Archive for Gulf of Mexico
e360.yale.edu 15th June 2011
Quoted from source:
‘The Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone, an oxygen-depleted area created by excessive nutrient pollution, isexpected to reach record proportions this year as a result of the extreme flooding in the Mississippi River basin, according to a forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Using nutrient load data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists calculate that the hypoxic zone, also known as the “dead zone,” could cover 8,500 to 9,421 square miles, an area about the size of New Hampshire. The dead zone — which is created when algal blooms remove oxygen from the water and suffocate marine life — has reached an average 6,000 square miles during the last five years. But with the flow rate of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers nearly double the normal rate this spring, the quantity of nutrients entering the Gulf is about 35 percent higher than usual, according to NOAA. The dead zone, located along the coast, forces Gulf fishermen farther offshore.’
www.independent.co.uk 4th April 2011
Almost one year exactly after its Deepwater Horizon rig exploded killing 11 workers and causing the largest off-shore oil spill in history, BP has been given permission to start drilling again in the Gulf of Mexico. The move by the Obama administration is a victory for BP’s new American chief executive Bob Dudley, who replaced mistake prone Tony Hayward. However, BP is only allowed to maintain or increase production in existing wells, rather than drill for new ones. The company has also pledged stricter safety standards as well as 24 hour access to its operations for the US government. Although BP is spending as much as £25 billion on the cleanup operation from last year’s spill, the repercussions of the disaster are from over. US prosecutors are considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges on the managers involved with the deepwater oil rig. At the same time Transocean, the world’s largest offshore rig company and the organisation that leased Deepwater Horizon to BP, released “safety bonuses” to its chief executives for ”the best year in safety performance in our company’s history”.
www.nytimes.com 17th February 2011
Following the worst off-shore man-made oil disaster in history, the oil giant BP was made to put aside $20 billion to pay for future damages to the American people and land. Despite being the largest payout of its kind, coastal state politicians and claimants from throughout the southern USA have claimed that estimates by the overseeing body of the fund, headed by Kenneth R Feinberg, of the total cost of future damages are too low. Despite this, BP have risked further public wrath by counter-claiming the payment was too generous. Although basing their estimates on much the same data as Mr Feinberg and his team, BP state that there was “no credible support for adopting an artificially high future loss factor based purely on the inherent degree of uncertainty in predicting the future and on the mere possibility that future harm might occur.” The fund regulators have tentatively suggested that a full Gulf recovery is possible by 2012. $3.5 billion has already been granted from the fund to affected businesses and individuals.
www.nationalgeographic.com 27th January 2011
Last April, the world witnessed one of the world’s largest environmental disasters in the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The reaction to the oil spill may have been slow but the US Government did not hold back once they were galvanised into action. A month after the explosion, vast amounts of oil dispersants were injected into the Gulf in order to dissipate the large amounts of oil pumping from the ruptured well. Over 1 million mitres were pumped directly into the well-head at a depth of over 4000 feet (a further 5 million mitres were sprayed over the sea’s surface). Rather than breaking down naturally, as experts predicted, these deep-water dispersants are trapped water layers at the sea’s bottom. The effect on marine life is uncertain though some scientists are convinced the high levels of chemicals even 200 miles from the well will have a negative effect on species who have adapted to very specific environmental habitats. Frustratingly, the ingredients to dispersants are closely guarded secrets within the industry. To this day researchers have been kept hidden to the exact ingredients used on the spill. David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at the University of California who headed the study on the dispersants, described their use in the Gulf as the choice between “bad” and “worse” for the authorities.
www.guardian.co.uk 9th November 2010
The chairman of the presidential commission into the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has declared that the companies involved in the spill were acting under a ‘culture of complacency’. The statement was made during the inquiry into how the explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon rig occurred. William Reilly, the co-chair of the commission, said there was “”emphatically not a culture of safety on that rig. I referred to a culture of complacency and speaking for myself, all these companies we heard from displayed it.” The comments followed on from a string of bad judgments made by the three companies involved (BP, Transocean, and Haliburton) uncovered by the commission’s chief investigator Fred Bartlit this Monday. ‘The bad calls on the rig included: going ahead despite a faulty cement seal at the bottom of the well; overlooking a failed pressure test; replacing heavy drilling mud (compounds used to lubricate and cool wells during drilling) with seawater; and failing to notice monitors, on board and onshore, showing a strong kick of gas. These were warning signs that the well was about to blow.’ The Mr. Bartlit also insinuated that cost may have had something to do with cutting corners: “any time you are talking about $1.5m [£935,000] a day, money enters into it.” The explosion in April killed 11 rig workers and saw 5 million barrels of oil spill into the Gulf.
www.bbc.co.uk 25th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘BP has said it will sell its interests in four Gulf of Mexico oil fields to Japan’s Marubeni as part of its moves to pay for the oil spill there. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to raise $650m (£413m). BP is in the process of selling assets worth up to $30bn to meet clean-up and compensation costs. Last week, the company announced it would sell business interests in Vietnam and Venezuela for $1.8bn. BP has owned the assets in the four fields for less than a year. It bought them from Devon Energy alongside other assets in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Azerbaijan. Andy Hopwood, a BP executive, said: “When BP acquired Devon’s Gulf of Mexico assets, it was clear that these four fields did not fit well with the rest of our business in the region.” A company statement added that BP’s other interests in the Gulf of Mexico would not be affected by the sale – which is expected to be completed in early 2011 – and that the company remained both the largest producer of oil and gas in the region as well as being the largest holder of leases. BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, killing 11 workers, and ultimately leaking an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. The well was finally permanently sealed on 19 September. The total bill for compensating victims currently stands at about $11.2bn (£7bn).’
Sources: news.nationalgeographic.co.uk 8th September 2010
Tests carried out by the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory have indicated that contaminated Blue Crabs, an important species in the Gulf coast ecosystem as they are a common prey as well as predator, may be able to shed any coating of oil. The Laboratory, attached to the University of Southern Mississippi, compared wild Blue Crabs taken from the sea to untainted grabs reared in captivity, as well as data gathered before the Deep Water Horizon explosion, and discovered that contaminated crabs were still shedding their shells as normal. The news come as a relief to those living around the Gulf as it may be an indicator of animal health in general after the slick. The oil spill passed right over the normal Blue Crab larvae grounds and immature crabs did have globules of the black fossil fuel within their shells. However, when the shell was shed, the oil was left behind.
Nobody knows what long term effects of the BP oil spill, gushing 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from April to July this year, will be with experts warning that the true scale of the damage may take several years to become apparent. Government officials have already stated that Gulf sea food is safe for human consumption.
BP’s internal investigation into the cause of the Deep Water Horizon disaster in April has accepted the company is to blame but states other organisations played a part. The explosion on the oil rig, which saw 4.9 million barrels of oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico, was capped in July but BP continues to fund an expensive clean-up operation using 28,400 staff, 4,050 vessels and dozens of aircraft. The report also states that “no single factor caused the Macondo well tragedy”. However, other parties involved in the disaster have been quick to attack the accusations. Transocean, who leased Deep Water Horizon to BP, issued a retort saying “in both its design and construction, BP made a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk – in some cases, severely.” BP’s shares rose in response to the report’s release but the company has already spent $8 billion on the clean-up and $322 million on claims.
The US Justice Department are also investigating the disaster.
Sources: news.sky.com 5th September
BP have declared that the Deep Water Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is no longer a risk as the blow-out preventer, which failed catastrophically in April this year to cause the worst accidental oil spill in history, was successfully replaced. The 5oft, 300 ton piece of equipment took 30 hours to remove and is now in the hands of the US Department of Justice to be used as evidence in the ongoing investigation as to why the equipment failed. The success came with news that BP is intending to raise more money to cover the costs of the clean-up operation. The British company is selling such assets as their stake in North America’s largest oil field (Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay) to raise the appropriate funds. The clean-up team is currently using 28,400 staff, 4,050 vessels and dozens of aircraft.
Sources: http://www.cnn.com 3rd September 2010
BP have finally succeeded in removing the cap on the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The process is the first step in replacing the blow-out preventer, the device that failed in April this year causing an explosion on the Deep Water Horizon rig far above that killed 11 rig workers and pumped hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the sea. The preventer must be replaced in order to permanently seal the well. Efforts to do so have been hampered by unfavourable weather conditions on the surface. It is possible that the old blow-out preventer device may provide forensic evidence about why it failed so spectacularly back in April.
Sources: http://www.nytimes.com 2nd September 2010
BP have claimed that if a proposed bill banning them from getting new off-shore drilling permits is passed through congress then the company may not have enough money to pay for the damages caused by the April Deep Horizon oil spill. BP have already pledged to set aside $20 billion to pay for damages over the next 4 years as well as $100 million to compensate oil rig workers who have lost their jobs due to the government’s deep-water drilling moratorium. A further $500 million has been put aside to investigate the consequences of the spill over the next 10 years. The main clause of contention in the proposed bill (put forward by Representative George Miller of California) bars any company from drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf who have had more than 10 fatalities on their on-shore or off-shore facilities. BP also claim that such measures would jeopardise Gulf of Mexico restoration efforts which government officials want the company to voluntarily support.
Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news 2nd September 2010
Another oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has suffered an explosion at 1330 GMT today the 2nd September. The rig is situated some 130km south of the Vermilion Bay on the Louisiana coast and is owned by Mariner Energy. All 13 crew are reported to have escaped successfully with only one injured. Unlike BP’s Deep Water Horizon explosion in April, the Mariner rig was built in relatively shallow water (105m) making any potential clean-up operation a relatively simple task. However, Mariner Energy have stated their rig was undergoing maintenance at the time of the explosion and was not producing any oil or gas.
So far 7 helicopters, 3 boats, and 2 planes have been dispatched from the states of Louisiana, Texas, Alabama. After the environmental disaster of April that saw BP’s Deep Horizon rig leak hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, local authorities are taking no risks in responding to this new catastrophe.
In April the hurricane forecast from Colorado State University predicted 15 named storms in the 2010 hurricane season from which 8 hurricanes would be produced, half of which will be ‘major storms’. With hurricane Earl advancing upon the US coast and two more tropical storms close behind (Fiona and Guston) this prediction is unlikely to fall short. An intense hurricane season could have three effects on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Firstly: strong winds and waves could push remaining oil out into fresh waters causing further environmental problems. Secondly: the clean-up mission in the Gulf could be jeopardised and even called off if weather conditions get too severe. Finally: if the storm was to pass directly over the spill then oil could be pushed up against the coastline.
There are no examples of the effect a hurricane will have on an oil spill so nobody knows what will happen. Some say storms may even help the clean-up operation by breaking up the oil into smaller particles that are more bio-degradable. Others say that this will just make contamination of fragile marshland on the coasts more likely. Will we ever know the true extent of the damage of the oil spill? Will lessons be learnt or simply brushed under the carpet?