BP oil disaster pollutes US coast

This video is called Gulf of Mexico: Oil slick threatening Wildlife.

By Shannon Jones in the USA:

Gulf oil spill threatens economic, environmental catastrophe

30 April 2010

Oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from the well beneath where a British Petroleum (BP) drilling rig exploded at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, a rate five times greater than earlier estimates, the US government reported late Wednesday night. US Coast Guard officials said a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had reached the conclusion based on aerial surveys of the slick.

The spill, which is expected to hit land Friday near the mouth of the Mississippi River, threatens an ecological and economic disaster, imperiling beaches, estuaries, marshlands and wildlife. Gulf Coast fishing and tourism industries could be crippled.

Eleven workers died and four more were critically injured in the April 20 explosion on the oil rig operated by BP contractor Deepwater Horizon

No, that is the name of the oil rig. The contractor is Transocean

as it neared completion of drilling. A blowout caused by cementing operations was the likely cause.

At the current rate of leakage, some 210,000 gallons daily, the Gulf oil spill will exceed the volume of the Exxon Valdez disaster by the third week of June. By some time next week the spill will likely surpass the magnitude of the 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of California. That disaster led to the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling along wide portions of the US coast that President Obama now wants lifted.

Efforts to cap the leak, at a depth of 5,000 feet, have so far failed. Proposed solutions, such as drilling an offset well to relieve pressure or dropping a dome over the leak at the seafloor, are untested and could take weeks or months to implement.

A large-scale mobilization is now under way to try to contain the spill, but major damage appears inevitable.

After the Coast Guard issued its report BP tried to downplay the extent of the spill, defending its earlier gross underestimate of the leakage. Now BP admits that it has discovered a new leak close to the wellhead. Earlier reports indicated two leaks in the riser, the pipe connecting the rig to the wellhead, which collapsed following the explosion and now lies on the seabed.

Biologists have warned of the potentially devastating impact of the oil spill. “If this thing gets to the coast, to those sugar-white beaches from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Panama City, Florida that would just be a horrible disaster,” said Robert Ship, chairman of the Marine Sciences Department at the University of South Alabama.

Shrimp fishermen have already filed suit against BP, saying oil contamination threatens their livelihoods. “If the oil reaches shore it will kill all the shrimp, all the crabs, all the oysters,” warned the owner of a Louisiana shrimp distributor. Seafood is a $1.8 billion industry in the state.

The slick threatens shipping on the Mississippi, a vital artery for grain and oil and the nation’s largest port in terms of tonnage. Gary LaGrange, president and chief executive officer of the Port of New Orleans, warned that “if oil were to come and block the entrance of the port, you cannot run ships through it. In that case the port would be essentially shut down.”

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig lacked a device called an acoustic switch that could have shut off the flow of oil. The remote controlled device sends acoustic impulses through the water that can trigger an underwater valve to shut down the well.

All offshore rigs have one main switch to shut off the flow of oil by closing a valve located on the ocean floor. There is also supposed to be a backup, a so-called “dead man,” that will shut down the well in the event of a catastrophe on the rig. Apparently neither of these devices worked on the Deepwater Horizon rig. The crewmembers who would have been closest to the shutoff switch are among those missing and presumed dead.

With an acoustic trigger a crew can shut down a well even if the rig is damaged or evacuated. However, BP, which reported profits of $5.598 billion for the first quarter of 2010, vigorously resisted changes to US regulations that would have required acoustic triggers on deep sea rigs, citing effectiveness and costs, about $500,000 per unit. Compliant US regulators agreed, saying other backup plans were sufficient. They called the acoustic triggers unreliable and prone to causing unnecessary shutdowns.

However, according to a spokesman for Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority quoted by the Journal, acoustic triggers are “the most successful and effective option.” Norway has used acoustic triggers on almost all its oil rigs since 1993.

From the BBC today:

The first fingers of oil from the huge spillage in the Gulf of Mexico have washed ashore in the state of Louisiana, the US Coast Guard says.

President Barack Obama is sending senior members of his cabinet to survey the scene of what could be America’s worst environmental disaster in decades.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reportedly hit the US shoreline this morning. Up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day continue to spew into the water beneath the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Follow the latest here.

Gulf Oil Spill Just Latest Black Mark on BP’s Reputation in America: here.

1 thought on “BP oil disaster pollutes US coast

  1. Pingback: BP gets just slap on the wrist for their pollution disaster | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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