedure, which is meant to plug up the oil that isn’t flowing because the well has been capped. The procedure, unlike the “top kill” attempted in May, is designed to proceed slowly.

After a day-long delay, BP declared that the procedure could safely begin and that company’s senior vice president, Kent Wells, said that the afternoon pressure test “went exactly as planned”.

The company also said that the “static kill” was only half the solution, with the other half being two relief wells that are planned to plug the well from the bottom.

Sources


Drunk illegal immigrant kills nun, injures two[edit]

An illegal immigrant accused of driving drunk has been charged with killing Sister Denise Mosier, a nun, and severely injuring two other nuns. Carlos Martinelly Montano, 23, has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and involuntary manslaughter, following a car crash which occurred at 8:30 AM EDT on Sunday (0030 Monday, UTC). The man has also been charged with felony driving under a revoked drivers license. The car accident occurred in Virginia, USA’s Prince William County. Police also said that Montano is an illegal immigrant awaiting deportation and has also repeatedly been charged with drunk driving.

The US Department of Homeland Security stated that Montano had been released in 2008, with immigration judge’s review of his case pending. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the accident “a horrible thing” and saying, “this is a horrible case. Why is it that this individual was still out driving? He was in removal proceedings. Why were the removal proceedings taking so long?”

All three nuns were driving to a retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Bristow, Va when Montano crashed into their car. Montano has been treated for injuries.

Sources


Kenyans to vote on new constitution[edit]

On Wednesday, Kenyans will vote whether to accept a new constitution.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

On Wednesday, Kenyans will vote on a new constitution that intends to fix many of the country’s political problems like widespread corruption and heightened ethnic divisions. Wednesday has been declared a public holiday so more people can vote.

Billie O’Kadameri of Radio France International described opposition that arose from an alliance of churches and political leaders. Warnings of disruption in opposition areas have marred what the government initially hoped would be a united vote in support of the proposal.

However, Salim Lone, senior adviser to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, said that “[Kenyans] are united as we have never been since independence more than 45 years ago,” and, “Virtually all Kenyans, from across the political and ethnic divides, want this constitution”.

The new constitution would restrict the president’s power, gives the people a bill of rights, gives more power to local governments and encourages land reform. However, the Kalenjin tribe claims that the new land reform would lead to the taxation and even seizure of their lands.

The last time a major vote was held (the Kenyan presidential election in 2007), violence left almost 1,500 people dead and over half a million displaced.

Sources



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After 100 days, Deepwater Horizon oil spill still threatens Gulf coast

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Several workers wash a pelican caught in the spill
Image: International Bird Rescue Research Center.

Development Driller II digs a relief well in order to permanently close the leaking well.
Image: Barry Bena/US Coast Guard.

Wednesday marked the 100th day since the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and although the leaking well was recently capped, the estimated three million or more barrels of oil already in the Gulf of Mexico are still causing trouble for many residents of the Gulf coast.

There are still many unanswered questions about the long-term impact of the spill, including how it has affected the environment and natural habitats of the Gulf as well as whether residents of the area will be able to return to their jobs and livelihoods now that the leak has been capped. US government officials say that, even after the oil well is permanently sealed, workers will still have a lot to do, including the removal of around 20 million feet (6.1 million metres) of containment boom. “I would characterize this as the first 100 days. There’s a lot of work in front of us,” said Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft of the US Coast Guard.

Authorities will use submarines to assess damage underwater, while teams on the ground assess the shoreline. While removing oil from beaches is expected to be fairly straightforward, cleaning the marshlands will be particularly difficult, as boats are needed to maneuver through small channels and workers are unable to stand on solid ground. At least 638 miles (1,027 kilometres) of the Gulf coast have been hit by the oil.

The government is focusing on both cleaning sensitive coastal regions and looking for underwater oil plumes, but is also probing into what may have been the largest accidental oil spill. The US Justice Department, as well as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, are all investigating what contributed to the disaster. The Washington Post reported one team is looking into whether a close relationship between BP and government regulators played a role in the spill. The Post also said that Deepwater Horizon operator Transocean as well as oil services group Halliburton were being investigated.

BP officials say that they will try to perform the “static kill” process on Monday, a process which involves pumping a thick mixture of mud and cement down into the cap currently stopping the leak. At the end of next week, one of two relief wells currently being drilled should reach the leaking well, and officials will then know if the static kill has worked. It is hoped that this “bottom kill” operation will be able to permanently seal the damaged well.

Even though BP is close to sealing the oil reservoir, it still faces legal battles, economic struggles, and internal changes. On Tuesday, BP announced Tony Hayward would step down from his position as the company’s chief executive. His replacement, American Bob Dudley, will be the first non-British CEO of the company.

On Thursday, lawyers met at Boise, Idaho hearing to determine how around 200 various lawsuits against BP will play out. Depending on whether the suits can be consolidated, BP could be facing years of legal disputes. BP, Transocean, and Halliburton had already blamed each other for the disaster during a May hearing before the US Senate. Federal regulatory officials were criticized for allegedly taking bribes and not thoroughly inspecting the oil rig.

The company also reported a quarterly loss of US$16.9 billion and said it has allocated US$32.2 billion to pay for the spill. BP has a US$20 billion fund to help make up for the massive losses of the Gulf fishing, oil, and tourism industries and will pay damages for each of the millions of barrels of oil lost in the disaster.

BP says that it is the “responsible party” for cleaning up the spill because it owned the leaking well and had leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, but claims that it is not responsible for the entire spill.


Sources[edit]

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BP CEO Tony Hayward to resign, say analysts

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hayward at the World Economic Forum in 2008
Image: World Economic Forum.

BP Chief Executive Anthony Bryan “Tony” Hayward is negotiating the terms of his departure and will stand down from the company; effectively taking responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to journalists. The New York Times cites an anonymous source “close to the board”, and the BBC’s business editor makes a similar analysis. It is expected that President and CEO of the company’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization Bob Dudley, a Mississippi native, member of the Board of Directors, and most senior American executive of BP, will replace Tony Hayward as Chief Executive.

A report by the BBC World Service said a BP press release asserted that, “[Hayward] has the full confidence of the Board.” The resignation, and change of leadership, at the multinational UK-based oil firm are expected to be discussed by the company’s Board of Directors on Monday, and will potentially be ratified as early as Tuesday.

Hayward’s position was, essentially, undercut when United States President Barack Obama said he “would have fired him.”


Sources[edit]

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China launches major cleanup operation after oil spill

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

After an oil pipeline in China exploded and spilled around 1,500 tonnes of oil into the Yellow Sea near the city of Dalian, the government has launched a cleanup operation consisting of more than 800 vessels.

The spill occurred on Friday, after a pipeline at the port exploded. The oil terminal at the port has been closed ever since. Authorities have been using 24 ships designed for cleaning up oil, and today ordered around 800 civilian fishing boats to join the operation.

The spill has been halted, although an oil slick which measured 50 square kilometers at its height remains in the harbor, and ships are using absorbent foam to remove oil from the water, as well as barriers to keep oil from reaching the shore. Despite their efforts, parts of the coast reportedly have a slick of oil evident on beaches and rocks.

Although rough seas have affected the cleanup, authorities expect to have completed the operations within ten days.

According to domestic media, concerns over safety at the port have been raised in the past; a government study in 2006 noted that five projects at the port were at risk of accidents.

The spill has caused ongoing disruptions to the port’s operations, with several ships, including six oil tankers carrying a total of around twelve million barrels of oil, having been diverted to other ports both in China and other countries.


Sources[edit]

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ROV detects leaks in Deepwater Horizon well cap

Monday, July 19, 2010

As many as four leaks have been detected in the Deepwater Horizon well cap in the Gulf of Mexico, according to live footage shot by one of BP‘s ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles). The leaks were detected early this morning, just after 4:00 (EDT).

The HOS SUPER H ROV 1 made the discovery while performing an “integrity survey” of the well and well cap. It recorded what appears to be a thin metal pipe lining the outside of the oil cap. Four small leaks of what appear to oil bubbles were detected during this survey. The first appears just after the elbow connecting the pipe to the two green pipes. The second can be seen through the hole of the large metal ring. The third is seen just to the right of the metal ring.

Hydrocarbon builds up as oil and gas leaks from a pipe.
Image: BP.

It is not yet known what the pipe carries or what it connects to. It is also not yet clear if all leaks are from the pipe, or leaking from the well. BP confirmed the leaks and told Wikinews in a phone call to their Houston, Texas press office, there is a “small leak” releasing hydrates consisting of gases and oil. They are “studying the issue” and are prepared to fix the pipe if it becomes an issue. Live camera feeds show hydrocarbons building up as the oil and gas leak from the pipe.

On July 18, ROV cameras showed bubbles coming from the base of well. BP said it would test the bubbles to determine what they are and as of Sunday, COO of BP Doug Suttles says the bubbles are not methane, but further tests are being conducted. “If you can imagine, it is not an easy operation to collect those bubbles so that they can be tested to see what their make-up is.”

Yesterday an unnamed United States official told the Associated Press that there was “seepage” coming from the area at the bottom of the Deepwater well head. The official said the seepage and methane gas were discovered near the Deepwater well head, but did not specify an exact location. Admiral Thad Allen, a former US Coast Guard admiral who is overseeing the spill efforts for the US government said yesterday in a letter to BP that ROVs “detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head.” So far there is no word what those substances are, but BP says the bubbles detected on July 18 are not of a hydrocarbon nature.

“When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours,” said Allen in his letter to BP. During a press conference today, Allen confirmed seepage about 3km from the well point. He could not specify whether the seep was related to the capping of the well or if it is naturally occurring.

On June 13 the Viking Poseidon ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) 1 recorded oil and methane seeping from the seafloor at around 2:48 a.m.. The ROV monitors the seep for a minute and even gets covered in a plume of oil and sand before it moved on to the next spot. Smaller eruptions were seen as the ROV traveled. After an investigation, Wikinews determined that the seepage was located just over 50 feet from the Deepwater leak point. BP has denied that any oil or methane gas is leaking from the sea floor. On July 16, Kent Wells, the senior vice president of the company, said on their official Twitter page that “4 ROVs using sonar scanning [are] looking for anomalies in seabed floor. No indications any oil or gas escaping.”

BP issued a press release earlier this morning, but did not state information regarding any leaks or seepage from the well. BP did say that the well cap “measured at approximately 6,792 pounds per square inch and continues to rise slowly.”

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill started on April 20 after an explosion on the rig. Efforts to put out the fire failed and the rig subsequently sank to the bottom of the Gulf. On April 22, an oil slick appeared on the surface of the Gulf. BP capped the leaking well on July 13 which effectively stopped oil from leaking into the Gulf. The company has been running a pressure integrity test on the 150,000 pound cap since it stopped the flow of oil. BP hopes for the well’s pressure to rise to or above 7,500 PSI. As of Saturday morning the well’s pressure was just above 6,700 PSI. BP fears anything lower than the expected PSI could mean a leak in the cap or elsewhere, such as oil or methane seeping up from the seafloor.


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Oil spewing from crack in seafloor of Gulf of Mexico was fifty feet from Deepwater Horizon well

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico seen from space on June 22.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

After an investigation, Wikinews has learned that oil spewing from a rupture in the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico on June 13 was 50 to 60 feet from the Deepwater Horizon leak.

A nearly four and a half minute video posted on YouTube on June 13 was from the Viking Poseidon ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) 1. It shows oil and methane leaking from the seafloor at around 2:48 a.m. on June 13. The ROV monitors the leak for a minute and even gets covered in a plume of oil and sand before it moved on to the next spot. Smaller eruptions were seen as the ROV traveled, making the leak locations vary from 50 to 60 feet from the damaged well.

Until now, there was no way to determine the location of the ROVs in relation to the previously leaking Deepwater Horizon well. Alexander Higgins, an independent computer programmer, developed the ‘Gulf Oil Spill ROV UTM Distance Calculator.’ Using the coordinates for the location of the Deepwater Horizon, and the location of the Viking Poseidon on June 13, Wikinews was able to determine that the first rupture and leak was approximately 50.45 feet from the leaking well or “21.56 feet [n]orth and 45.61 feet [w]est” of the Deepwater leak point.

Higgins told Wikinews how he created the calculator, and says it is “very accurate,” but that the tool would “not give you accurate measurements over a large distance, e.g. from the well head to New Orleans.”

“This tool was created using java script that uses basic Pythagorean theorem (





A

2


+

B

2


=

C

2




{\displaystyle A^{2}+B^{2}=C^{2}}

) to calculate the distance between two points. The distance is simply






(

N

1




N

2



)

2


+
(

E

1




E

2



)

2






{\displaystyle {\sqrt {(N_{1}-N_{2})^{2}+(E_{1}-E_{2})^{2}}}}

. ROV coordinates match the location within a few feet when looking at the well because obviously the ROV can not be over the exact center because that is where the BOP is,” said Higgins.

BP, who owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon, has denied that any oil or methane gas is leaking from the sea floor. On July 16, Kent Wells, the senior vice president of BP, said on their official Twitter page that “4 ROVs using sonar scanning [are] looking for anomalies in seabed floor. No indications any oil or gas escaping.” Seismic tests were conducted on July 16; Admiral Thad Allen of the United States Coast Guard said that “no anomalies” were found, but also that the tests were “not comprehensive.”

On Sunday, Wikinews contacted BP, who authenticated the video, and asked if any ROVs were sent back to the crack and leak location on June 13 for further investigation. According to their office in London, England, they “sent ROVs to investigate and monitor that and no further signs of oil or gas were found.” They also stated that they “have continued to monitor” and “have also carried out seismic surveys. Nothing found to give concern.” Wikinews also asked if they could confirm the location of the leak and crack, but no response was given.

However, on July 18, the Associated Press reported that there was “seepage” coming from the area at the bottom of the Deepwater well head. For the past two days, ROV cameras showed bubbles coming from the base of well. BP said it would test the bubbles to determine what they are and as of Sunday, COO of BP Doug Suttles says the bubbles are not methane, but further tests are being conducted. “If you can imagine, it is not an easy operation to collect those bubbles so that they can be tested to see what their make-up is.”

Since the June 13 video surfaced, other videos have been posted to YouTube allegedly showing some of the ROVs being tossed around by large amounts of oil seeping through the seafloor. One video showed an alleged eruption spraying oil and debris around the BOA DEEP C 2 ROV before it was tossed from side to side. It then immediately retreated to the surface. Some of the cracks on ocean floors, where oil has leaked from, have occurred naturally. One such oil spill in California in 2005 was the result of a naturally occurring crack in the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Some of those cracks can cause oil to leak through at a rate as high as 5,000 gallons a day, with most of the oil not even reaching the water’s surface. In the Gulf of Mexico, oil leaks through natural cracks at a rate several times less than leaked from the Deepwater well.

“The Deepwater Horizon site releases 3 to 12 times the oil per day compared to that released by natural seeps across the entire Gulf of Mexico. By May 30, the Deepwater Horizon site had released between 468,000 and 741,000 barrels of oil, compared to 60,000 to 150,000 barrels from natural seeps across the entire Gulf of Mexico over the same 39 day period,” said Cutler Cleveland, a Boston University professor at the university’s Department of Geography and Environment.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill started on April 20 after an explosion on the rig. Efforts to put out the fire failed and the rig subsequently sank to the bottom of the Gulf. On April 22, an oil slick appeared on the surface of the Gulf. BP capped the leaking well on July 13 which effectively stopped oil from leaking into the Gulf. The company has been running a pressure integrity test on the 150,000 pound cap for 48 hours. Earlier on July 17, they announced the test would continue for another day. BP hopes for the well’s pressure to rise to or above 7,500 PSI. As of Saturday morning the well’s pressure was just above 6,700 PSI. BP fears anything lower than the expected PSI could mean a leak in the cap or elsewhere, such as oil or methane seeping up from the seafloor.

“We are feeling more comfortable we have integrity. We will keep monitoring and make the decisions as we go forward. The longer the test goes the more confidence we have in it,” said Allen.


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BP: New cap on Gulf of Mexico oil well in place

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico seen from space on June 22.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

For the first time since April 20, no oil is flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, though the halt may be temporary, as integrity testing began on a new sealing cap. The cap was installed on a leaking well in an effort by the BP energy company to contain oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. The previous containment cap, which was removed Saturday, had a much looser fit than the new one and allowed oil to escape into the Gulf. It took about three days for the cap to be removed, the site prepared, and the new one to be slowly lowered into position.

The energy company had planned to begin running integrity tests Tuesday to measure the performance of the well under pressure. The tests were delayed a day for further analysis, but clearance to proceed was given Wednesday afternoon, then a leak in a choke line had to be repaired. BP senior vice president Kent Wells announced at his Thursday afternoon briefing that the final valve on the cap assembly started to close at 1:15 PM Thursday and was fully closed at 2:25 PM, finally shutting in the oil flow. If the tests show that the well is strong enough, the sealing cap valves will likely remain closed. If the well cannot be safely closed from the top, the new cap is designed to funnel almost all the oil to ships above while two relief wells are constructed for a permanent fix. After the old cap was removed, oil flowed freely into the waters of the Gulf until the present cap was installed at about 7:00 PM CDT Monday (00:00 UTC Tuesday).

BP has stated that this oil containment system has never been deployed at the current depths, nor has it been tested in the conditions that it will be expected to operate in. During the testing period, which could last anywhere from six to forty-eight hours, all undersea oil containment systems will be temporarily suspended. The company made clear that, even if the tests succeed, this does not mean that oil leakage has permanently ceased.

Doug Suttles, a BP executive, explained that during the test, the well pressure will be carefully monitored. Suttles said at a Monday briefing that the ideal would be for tests to show high pressure around the seal, indicating that no oil is escaping. He also stated that on the other hand, the pressures could be lower than anticipated, leading to the assumption that the well is damaged and is leaking oil and gas into surrounding rock. If this were to happen, keeping the cap shut could further damage the well. The solution for this scenario is to reopen the valves and funnel most, if not all, of the oil to ships above.

Drilling of the first relief well was suspended until completion of the integrity test. Kent Wells explained at his Wednesday morning briefing that the first relief well is now 4 feet from the original well and there is a remote possibility that the pressure test could open a path to the relief well. Drilling of the second relief well has stopped at 16,000 feet so as not to interfere with the first well and to keep routing options open in case the first relief well fails. Even if the pressure tests do succeed and the main well is shut, work on the first relief well will continue until it intercepts the main well. When this occurs, mud and cement will be pumped into the well for a permanent seal. Containment and clean up operations will continue even after the relief wells are finished to deal with oil already released.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing eleven and marking the start of the worst offshore oil spill in United States history.


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