Oil leak is 5 times greater than reported by officials
The amount of oil gushing from BP's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is five times more than what the oil company and the U.S. Coast Guard are currently estimating, said a Florida State University oceanography professor on Saturday.
At an oil spill environmental forum at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front, Ian MacDonald said the blowout is gushing 25,000 barrels a day.
The Coast Guard and BP estimate 5,000 barrels a day of crude is spewing into the Gulf.
MacDonald said his estimate is based on satellite images and government maps forecasting the slick's trajectory.
MacDonald also told a crowd of about 100 gathered for the discussion that he's been frustrated by the lack of data from federal responders and BP since the April 20 explosion and subsequent spill.
D*** Snyder, director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida, said satellite imagery and maps give a misleading picture of the spread of the spill.
Chemical dispersants and exposure to sunlight have made some of the oil nearly invisible and hard to detect, he said.
Testing seawater for a hydrocarbon signature is needed to adequately track the oil spill so cleanup operations can be activated before it arrives, Snyder said.
A proposal by UWF to conduct such testing off the Pensacola coast was rejected by the state Department of Environmental Protection, Snyder said.
Both Snyder and MacDonald are members of the newly created Oil Spill Academic Task Force.
The organization brings together resources of Florida's academic institutions to assist the state of Florida and the Gulf region in preparing for and responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The task force consists of scientists and scholars working in collaboration with colleges from the State University System as well as private colleges.
This is the $500,000 "BlowOut Preventer" Valve. It was left off of the rig due to a lack of legal requirement. The oil gusher could have been prevented if this had been installed on the oil rig.
It's Your Choice America
VENICE, La. — An oil spill that threatened to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez disaster spread out of control and started washing ashore along the Gulf Coast Thursday night as fishermen rushed to scoop up shrimp and crews spread floating barriers around marshes. The spill was bigger than imagined — five times more than first estimated — and closer. Fingers of oily sheen were reaching the Mississippi River delta, lapping the Louisiana shoreline in long, thin lines.
"It is of grave concern," David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."
The oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life. Oil was thickening in waters south and east of the Mississippi delta about five miles offshore.
The leak from the ocean floor proved to be far bigger than initially reported, contributing to a growing sense among many in Louisiana that the government failed them again, just as it did during Hurricane Katrina. President Barack Obama dispatched Cabinet officials to deal with the crisis.
Cade Thomas, a fishing guide in Venice, worried that his livelihood will be destroyed. He said he did not know whether to blame the Coast Guard, the federal government or oil company BP PLC.
"They lied to us. They came out and said it was leaking 1,000 barrels when I think they knew it was more. And they weren't proactive," he said. "As soon as it blew up, they should have started wrapping it with booms."
--I'll keep adding video footage as this human-made eco-disaster unfolds. Not trying to depress anyone. Just want to encourage a ban on offshore drilling altogether in the U.S.
5/2/2010: Leaked report: Government fears Deepwater Horizon well could become unchecked gusher
View full size(AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Saturday April 24, 2010, shows oil leaking from the drill pipe of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig after it sank. A confidential government report on the unfolding spill disaster makes clear the Coast Guard now fears the well could be on the verge of becoming an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf. A confidential government report on the unfolding spill disaster in the Gulf makes clear the Coast Guard now fears the well could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf.
"The following is not public," reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Emergency Response document dated April 28. "Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought."
Asked Friday to comment on the document, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said that the additional leaks described were reported to the public late Wednesday night. Regarding the possibility of the spill becoming an order of magnitude larger, Smullen said, "I'm letting the document you have speak for itself."
In scientific circles, an order of magnitude means something is 10 times larger. In this case, an order of magnitude higher would mean the volume of oil coming from the well could be 10 times higher than the 5,000 barrels a day coming out now. That would mean 50,000 barrels a day, or 2.1 million gallons a day. It appears the new leaks mentioned in the Wednesday release are the leaks reported to the public late Wednesday night.
"There is no official change in the volume released but the USCG is no longer stating that the release rate is 1,000 barrels a day," continues the document, referred to as report No. 12. "Instead they are saying that they are preparing for a worst-case release and bringing all assets to bear."
The emergency document also states that the spill has grown in size so quickly that only 1 to 2 percent of it has been sprayed with dispersants.
The Press-Register obtained the emergency report from a government official. The White House, NOAA, the Coast Guard and BP Plc did not immediately return calls for comment made early this morning.
The worst-case scenario for the broken and leaking well pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico would be the loss of the wellhead and kinked piping currently restricting the flow to 5,000 barrels -- or 210,000 gallons -- per day.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration video, shot as officials coordinated response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, shows that federal officials almost immediately worried that the oil well could leak up to 110,000 barrels per day, or 4.6 million gallons.
The video appears on a federal Web site.
It was filmed in Seattle, at NOAA's Western Regional Center, as scientists and federal officials in Seattle, Houston and New Orleans engaged in telephone conferences, according to a companion document on the Web site.
A confidential NOAA report, dated April 28 and circulated among federal agencies, makes similar projections regarding spill size in a worst-case situation.
View full size(NOAA video still)A hand-drawn map of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill dated April 22, 2010, is seen in this image from a video downloaded from the NOAA Web site. The video shows federal officials discussing the oil spill soon after the Deepwater Horizon exploded.
It describes newly discovered leaks in the tangle of riser pipe, attributing them to ongoing erosion of the pipe. The riser pipe, in this case about 5,000 feet long, connects the wellhead on the sea floor to the drilling rig on the surface.
"If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked," reads the report.
On Thursday, the day after the NOAA report was circulated, BP officials said they were worried about "erosion" of the piping.
Sand is an integral part of the formations that hold oil under the Gulf. The raw crude rising from the bottom of a well carries sand and other abrasive materials. In effect, the oil is sandblasting the piping as it rushes through with tremendous force, according to petroleum engineers.
"I think we need to be prepared for it to be the spill of the decade," Debbie Payton of NOAA, the meeting's coordinator, says during the NOAA video.
and now, a word from the LAST person you REALLY want to hear from now about drilling for oil:
And just so you all will know where T. Boone Pickens stands on this oil spill. .
.Some oil spill events from Thursday, May 6, 2010
By The Associated Press (AP) – 1 hour ago
Events May 6, Day 17 of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with an explosion and fire on April 20 on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well at about 210,000 gallons per day. The slick threatens the U.S. coastline.
Oil washed up Thursday on at least two barrier islands in the Chandeleur Islands chain off Louisiana. The pinkish oily substance lapped at the shore of New Harbor Island, washing into thick marsh grass. It looked like soggy cornflakes, possibly because it was mixed with chemicals that it had been sprayed to break it up before it reached land. The uninhabited islands are part of a national wildlife refuge and provide an important nesting ground for sea birds.
STOPPING THE FLOW
Crews prepared to lower a 100-ton concrete-and-steel box they hoped would cut off most of the crude spewing from a blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico. If it works, it could collect as much as 85 percent of the oil leaking from the ocean floor. Other crews are drilling a relief well to take the pressure off the blown-out well. That could take up to three months.
Skimmer boats continued to slurp up oil while shrimp boats pulling booms instead of nets gathered smaller amounts. Two pairs of boats attached at either end of two lengths of fireproof boom corralled some of the thickest oil to burn it. The Coast Guard said that on Wednesday, good weather allowed 18 flights to drop 150,000 gallons of chemical dispersant; crews skimmed 588,000 gallons of oily water, and conducted five controlled burns.
THE RIG'S OWNER
The owner of the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico said Thursday its contract with BP should protect it from lawsuits by fishermen, hotel owners and other businesses damaged by the massive oil spill. Transocean Ltd. CEO Steven Newman said the company won't be held liable for "any expense or claim related to pollution" from the well.
BP CHIEF EXEC
The chief executive of BP PLC says the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico will be stopped, but gives no estimate of when that might happen or how much it will ultimately cost. Tony Hayward said in an interview with the BBC broadcast Thursday that it was too early to judge the cost of stopping the leak, mopping up the oil and compensating people for damages.
The attorneys general of four southern states threatened by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico asked President Obama for federal help in preparing damage assessments. Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Texas sent a letter Thursday to the president and Attorney General Eric Holder.
A federal judicial panel in Washington has been asked to consolidate at least 65 potential class-action lawsuits claiming economic damage from the Gulf oil spill.
Shrimpers, commercial fishermen, business and resort owners, charter boat captains and even would-be vacationers have filed lawsuits from Texas to Florida since the April 20 oil rig disaster. They seek damages possibly in the billions of dollars from oil giant BP PLC, rig owner Transocean Ltd. and other companies. The companies won't comment.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says his agency is working to assure the public that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe. Locke also says that applies to Gulf seafood already in grocery stores and in restaurants. He said Thursday that part of the Gulf has been closed to fishing to send a signal that any seafood harvested from the Gulf is safe.
THE FOOD CHAIN
While people anxiously wait for the mess to wash up along the coast, globules of oil are already falling to the bottom of the sea, where they threaten virtually every link in the ocean food chain, from plankton to fish that are on dinner tables everywhere. Hail-size gobs of oil with the consistency of tar or asphalt will roll around the bottom, while other bits will get trapped hundreds of feet below the surface and move with the current, said Robert S. Carney, a Louisiana State University oceanographer.
Louisiana's secretary of wildlife and fisheries has arranged to credential out-of-state veterinary specialists to help rescue oiled birds and animals. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says veterinarians from Delaware, California and Alaska have already volunteered. It says the state Board of Veterinary Medicine agreed to grant emergency waivers for veterinarians who have treated oiled animals such as birds, dolphins, whales and sea turtles.
WHERE WILL IT GO?
Scientists are watching carefully to see whether the slick will hitch a ride to the East Coast by way of a powerful eddy known as the "loop current," which could send the spill around Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. If that happens, the oil could foul beaches and kill marine life on the East Coast.
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warns that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a long-term event. Napolitano said Thursday during a visit to Biloxi that she doesn't think the spill will be over soon. She says she hopes the device being deployed to cap the spewing well is successful, but officials are still planning for the worst.
OIL SPILL LOANS
The Obama administration is offering low-interest loans to businesses in parts of the Gulf Coast that have suffered financial losses from the massive oil spill. The Small Business Administration says the loans will be available immediately to businesses along the Louisiana coast, as well as in some counties in Mississippi.
The National Guard is building a 300-foot temporary wharf at a St. Bernard marina, to be used to load booms and supplies onto boats. Sgt. Denis Ricou says the 2225th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 205th Engineer Battalion is launching bridge erection boats and float ribbon bridge sets at Campo's Marina.
Government officials are being inundated with homespun remedies to prevent the nightmare scenario of oil washing up all over the Gulf Coast. More than 3,500 suggestions have come in by phone and e-mail. Ideas range from the goofy — putting a cork in the blown-out well — to the possible. One business plans to demonstrate a product that shoots a carbon dioxide solution from guns to freeze parts of the slick, which could then be scooped up and refined.
Safety barrier removed before rig exploded: report
An attorney representing a rig worker who survived the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion said oil giant BP Plc /quotes/comstock/13*!bp/quotes/nls/bp (BP 48.99, -1.34, -2.67%) and the drilling platform's owner, Transocean Ltd. /quotes/comstock/13*!rig/quotes/nls/rig (RIG 67.80, -1.90, -2.73%) , started to remove a mud barrier before a final cement plug was installed, The Times-Picayune reported on Friday.
When the explosion occurred, BP was attempting to seal off an exploratory well. To properly cap a well, drillers rely on three lines of defense to prevent an explosive blowout: a column of heavy mud in the well and the drilling riser that runs up to the rig; at least two cement plugs in the well with a column of mud between them; and a blowout preventer that is supposed to seal the well if the mud and plugs fail. If all of the mud was still present, it would have helped push back against the gas burping up toward the rig, though it might not have held it back indefinitely, the paper said.
BP declined to answer the paper's questions about exactly how far along they were in the process of closing the well head 5,000 feet below the Deepwater Horizon rig when the explosion occurred.
In a statement to the Times-Picayyune, cementing contractor Halliburton Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!hal/quotes/nls/hal (HAL 27.46, -1.29, -4.49%) said it completed the pouring of a cement lining 20 hours before the blowout. After that cement lining is done, the federal Minerals Management Service requires at least two prefabricated cement plugs to be placed at the bottom of the well and farther up, with mud packed in between. Times-Picayyune said Halliburton's official statement shows there was still one more cement plug to be inserted
. .Deepwater Horizon Survivors Tell ABC News No Alarm Sounded Before Blast, Safety Gear Failed
Source: ABC News
'It Was Chaos,' Says Survivor; Industry Officials Acknowledge Failures Of Safety Equipment On Oil Rig
May 7, 2010 —
Survivors of last week's massive oil rig explosion have told ABC News that alarms meant to warn them of an imminent blast never sounded, and oil industry experts now agree that a critical failsafe needed to prevent the blast and the subsequent spill didn't work.
They were two crucial safeguards that failed during the chain reaction that left 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon dead and led to what some now believe could be the worst oil rig disaster in U.S. history.
"It was chaos," survivor Dwayne Martinez told ABC News. "Nothing went as planned, like it was supposed to."
Tony Buzbee, the lawyer now representing the two oil rig workers in a lawsuit against BP and Transocean, said he hopes to get those answers.
"It either tells you that the alarms failed or that somebody muted the alarm because alarms are so common out in the oil patch that sometimes as a matter of course, they mute alarms," he said. The oil industry has long had confidence in its series of fail-safes meant to prevent a catastrophe. A key element in the system is one mammoth piece of equipment - the blowout preventer, or BOP. It's a 50-foot, 900,000 pound contraption that sits on the sea bed a mile underwater. It houses more than half-a-dozen hydraulic valves designed to shut off any leaks of oil or gas.
The small U.S. agency that oversees offshore drilling doesn't write or implement most safety regulations, having gradually shifted such responsibilities to the oil industry itself for more than a decade.
Instead, the Minerals Management Service—now caught up in the crisis of the Deepwater Horizon rig that for weeks has sent crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico—sets broad performance goals for the industry. Oil producers and drilling companies are then free to decide for themselves how to meet those goals, industry executives and former regulators say.
Defenders of the agency say enforcement isn't its primary responsibility. Stephen Allred, who as Assistant Secretary of the Interior oversaw MMS from 2006 to 2009, said the agency does conduct spot inspections of oil rigs, and checks operators' compliance with safety procedures. However, "Their role is not to baby-sit" the operators, he said. The agency's primary task during inspections is to verify how much oil is being pumped, which is key to another MMS duty, maximizing payments the government receives for oil and gas rights from energy producers.
Some former employees say that MMS, which was founded in 1982 and is part of the Interior Department, has a built-in conflict of interest: It is supposed to be a watchdog that halts drilling when it spots unsafe behavior. But it is also supposed to promote energy independence and to generate government revenue from drilling on government lands, including the outer continental shelf.