Archive for the 'Science' Category

10
Aug
10

Brazil seeks origin of oil slick lapping at beach

NEWS
Brazil seeks origin of oil slick lapping at beach

Monday, August 10, 2010

Earth A large oil slick reached beaches along the Atlantic Ocean in the Lakes Region in the north of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, local media reported early Monday.

The origin of the oil was not immediately known, and naval inspection technicians took samples of the water and the sand to determine if the fuel comes from a ship or an offshore platform. The relevant tests, however, could take up to 20 days.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil producer, said it’s not responsible for an oil spill that appeared on five of the country’s beaches.
Petrobras, as the oil producer is known, is assisting Brazil’s Navy with clean-up efforts, a spokesman, who declined to be named because of the Rio de Janeiro-based company’s policy, said today in a telephone interview. Petrobras did a flyover and wasn’t able to spot any oil slick, he said.

Oil washed up today at five beaches, said a spokeswoman at the Rio de Janeiro state government environment agency. Petrobras is helping to investigate the spill’s origin, said the spokeswoman in a telephone interview. She can’t be named under internal policy.

The size of the spill hasn’t been determined yet, she said.

The affected beaches are near Cabo Frio, about 93 miles east of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The leak in Rio comes after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva strongly criticized the oil giant BP over the disaster caused by its well in the Gulf of Mexico. He said such a disaster would never happen in Brazil. According to Lula, the technology used by Brazil’s state-operated oil company Petrobras is superior to that which is used in the United States.
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02
Aug
10

Doug Suttles happy to eat Gulf seafood

NEWS
Doug Suttles happy to eat Gulf seafood
BP executive ‘absolutely’ would eat Gulf seafood

Monday, August 02, 2010

Earth

One of BP’s top executives said that not only would he eat Gulf seafood, but he would feed it to his family too. While many fear that the unprecedented amount of chemical dispersants, such as Corexit, in the water has turned it into a toxic soup, more water has been opened.
Fears run high, but many in the seafood industry give a different point of view. While acknowledging the amount of toxic chemicals (over 1 million gallons of Corexit) is unprecedented and unlike anything ever seen before; the rigorous testing by the EPA, NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife fisheries have caused some to conclude that seafood is safer than it has ever been.
Water tests, air quality samples and soil tests have been conducted regularly and the data is used to determine which federal and state waters would be closed or opened. With the high amount of testing, some feel the seafood is the safest it’s been.
Others disagree. They want to know exactly what is being tested. What byproducts result from Corexit and oil and are they being tested in the seafood?
Though NOAA has opened more federal waters and people are returning to beaches, there are many who will not eat Gulf Coast seafood, regardless of what Doug Suttles chooses to feed his family.
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01
Aug
10

U.S. Owners Of BP Stations Seek Rebranding

NEWS
U.S. Owners Of BP Stations Seek Rebranding

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Earth BP is reportedly facing pressure to rename its U.S. petrol stations under their old Amoco brand as the backlash in America shows no sign of easing.

The distributors who control most of BP’s U.S. forecourts are pushing the group to revert back to the traditional American Amoco branding for fear of further sales pain following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

BP shed the Amoco brand shortly after merging with the U.S. oil group in 1998, but the 475 distributors believe its revival across petrol stations could help bring customers back.

They are reportedly seeing sales fall by up to 40 percent in the worst hit sites as Americans shun the BP brand.

The firm’s petrol stations in the U.S. are also said to be suffering growing instances of vandalism and protests.

John Kleine, executive director of the BP Amoco Marketers Association, which represents U.S. distributors, told The Sunday Telegraph in Britain: ‘They (the distributors) are interested in where the brand is going and want it to be returned to its premier place.’
He added: ‘Those fires have been fueled in the last week by a former Amoco executive (Bob Dudley) being named to assume the role of chief executive.’

A separate report also suggested BP may be forced to wind down its operations in the Gulf of Mexico after American lawmakers passed a bill that could halve its production there.

The Gulf accounts for 10 percent of BP’s global production, but the legal move proposed freezing the firm out of new drilling leases for seven years.

BP last week confirmed Mr. Dudley would take over from under-fire boss Tony Hayward in October as it revealed a $32.2 billion blow from the spill.

The group is understood to be preparing to ‘static kill’ the leaking well this week.

The well erupted when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

BP was not immediately available for comment.
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31
Jul
10

Engineers prepare to seal ruptured oil well

NEWS
Engineers prepare to seal ruptured oil well

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Earth

••• Engineers are preparing a plan to permanently seal a damaged Gulf of Mexico well, despite delays to the process caused by debris left behind by a recent tropical storm.

As the work continues, incoming BP boss Bob Dudley has vowed his company will not abandon residents affected by the spill after the well is finally sealed.

BP hopes to drown the well in an operation dubbed a ‘static kill’ in which mud and cement will be injected down into the ruptured wellhead via a cap installed on July 15.

Dudley said on Friday the operation had been pushed back a day, saying ‘we are hopeful by Tuesday the static kill will have been performed’.

The U.S. pointman on the crisis, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, said on Friday the delay was needed to allow engineers to clear debris from the damaged wellhead caused by Tropical Storm Bonnie, which briefly halted spill operations.

But BP senior vice president Kent Wells said the company was confident the static kill would proceed successfully.

A cap in place for two weeks has shown no sign of leaks, ‘giving us more confidence that this well has integrity’, which is a positive sign for the operation, Wells said at a technical briefing on Friday.

Wells said BP hopes the static kill will be able to overcome the flow of oil, but that a second sealing method – via an intercept through a relief well – will go ahead afterwards regardless.

BP said the relief well is likely to intersect the existing well deep below the ocean floor within eight to 10 days, allowing the second sealing process – a bottom kill – by the end of August.

Making his first trip to the region since being named to replace outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward, Dudley said on Friday the firm’s focus will shift to long-term recovery for the region now the spill is being contained.

‘We’ve had some good news on the oil… but that doesn’t mean we’re done,’ Dudley told reporters in Mississippi, one of the five states hit by the massive oil spill.

‘We’ll be here for years,’ he said, as BP announced a $100 million charitable fund to aid unemployed rig workers who are experiencing economic hardship due to the US government’s ongoing moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Dudley will take over as BP’s chief executive on October 1, when Hayward, who was widely criticised for his handling of the crisis, hands over the reins.

With the focus now moving towards mitigating the long-term impact of the worst-ever US oil spill, Dudley said there will be signs that the operation is changing.
Miles of protective boom will be withdrawn from coastlines, and fewer clean-up crews in hazmat suits will be seen on beaches as oil stops washing ashore.

‘So you’ll probably see that kind of a pullback. But commitment, absolutely no pullback,’ he pledged.

It remains unknown just how much oil has spilled into the Gulf since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April, killing 11 workers. Best estimates put the amount at between three and 5.3 million barrels.

Allen said a team of experts is carrying out an ‘oil budget’ to calculate how much was released, how much was captured and how much has evaporated, adding he hopes the report will be released in the coming days.

‘It’s something we ultimately need to know,’ Allen said.

In another encouraging sign, the NOAA said southern Florida and the U.S. eastern seaboard is not likely to experience any effects from the remaining surface oil, as had been feared, as the ‘oil continues to degrade and is hundreds of miles away from the loop current’.

With the leak capped, ‘the light sheen remaining on the Gulf’s surface will continue to biodegrade and disperse but will not travel far’, said Jane Lubchenco, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief.
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24
Jul
10

Gulf oil clean-up resuming after storm

NEWS
Gulf oil clean-up resuming after storm

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Earth••• A drill rig working on a relief well is returning to the site of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after an oncoming storm system weakened, a BP spokesman says.

‘The Development Driller 3 is on its way back,’ BP spokesman Bryan Ferguson said on Saturday. ‘It’s the one that’s drilling the first relief well and its the most critical one and it is turned around and is headed back right now.’

Officials are eager to return to work on operations that should finally seal the leaking well, months after the April 20 explosion aboard BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil platform, which killed 11 workers and sunk the rig.

The DD3 drill rig was disconnected from the spill site ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie, which has now weakened to a tropical depression.

‘The assessment was made that the storm intensity has decreased,’ Ferguson said. ‘So the decision was made overnight to return the DD3.’

The DD3 rig is drilling the first of two relief wells that will be used to definitively plug the devastating spill.

Locals and officials had feared that evacuating crews ahead of bad weather associated with the storm system could set back operations to finally seal off the well by up to 12 days.
But on Saturday morning, several ships, including some operating underwater surveillance robots, remained at the spill site.

Ferguson said it would take around 21 hours for the drill rig to reconnect to drilling operations some 5000 feet beneath the sea surface, after which a decision would be made on whether to restart drilling.

BP and U.S. officials currently plan two operations to kill the well.

The first, a ‘static kill,’ involves pumping heavy drilling fluids known as mud through the blowout preventer valve system that sits on top of the well, and then injecting cement to seal it.

The process is similar to the ‘top kill’ attempt that failed, but official say a cap placed over the leak that has sealed in the flow of oil since last Thursday will made the operation easier and more likely to succeed.

However, officials have always said the ultimate solution to the leak will be via a relief well, which will intersect the original well.

Using the same process as the static kill, drilling fluid, which is denser than oil, will then be pumped via the relief well until the flow of crude is overcome and the well and be sealed with cement.
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23
Jul
10

Storm puts Gulf spill work on hold

NEWS
Storm puts Gulf spill work on hold
BP Oil Spill: Ships Head to Shore as Bonnie Barrels Toward Spill Site

Friday, July 23, 2010

Earth

••• A tropical storm barrelling towards the Gulf of Mexico oil spill site has forced crews to suspend operations and halt work to permanently plug the BP well.

Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. official overseeing the spill response, said crews aboard two drilling rigs and a container ship were drawing up thousands of metres of pipes from beneath the sea, while non-essential personnel were being evacuated as Tropical Storm Bonnie took aim at the area.

Officials said a cap that has kept oil from escaping the well since Thursday last week would stay in place, after a week of tests suggested pressure would not force oil out through new leaks.

With Bonnie expected to hit the area on Saturday, Allen said the evacuation would set back efforts to finally ‘kill’ the leaking well by up to 12 days.

But with the safety of workers at the well site a top concern, Allen said the weather had forced crews to collect boom and return ships to shore and some of the 2,000-strong crew responding to the spill headed back to land.

‘The intention right now is to put the vessels in a safe place so they can return as quickly as possible to resume their operations,’ he told reporters.
He said officials estimated ‘if we abandon the scene, it would be 48 hours before we would be back on’.

The oncoming storm has forced a halt to the process of concreting the casing on the first of two relief wells.

Once concrete can be placed and set, a process expected to take up to a week, officials hope to perform a ‘static kill’ to plug the well by injecting heavy drilling mud and cement through the cap at the top.

The final operation to cement the reservoir through a relief well would be expected five to seven days after that.

First Lady Michelle Obama, visiting Pascagoula, Mississippi, promised the U.S. government would not forget those affected.

‘This isn’t over yet. And this administration is going to stand with the people of the Gulf until folks are made whole again,’ she said.

Officials ordered crews to begin preparing for Bonnie on Thursday, after forecasters said the system would affect Florida’s Gulf Coast and parts of Louisiana.
Bonnie struck south Florida on Friday. Allen said the storm might be mild enough to allow some vessels on remain at the site of the ruptured well.

‘The seismic survey vessels, the acoustic vessels and the vessels operating the ROV’s (underwater robots) will stay as long as possible, and if conditions allow it they will remain through the passage of the storm,’ he said.

But if the ships are forced to depart, engineers will have no real-time information about the state of the wellbore below the sealing cap.

Hydrophones will take recordings, but Allen said the information could be analysed only after the fact.

‘Our only real-time feedback will be aerial surveillance and satellite imagery,’ he said.

Oil has washed up on the shores of all five U.S. states in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

Separately, a former rig worker told federal investigators an alarm that should have alerted Deepwater Horizon workers to a deadly build-up of gas had been muted months before the April 20 blast.

The system, which uses lights and alarms to warn of fire or high-levels of toxic or explosive gases, had been ‘inhibited’, Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician on the rig, told a hearing looking into the disaster.
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19
Jul
10

Engineers detect seepage near BP oil well

NEWS
Engineers detect seepage near BP oil well

Monday, July 19, 2010

Earth

••• The U.S. government has raised concern over seepage near the Gulf of Mexico oil well but stopped short of asking BP to remove the cap which has halted the gushing crude for the first time since April.

BP had earlier acknowledged some bubbles appeared near the wellhead but expressed optimism that the cap could stay on, saying tests were ‘encouraging’ after three days and that a final solution was in sight.

But tensions emerged as the government’s pointman on the worst environmental disaster in US history ordered the energy giant to report swiftly on a ‘detected seep’ and ‘anomalies’ near the well head as experts monitored the seabed for cracks.

‘Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period,’ Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said in a letter to BP chief managing director Bob Dudley.
Allen ordered BP to report to the government in no more than four hours when seeps are detected, and said BP must lay out its next steps in writing for ‘opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed’.

Hydrocarbons occur naturally in crude oil, and their detection could mean that oil is seeping out from the area around the well, which began gushing oil after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and capsized two days later, killing 11 workers.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles said pressure was rising slowly in the well, as expected, and touted ‘encouraging signs’ that would allow the newly placed cap to remain on the well until a permanent ‘kill’ operation takes place in August.

‘In two different locations we’ve seen a few bubbles. This is not uncommon but clearly it’s important that we check everything very closely so we’re monitoring that,’ Suttles said.
The U.S. government was granting extensions to exhaustive well tests on a 24-hour basis, while BP said the valves on the containment cap that is staunching the flow would remain shut as long as no leaks are discovered.

‘Clearly we don’t want to reinitiate flow into the Gulf if we don’t have to,’ said Suttles.

Three days of respite from the unsettling images of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico raised hopes among residents that this could mark the beginning of the end of what estimates suggest is the biggest oil spill ever.

The start of the two-week operation to plug the well permanently by pumping in heavy drilling fluids and then cement is now less than two weeks away as engineers have only 98 feet left vertically to drill.

Gulf residents, who have seen the relentless flow of crude tarnish their shorelines and cripple the local economy, reacted cautiously to news that the cap was holding back the crude, wary of being given false hope after weeks of botched BP operations.

‘I don’t know if it’s going help. It’s still a short-term fix,’ New Orleans resident and medical researcher Ashok Pullikuth told AFP. ‘The permanent fix is the relief wells. This cap has saved a month’s worth of spill damage.’
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