Posts Tagged ‘Tropical Storm

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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22
Jul
10

Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

NEWS
Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

Oil cap in Gulf to remain despite approaching storm

Thursday, July 22, 2010

••• The U.S. government has ordered certain ships working on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill back to port amid fears that a brewing storm could force a mass evacuation and derail efforts to plug BP’s runaway well.

A full-scale evacuation could delay by up to two weeks the final operation to plug BP’s runaway well, which has unleashed millions of barrels of crude on Gulf Coast shorelines in one of America’s worst ever environmental disasters.

‘Activities that are under way for storm preparedness include evacuating specialized vessels from the path of any severe weather to prevent damage and ensure that oil recovery operations can resume as soon as possible after a storm,’ a Coast Guard statement said on Thursday.

With no crews on site to monitor pressure inside the well, top U.S. official Admiral Thad Allen has warned that the cap that has prevented any toxic crude from entering the sea for the past week may have to be opened up again or even removed.

Storm warnings have been extended from the Caribbean around the Florida Keys to the Gulf Coast, but there has been no immediate order from BP or the U.S. government to suspend operations entirely and pull staff back to shore.

If the depression developing near the Bahamas, expected to become Tropical Storm Bonnie lateron Thursday, takes aim at Louisiana it will delay a so-called ‘static kill’ to seal the well with cement originally planned for this weekend.

Officials have warned it will take up to five days to get some of the biggest vessels, in particular the massive drilling platforms working on relief wells, back to port.

‘We’ve always said we need 120 hours in advance to be able to start redeploying them and then the total time off-scene would be anywhere between 10 and 14 days,’ Allen said on Wednesday.

As for what to do with the cap, this would be ‘a judgment call based on the risks,’ he said.

The first relief well was expected to intercept the damaged well as early as next week but if the storm hits that could be more like mid-August and any final operation to seal the well with cement might be delayed until September.

The storm threat was already delaying progress as work on the final casing of the relief well was suspended so a ‘storm packer’ plug could be fitted to stabilize it.

A full evacuation would be a huge blow for local residents. Tourism is in tatters and a vast swath of the Gulf has been closed to commercial and sport fishing since the BP-leased Deep water Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

As millions of barrels of crude spewed into the sea, the region was further hit by President Barack Obama’s decision to impose a moratorium on new deep sea drilling – a move fiercely opposed by local leaders and the oil industry.

Four of the world’s oil giants say they will create a $1 billion system to capture oil in case of another catastrophic spill.

Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Royal Dutch Shell will each contribute $250 million to create a non-profit group, the Marine Well Containment Company.

The new venture would design, build and operate a flexible system that could mobilise within 24 hours to siphon and contain 100,000 barrels of oil per day in depths of up to 1.86 miles, the companies said.

It’s main goal would be to prevent a spill as large as the one unleashed by BP’s busted Macondo well, which sits 1 mile below the surface and was estimated to have spewed up to 60,000 bpd into the sea.

The companies said the system could be up and running within 18 months.

If an upper estimate of over four million barrels is confirmed, the BP disaster would be the biggest accidental oil spill ever.
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30
Jun
10

Hurricane Alex threatens Mexico, Texas coasts

NEWS
Hurricane Alex threatens Mexico, Texas coasts

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Earth

••• U.S. President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Texas as Alex strengthened into a hurricane, disrupting oil cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s move allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to co-ordinate all disaster relief efforts, a White House statement says.

It came as Alex forced the suspension of oil skimming operations from the disastrous BP spill as visiting Vice President Joe Biden heard complaints about the pace of cleanup efforts in the disaster zone.

Ten weeks after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon platform exploded, setting off the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Biden was given an earful from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal about the slow response.

Some 413 miles of once-pristine shorelines have been oiled, as well as countless birds and other wildlife, since the rig sank on April 22.

Since then crude has gushed at an alarming rate into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the region’s vital fishing and tourism industries in tatters.
Meanwhile, the State Department announced that the United States will accept offers from 12 foreign countries to help clean up and contain the spill.

Offers of booms have been accepted from Canada, Japan, Mexico and Norway; skimmers have been accepted from France, Japan, Mexico and Norway; and a sweeping arm system has been accepted from the Netherlands, a spokeswoman told AFP.

On his trip to the region, Biden was greeted by protesters holding signs reading ‘oil kills’ as he entered a command centre in New Orleans for an hour-long briefing before meeting with local fishermen.

He also travelled to the Florida panhandle, where the slick has forced authorities to close down some of the area’s fabled white sand beaches.

Jindal, a Republican who has been highly critical of the federal response, asked Biden for help cutting through red tape and deploying more resources to keep the oil from coating fragile coastal wetlands and fishing grounds.

‘The federal government needs to increase their sense of urgency,’ Jindal said in a statement after meeting with Biden.

‘They need to treat this spill like a war and get in it to win it. We’re here to defend our way of life.’

At the leak site 50 miles offshore, winds of up to 22 knots churned up large waves that made it too rough for crews to deploy a third vessel set to nearly double the capacity of BP’s containment system.

The now-delayed Helix Producer was set to increase the capacity to gather the gushing oil to between 40,000 and 50,000 barrels per day by early July, from the current 25,000 barrels.
The current containment system is capturing nearly 25,000 of the estimated 30,000 to 60,000 barrels of crude spewing out of the ruptured well every day.

That could all end up gushing directly into the sea if Alex – which is forecast to pass hundreds of kilometres from the site and strike land near the Texas-Mexico border late on Wednesday – changes path and threatens a more direct hit on the slick.

Forecasters are not predicting such a dramatic shift. But U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the spill response, said that even the threat of gale force winds – upward of 45 mph – would be enough to force drilling and containment ships to withdraw.

Alex’s winds late on Tuesday had reached 75 mph, with higher gusts, and the storm was expected to strengthen before making landfall on Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Centre said.

Hurricane force winds extend outward only about 30km from the centre but tropical storm force winds extend up to 174 miles, according to the NHC.

In the event of an evacuation, operations will be shut down for about two weeks to ‘take down the equipment, move it off to a safe place, bring it back and re-establish drilling’, Allen said.

That would be another major setback for the ill-fated oil collection effort, and would probably delay until September the completion of relief wells designed to permanently plug the well.

An estimated 1.6 million to 3.6 million barrels of oil have already poured into the Gulf from the ruptured wellhead some 1 mile below the surface.

BP hopes a new mooring system will make the containment cap deep down on the sea floor easier to disconnect and reconnect in the case of bad weather – a vital contingency as hurricane season gets into full swing.

The rough seas have already shifted parts of the slick closer to sensitive areas in Florida and Louisiana and could also push the oil deeper into fragile coastal wetlands.

Waves at the site of the sunken BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig were up to two metres, a Coast Guard spokesman told AFP.
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• Source(s): NOAA / National Weather Service (NWS)
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27
Jun
10

Tropical Storm Alex Heads Towards Gulf of Mexico

NEWS
Tropical Storm Alex Heads Towards Gulf of Mexico

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Earth

••• Tropical Storm Alex headed toward the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, but while it was not expected to hit the oil spill area, experts warned strong waves and winds could hamper clean-up efforts there.

With oil continually gushing into the fragile waters for the past 68 days, President Barack Obama’s pointsman on the disaster cautioned that volatile weather conditions could set back oil recovery operations for up to two weeks.

Meanwhile, Alex moved over Belize, dumping heavy rains over the Yucatan Peninsula before moving back into the Gulf after the weekend, meaning BP can continue its process without disruption, for now.

‘The storm is not an issue for the spill,’ said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

Feltgen said forecasters did not expect Alex to head into the northeast Gulf, where the spill is located, ‘but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some wave impact.’

The storm, which packed sustained winds of 60 mph, entered Belize late on Saturday just 19 miles northwest of Belize City, dumping heavy rain on the affected area.

It was expected to weaken as it moved over Yucatan, but regain some punch as it moves over the Gulf of Mexico on Monday.

‘We are very pleased that there is no weather impact right now,’ BP spokesman Ron Rybarczyk told AFP on Saturday.

But while the latest forecasts had BP breathing a sigh of relief, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen sounded the alarm about the potential for a devastating impact to efforts to contain and siphon off the oil.

‘The weather is unpredictable, and we could have a sudden last-minute change,’ said Allen, telling reporters that oil recovery operations would have to be suspended for two weeks if Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, were to hit the area.
Such a stoppage would exacerbate the spill that has defiled the Gulf Coast’s once pristine shorelines, killed wildlife and put a big dent in the region’s multi-billion-dollar fishing industry.

It would also mean the estimated 30,000 to 65,000 barrels of oil gushing from a ruptured wellhead down on the seafloor would be billowing crude and gas unchecked for days.

An estimated 1.9 to 3.5 million barrels have poured into the Gulf since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20.

Allen said vessels currently recuperating some of the oil and gas would need up to 120 hours to evacuate the site if weather conditions were deemed dire enough.

‘If we get an indication that we have a chance for gale-force winds 120 hours before, we’ll make the decision,’ he added before noting that ‘right now, we haven’t met that threshold.’
BP said it recovered 24,550 barrels of oil on Friday, a 3.5 percent increase from its Thursday total, and collected approximately 413,000 barrels since May.

Still, hundreds of demonstrators came to Manatee County Florida beaches on Saturday to protest offshore oil drilling and support clean energy strategies advocated by President Obama.

About 350 people formed a human chain at Manatee Public Beach, according to local officials.

‘We grew up coming to these beaches, and we want to make sure future generations – like my daughter, here – have a place like this to come to,’ said local resident Joshua Spaid.

BP’s shares meanwhile plummeted to a 13-year low in London trading after BP ramped up the costs of the spill so far to $2.35 billion. The company’s share values have been cut by more than half since the disaster that killed 11 workers and unleashed the worst oil spill in US history.
The British energy giant said its plans to drill through 2.5 miles of rock were on track. No permanent solution to the spill is expected before the relief wells are due to be completed in August.

Heavy drilling fluids would then be pumped into the existing well to drown the oil flow, allowing it to be plugged for good with cement.

Vice President Joe Biden heads to the region on Tuesday and is due to visit the New Orleans-based National Incident Command Centre before travelling to the Florida panhandle.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Carol Browner, who heads the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, will also visit.

In Toronto, Canada, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron held their first face-to-face talks ahead of a G20 leaders’ summit and agreed BP should ‘remain a strong and stable company,’ Downing Street said.
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• Source(s): NOAA / National Weather Service (NWS)
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01
Jun
10

Tropical Storm Agatha kills 150 in Central America

NEWS
Tropical Storm Agatha kills 150 in Central America

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Earth

••• Flooding and landslides from the season’s first tropical storm have killed at least 150 people in Central America, officials said on Monday.

Dozens are still missing, thousands have lost homes and emergency crews are struggling to reach isolated communities cut off by washed-out roads and collapsed bridges caused by Tropical Storm Agatha.

The sun emerged on Monday in hardest-hit Guatemala, where official counts reported 123 dead and 90 missing. In the department or province of Chimaltenango – a province west of Guatemala City – landslides buried dozens of rural Indian communities and killed at least 60 people, Governor Erick de Leon said.

‘The department has collapsed,’ de Leon said. ‘There are a lot of dead people. The roads are blocked. The shelters are overflowing. We need water, food, clothes, blankets – but above all, money.’

President Alvaro Colom said on Sunday that during a single 12-hour period, 4.25 inches fell in Guatemala City’s valley. In all about 110,000 people were evacuated in the country.

Thousands more have fled their homes in neighboring Honduras, where the death toll rose to 14 even as meteorologists predicted three more days of rain.

Two dams near the capital of Tegucigalpa overflowed into a nearby river, and officials warned people to stay away from swollen waterways.

‘The risk is enormous,’ Mayor Ricardo Alvarez said.

In El Salvador, at least 140 landslides have been reported and 11,000 people were evacuated. The death toll was nine, President Mauricio Funes said.

Officials warned that the Acelhuate River, which cuts through San Salvador, was running at dangerously high levels and threatened to spill over into the capital’s streets.

Agatha made landfall near the Guatemala-Mexico border on Saturday as a tropical storm with winds up to 45 mph (75 kph). It dissipated the following day over the mountains of western Guatemala.

The rising death toll is reminding nervous residents of Hurricane Mitch, which hovered over Central America for days in 1998, causing flooding and mudslides that killed nearly 11,000 people and left more than 8000 missing and unaccounted for.

Rescue efforts in Guatemala have been complicated by a volcanic eruption on Thursday near the capital that blanketed parts of the area with ash and closed the country’s main airport. Officials are now allowing helicopters and propeller planes to take off, but commercial flights remain grounded.
• Source(s): NOAA / National Weather Service (NWS)
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