Don’t Drink The Water

Andrew Moseman at Discover:

The oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico is finally out, as the Deepwater Horizon sank into the sea yesterday and hope for finding 11 missing workers began to fade. The damage assessment for the oil spill, however, has just begun.

Oil from an undersea pocket that was ruptured by the rig, which was leased by the energy company BP, has begun to spread outward. The spill measures 10 miles (16 kilometers) by 10 miles, about four times the area of Manhattan, and is comprised of a “light sheen with a few patches of thicker crude,” U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Cheri Ben-Iesau said today [BusinessWeek]. Whether or not the 700,000 gallons of diesel on board Deepwater Horizon is part of the spill remains unknown. Transocean, the company that owns the rig, admitted that it failed to “to stem the flow of hydrocarbons” before the rig sank.

Josh Garrett at HeatingOil:

On top of the heavy human cost of the incident is the threat of widespread environmental damage, which is growing by the minute as a massive oil slick spreads toward land. By Monday afternoon, the size of the oil slick was estimated at 1,800 square miles, the New York Times reported. Although no environmental effects have yet been observed, sea flora and fauna could soon be harmed by the presence of the oil in the water. Environmental damage could worsen as the oil slick moves into coastal ecosystems, which the US Coast Guard estimated would not happen for at least 36 hours, according to the Wall Street Journal. BP, the oil company that commissioned the sunken platform, is charged with stopping the leak and cleaning up the spilled oil, both of which could take months.

Cain Burdeau at Daily Caller:

Crews used robot submarines to activate valves in hopes of stopping the leaks, but they may not know until Tuesday if that strategy will work. BP also mobilized two rigs to drill a relief well if needed. Such a well could help redirect the oil, though it could also take weeks to complete, especially at that depth.

BP plans to collect leaking oil on the ocean bottom by lowering a large dome to capture the oil and then pumping it through pipes and hoses into a vessel on the surface, said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration and Production.

It could take up to a month to get the equipment in place.

“That system has been deployed in shallower water, but it has never been deployed at 5,000 feet of water, so we have to be careful,” he said.

The spill, moving slowly north and spreading east and west, was about 30 miles from the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast Monday. The Coast Guard said kinks in the pipe were helping stem the flow of oil.

From the air Monday afternoon, the oil spill reached as far as the eye could see. There was little evidence of a major cleanup, with only a handful of vessels near the site of the leak.

The oil sheen was of a shiny light blue color, translucent and blending with the water, but a distinct edge between the oil slick and the sea could be seen stretching for miles.

George Crozier, oceanographer and executive director at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, said he was studying wind and ocean currents driving the oil.

He said Pensacola, Fla., is probably the eastern edge of the threatened area, though no one really knows what the effects will be.

“We’ve never seen anything like this magnitude,” he said. “The problems are going to be on the beaches themselves. That’s where it will be really visible.”

Aaron Viles, director for the New Orleans-based environmental group Gulf Restoration Network, said he flew over the spill Sunday and saw what was likely a sperm whale swimming near the oil sheen.

“There are going to be significant marine impacts,” he said.

Seymour Friendly at Firedoglake:

We have the information that Federal law places all the responsibility for cleanup and emergency response onto the rig’s operator. BP leased the rig from Transoceanic, hence, BP is liable.

Obviously, without massive regulation and investment, British Petroleum is not going to plan and prepare effectively for disasters like this. Such preparation is not profitable to them.

Handling a disaster like this should without doubt be a Federal obligation. BP can absorb the costs, but the Feds should fulfill the mandate for having plans and personnel ready for response, and requirements and safety guidelines that prevent and mitigate disasters as well.

As it stands, of the three initial possible responses:

1) Activate the massive cutoff valve, stopping the flow of oil, via improvised use of deep-sea ROVs,

2) Drill “intervention wells” over a period of months,

3) Place an apparatus over the well that transports the leaked oil to the surface where it can then be removed from the sea indefinitely,

That BP, which owns the decision in lieu of Federal regulations and agency authority, is going to elect for (3).

That means that oil will be going to the surface, and recovered, until the “something can be done”. In other words, this oil leak in the Gulf may go on for a very, very long time.

I’d like to see the Obama administration rectify its statement today that it has “acted swiftly to protect the environment” in light of the fact that it is not clear that there is even a Federal capacity to respond to this situation, and the best of our information is that the leak will continue indefinitely, with the Feds needing to figure out how to remove the oily water produced for months, and the wreck of the oil rig left at the bottom of the deep blue sea.

James Herron at WSJ:

However, contrary to initial Coastguard reports Friday that no oil was leaking from the sunken drilling rig, it became apparent Saturday that around 1,000 barrels a day of crude oil is gushing from ruptures in the pipeline that linked the platform to the sea bed. An oil slick 30 miles long and 20 miles wide is drifting slowly north towards the shore, although weather forecasts indicate it will not hit land for at least 72 hours.

“The oil is ours and we are responsible for the cleanup,” said a BP spokesman. [Read BP’s latest press statement here.]

BP is throwing all the resources it has available at the spill, so the cost to the company may be substantial. It has deployed 32 spill response ships and five aircraft to spray up to 100,000 gallons of chemical dispersant on the slick and skim oil from the surface of the water and deploy floating barriers to trap the oil.

In case attempts to shut down the leaking oil using a remotely operated subsea robot fail, BP is already sending in another rig to drill a second well to inject a specialized heavy fluid into the reservoir and cut the flow of oil from the sea bed–a process that could take months.

“We’ve already spent millions,” and will continue to spend whatever is necessary, said the BP spokesman.

UPDATE: John Cole

Rod Dreher

UPDATE #3: Paul Krugman

Chris Good at The Atlantic

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

UPDATE #4: John Hinderaker at Powerline

National Review

Andrew Sullivan

Mark Schmitt and Megan McArdle at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Glenn Thrush and Mike Allen in Politico

Allah Pundit

Steve Benen

UPDATE #6: Pascal-Emmanuel Gorby at The American Scene here and here. And via PEG, Lexington at The Economist

UPDATE #7: Huffington Post

UPDATE #8: Daniel Gross at Slate

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2 Comments

Filed under Energy, Environment

2 responses to “Don’t Drink The Water

  1. Pingback: What We’ve Built Today « Around The Sphere

  2. Pingback: What We’ve Built This Weekend « Around The Sphere

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