Monday, May 3, 2010
BP Oil Spill Coverage - News Headlines 3 May 2010
From Denny: I thought I'd collect the various headlines about this monumental environmental oil spill disaster that is still unfolding. No one still can predict the impact of this oil spill on the environment and the American economy until after the oil well is capped - and that could take another three months to drill that relief well.
Tracking the Oil Spill AP Graphic
Environmental Impact AP Graphic
16 May - BP says siphon tube is working HAMMOND, La. (AP) -- In the first step in nearly a month toward stopping a massive Gulf of Mexico oil leak, BP said a mile-long tube was siphoning most of the crude from a blown well to a tanker ship after three days of wrestling to get the stopgap measure into place on the seafloor.
BP spokesman Mark Proegler said the contraption was hooked up successfully and sucking most of the oil from the leak. Engineers remotely guiding robot submersibles had worked since Friday to place the tube into a 21-inch pipe nearly a mile below the sea.
Previous attempts to use emergency valves and a 100-ton container had failed to stop the leak that has spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, threatening sea life, commercial fishing and the coastal tourist industry from Louisiana to Florida. BP PLC has also been burning small amounts of floating oil and spraying chemical dispersants above and below the surface.
Researchers, meanwhile, warned Sunday that miles-long underwater plumes of oil from the spill could poison and suffocate sea life across the food chain, with damage that could endure for a decade or more.
Researchers have found more underwater plumes of oil than they can count from the blown-out well, said Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia. She said careful measurements taken of one plume showed it stretching for 10 miles, with a 3-mile width.
The hazardous effects of the plume are twofold. Joye said the oil itself can prove toxic to fish swimming in the sea, while vast amount of oxygen are also being sucked from the water by microbes that eat oil. Dispersants used to fight the oil are also food for the microbes, speeding up the oxygen depletion.
"So, first you have oily water that may be toxic to certain organisms and also the oxygen issue, so there are two problems here," said Joye, who's working with a group of scientists who discovered the underwater plumes in a recent boat expedition to the Gulf. "This can interrupt the food chain at the lowest level, and will trickle up and certainly impact organisms higher. Whales, dolphins and tuna all depend on lower depths to survive."
She said it could take years or even decades for the ecosystem to recover...
15 May - BP: Tube idea tough at depth Placing a smaller tube into a pipe almost a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico to siphon off an oil leak and then send the oil to a tanker ship is a simple idea but hard to execute at that depth of water, said a BP executive Friday.
“It’s never been done before in water that deep,” said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for the company, during a news conference Friday. “The challenge is to deploy it.”
A fleet of about 12 remotely operated vehicles were continuing Friday to position the 6-inch riser insertion tube inside the 21-inch-diameter riser pipe leaking on the bottom of the Gulf.
The tube will be inserted far enough inside the pipe where sea water has not yet reached the oil, Suttles said. A rubber stopper rings the insertion tube and, Suttles said, that should stop sea water from flowing into the pipe and oil from leaking out. The tube is connected to pipe that will take the oil to a waiting tanker ship, he said.
Suttles said he hoped the riser insertion tube would be working by Friday night.
Beyond difficulties in inserting the tube in deep water, BP engineers are also concerned about the formation of gas hydrates — crystals that form when natural gases and water are present at high pressure and low temperatures, BP engineers said.
BP’s first effort to contain the leak failed last weekend after a four-story, 100-ton containment dome reached the seabed and became plugged with hydrates, which can have the consistency of slush, BP engineers have said.
Sitting off to the side of the activity on the seabed is the “top hat,” a 5-foot-tall containment dome that will only be used if the insertion tube fails, Suttles said.
Last weekend, Suttles said the top hat was going to be the method BP used as a second try at containing the leak. But on Wednesday, he changed course and announced the insertion tube would be used first.
Even if BP successfully plugs the leak, they still plan to use a “junk shot” to close up the blowout preventer that sits on top of the well head. Pieces of tire, golf balls and knotted rope will be shot into the blowout preventer to plug up the well. BP is still waiting for the Minerals Management Service to approve the method...
15 May - Dispersant concerns discussed
DULAC, LA. — At a town hall meeting in this bayou town Thursday night, residents were particularly concerned with the mass use of chemical dispersants to rein in the estimated 4 million gallons of oil unleashed by a broken underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Crews responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have used more than 517,000 gallons of chemical dispersant to break up oil on the surface of the Gulf and at the source of the spill on the seabed 5,000 feet below.
While BP and government officials estimate that 5,000 barrels of oil are being released into the Gulf each day, independent assessments using satellite imagery and videotape of the seafloor gusher have placed the amount at potentially as high as 70,000 barrels a day.
Dispersants, which help break up the oil by binding it to water molecules, have been sprayed from airplanes onto the Gulf surface, and injected with tubes at the site of the broken well on the seafloor.
Yet despite the mass deployment of the chemical — and BP’s desire to use more underwater — scientists know little about the potential ecological dangers and health risks posed by prolonged use of dispersants, particularly underwater.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency have authorized BP to use dispersant on the surface of the Gulf, but the oil company has been required to conduct tests for using the chemical underwater at the source of the leak. EPA approved use of dispersants underwater on a temporary basis Friday, despite the state of Louisiana’s objections.
A final decision is expected this weekend on whether dispersants can continue to be used underwater to help break up the oil...
7 May - Oil Leak Container Touches Down on Seafloor (CBS)
Robot Submarines Used to Position 100-Ton Structure; Contraption Needs 12 Hours Minimum to Settle
A BP-chartered vessel lowered a 100-ton concrete-and-steel vault onto a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, an important step in a delicate and unprecedented attempt to stop most of the gushing crude fouling the sea.
Underwater robots guided the 40-foot-tall box into place. Now that the contraption is on the seafloor, workers will need at least 12 hours to let it settle and make sure it's stable before the robots can hook up a pipe and hose that will funnel the oil up to a tanker...
6 May - Oil Washing Ashore at Island Off Louisiana Coast (CBS)
Sands on Marshland Have Pinkish Oily Substance Washing Ashore in Confirmed Oil Sighting
Oil is washing up on the shores of New Harbor Island off the coast of Louisiana.
An Associated Press reporter saw a pinkish oily substance washing up Thursday on the sands and into the marshland at this part of the Chandeleur barrier islands chain.
It was at least the second time the AP has confirmed oil coming ashore. Oil was seen washing up at the mouth of the Mississippi last week.
On New Harbor island, birds are diving into the oily waters, but they didn't seem to be in any distress. It's nesting time for sea gulls and pelicans and the danger is they may be taking contaminated food or oil on feathers to their young.
There are also numerous dead jellyfish, including some that have washed up on the beach.
A rapid response team will investigate reports that oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reached the Chandeleur Islands off Louisiana's coast.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson says the response team will deploy Thursday to assess the situation.
6 May - Marine Food Chain Seen at Risk After Oil Spill (CBS)
Scientists Already See Threat to Links in Ocean Food Chain
As Americans anxiously wait for a slick in the Gulf of Mexico 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 on dinner tables everywhere.
Meanwhile, a giant concrete-and-steel box seen as the best short-term solution to bottling up the disastrous oil was loaded onto a boat Wednesday and the 100-ton (90-metric ton) contraption began its journey to the leak site about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast.
Oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of at least 200,000 gallons (755,000 liters) a day since an offshore drilling rig exploded last month and killed 11 people. Officials hope to lower the concrete-and-steel box the size of a four-story building to the bottom of the sea by week's end to capture some of the oil.
For marine life, though, the damage is already done, experts said.
"The threat to the deep-sea habitat is already a done deal it is happening now," said Paul Montagna, a marine scientist at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Hail-size gobs of oil the consistency of tar or asphalt will roll around the sea's bottom, while other bits will get trapped hundreds of feet (meters) below the surface and move with the current, said Robert S. Carney, a Louisiana State University oceanographer...
4 May - Paranoia, anxiety grow over Gulf Coast oil spill (AP) People along the Gulf Coast have spent weeks living with uncertainty, wondering where and when a huge slick of oil might come ashore, ruining their beaches — and their livelihoods...
30 April - Oil from massive Gulf spill reaching La. coast (NBC)
Faint fingers of oily sheen have reached the mouth of Mississippi River
An oil spill that threatened to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez disaster spread out of control with a faint sheen 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. Faint 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..."
29 April - Gulf of Mexico Oil Hits Coast; White House Calls Spill Event of 'National Significance' (ABC) Shrimpers File Lawsuit Against BP
Oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico began to wash ashore along the Gulf Coast this evening after BP asked the U.S. government for help cleaning up the mess.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said during the White House briefing that designating the spill as one of "national significance" means that "we can now draw down assets from across the country" to assist with cleanup.
She said 1,100 people are working on the cleanup effort, which so far has collected 685,000 gallons of oil and water from the polluted Gulf.
Earlier this afternoon, the Coast Guard had predicted that oil could begin to hit the Louisiana coastline as early as tonight. At the time, the floating oil slick was just 3 miles from land and 25 miles from the nearest populated area.
The White House said 174,060 feet of flotation booms had been deployed to corral the floating oil. It said an additional 243,260 feet is available and 265,460 feet has been ordered.
It said 76 tugs, barges and skimmers were on scene to help in containment and cleanup, along with six fixed-wing aircraft, 11 helicopters, 10 remotely operated vehicles, and two mobile offshore drilling units...
27 April - Gulf of Mexico oil spill creates environmental and political dilemmas (Washington Post)
The ripple effects of last week's offshore drilling rig explosion widened Monday as crude oil continued to spill into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of about a thousand barrels a day and oil company officials said it would take at least two to four weeks to get it under control.
The growing spill also threatened to churn political waters as lawmakers weigh what buffer zones to establish between rigs and shorelines in the wake of President Obama's decision to open up new regions to offshore drilling. It could also alter details of a climate bill that three leading senators were trying to restart after postponing plans for a rollout that would have featured leading oil company executives.
The Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean and leased to BP, caught fire April 20 after an explosion and sank. Eleven oil rig workers are missing and presumed dead. The rig, with a platform bigger than a football field and insured for $560 million, was one of the most modern and was drilling in 5,000 feet of water...
27 April - Containing The Gulf Coast Oil Spill (NPR)
Doug Helton, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's emergency response division, talks to Melissa Block about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast. The two discuss the ongoing efforts to stop the underwater spill, and what is being done to clean it up.
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