Category Archives: Gulf Oil Catastrophe

How BP’s ‘top kill’ procedure (might) work

top-kill

By Jason Hanna, Jacqui Jeras and Aaron Cooper, CNN.

BP’s next attempt to stop the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico will involve a maneuver called “top kill,” in which heavy drilling fluid is to be pumped into the head of the leaking well at the seafloor.
The manufactured fluid, known as drilling mud, is normally used as a lubricant and counterweight in drilling operations. The hope is that the drilling mud will stop the flow of oil. If it does, cement would then be pumped in to seal the well, according to BP.

BP said it hopes to start the procedure Wednesday morning. Here, in a question-and-answer format, is a more detailed look at how it would work:

How will the drilling mud be pumped into the well?
Two vessels loaded with a total of 50,000 barrels of drilling mud will feed a rig that will manage the pumping process.

The rig will send the drilling mud into a pipe that will go nearly down to the seafloor, 5,000 feet below the surface. The fluid will split off into two flexible hoses that will connect to a manifold, which is a distribution chamber that BP has placed on the seafloor. The manifold’s job is, among other things, to manage the flow of mud into the well, according to BP.

The manifold will send the fluid through two other hoses that will be attached to the blowout preventer that sits atop the well. The blowout preventer is a 48-foot-tall valve-like apparatus that should have prevented the leak in the first place, but is not working.

Remote-operated submarines will have attached the hoses to lines in the blowout preventer that access the well.

How will the drilling mud help stop the oil?
If the drilling mud can be pumped into the well at a sufficiently high pressure, it could overcome the pressure of the oil and gas that is trying to come out, thereby stopping the oil flow, according to BP.
“[The drilling mud] is heavier than the oil and the gas. The objective is to put it into the well so it will reduce the pressure and flow from the well,” which would then allow BP to pump cement into the well, BP spokesman John Curry said.

BP has cautioned, however, that this procedure hasn’t been tried at such a depth. BP CEO Tony Hayward told reporters Monday that the company rates the chance of success at 60 percent to 70 percent.
What will happen if the drilling mud doesn’t work?
Using the same tubes and pipes, BP would then try a “junk shot,” pumping material like golf balls, pieces of tire and pieces of rope into the blowout preventer.

“Each of these [materials] has been proven to fill various sized spaces in the blowout preventer until the flow is stopped,” BP says in a statement on its website. “While there is no known perfect ‘recipe,’ a number of combinations of materials will be used.”

More drilling mud would follow the junk shot, with the hope that the two methods together would stop the oil long enough for cement to be poured into the well.

How long will the attempt take?
Curry said BP doesn’t know how long the process will take, but it won’t be instantaneous.
“It’s a process. We will make sure we take the time to do it right,” he said.
A joint website for the government agencies and companies involved in dealing with the leak says the total operation could take several days. It’s not clear whether that includes preparation, which already is under way.

What will happen if the “top kill” and “junk shot” procedures don’t work?
One option is adding another valve, or an additional blowout preventer, on top of the blowout preventer already on the well, according to BP. That potentially could cut off the oil flow.

BP also may try to sever the ruptured riser that extends from the blowout preventer — it is this pipe that is leaking — and fit a containment dome over it, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Monday. From this dome, the oil would be piped up to a ship on the surface, and this would be done until BP can seal the well.

A larger containment dome failed to work earlier this month. BP this month also inserted a tube into the ruptured riser to capture some of the leaking oil. That captured oil is being pumped to a ship on the surface.
Other ideas also are being considered, BP says.

BP says the plan to permanently kill the well, regardless of whether the “top kill” procedure works, involves drilling relief wells that will intersect with the well in question, far below the seafloor. Once contact is made, concrete will be put into the well producing the leak above.

Drilling relief wells takes about 90 days. Drilling for the first one started in early May, and drilling for a second, backup relief well began two weeks later, according to BP.

How is the federal government involved in the attempt?
Federal officials and scientists “have been working with BP engineers on the review of the various operations, procedures and contingencies” that will be used during the “top kill” attempt, according to the joint leak-response website.

On Sunday, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen told CNN’s “State of the Union” that BP “had to go step by step [with government officials] on how they’re going to do this ‘top kill.’ ”

“All the assumptions that BP put forward were questioned by people like” John Holdren, the director of the White House’s office of science and technology policy, Allen said.

“What makes this an unprecedented and anomalous event is access to the discharge site is controlled by the technology that was used for the drilling, which is owned by the private sector. They have the eyes and ears that are down there. They are necessarily the modality by which this is going to get solved,” Allen said. “Our responsibility is to conduct proper oversight to make sure they do that, and with the ‘top kill’ that will be coming up later on this week, that’s exactly what’s happening.”

Original Article

White House: Undoubtedly Worst Oil Spill in U.S. History

By Kate McCarthy and Bradley Blackburn, ABC

The oil leak that has spewed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico will undoubtedly become the worst in U.S. history, the White House said today.

“I don’t think there is any doubt, unfortunately,” Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” this morning.

BP is expected to try another solution Wednesday, called the “top kill,” to stop the leaking well head. BP said there is a 60 to 70 percent chance of success, but Browner declined to put “odds” on the planned attempt.

“We are doing everything in our power to try and make it work,” Browner said.

“GMA’s” Sam Champion went diving with oceanographer Philippe Cousteau Jr. in the Gulf of Mexico and got a firsthand look at the toxic soup of oil and chemical dispersant that formed large underwater plumes as deep as 25 feet.

Champion reported that the mixture appeared to be breaking into small droplets that are capable of passing through the flesh of fish and birds and being picked up ocean currents.

“[It is] just this cloud of granular oil,” Cousteau said. “And you can see it dispersing deeper and deeper into the water column. And, you know, what we’re hearing is that there are plumes of oil like this beneath this surface like this at various different depths than can go for 10 or more miles.”

Cousteau called it a “nightmare.”

There has been a public dispute about the chemical dispersant and its toxicity.The Environmental Protection Agency last week ordered BP to use a less toxic chemical dispersant but the company failed to comply. There are fewer dispersants being manufactured in the quantities needed, Browner said, and scientists are continuing to examine how the particular dispersant interacts with the environment.

“What the EPA did yesterday was direct BP to use less of this dispersant while they continue to study what other alternatives may be available,” Browner said.
In response to questions being raised about whether BP will follow orders given by the administration, Browner said that BP will “absolutely comply” and is already complying with Monday’s order.

“We have the mechanisms to ensure they comply and we will use those mechanisms,” Browner said.

Original Article

BP Prepares for ‘Top Kill’ Procedure to Contain Spill

By Clifford Krauss and Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times

With frustration growing in the Gulf region over BP’s inability to contain the oil spill, the company on Tuesday morning outlined its next plan for stopping the underwater leak.

BP said equipment was in place for what is known as a top kill procedure, in which heavy drilling fluids twice the density of water are pumped through two narrow lines into the blowout preventer to essentially plug the runaway well. Depending on pressure readings taken Tuesday, officials said they might start the procedure as early as Wednesday morning — but they left open the possibility of more delays.

Officials also said that it could take 12 hours to 48 hours once the procedure begins to determine whether it is effective.

If the top kill does not work, they will move toward placing another containment dome over the leak, possibly to be installed after several days.

If the top kill works, BP officials said the well would be sealed with cement and they would also consider installing a new blowout preventer on the wellhead, as a safeguard. They said they had no intention of ever producing oil from the well.

The effort to stanch the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been mired by setbacks as state and federal officials feuded with BP over its failure to meet deadlines.

BP was locked in a tense standoff with the Environmental Protection Agency, which had ordered the company last week to find a “less toxic” chemical dispersant than the one it was using and to make the switch by Sunday evening. But BP has continued spraying the chemical after informing the agency why it believed that the dispersant it has been using, called Corexit, was the safest available.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency in Louisiana announced Tuesday that, at the request of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the federal Department of Commerce had declared a commercial fisheries failure for the state, allowing commercial fishermen to receive aid from the Economic Development Administration.

In Washington on Tuesday morning, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee held a hearing that addressed the federal system for allocating costs and liabilities in oil spills. The committee’s chairman, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, said the system was antiquated not only because Congress has not modernized it in 20 years, but also because government officials whom the law instructed to adjust financial caps to reflect inflation have failed to do so.

“We have a broken system,” Mr. Bingaman said. He said the need for repair was “dire.”

Administration officials testifying before the committee agreed that for deepwater drilling, liability caps should be lifted.

The 1990 Oil Pollution Act made the responsible party liable for unlimited costs in cleanup but set the liability for third-party damages, like lost income for fishermen and hotel owners, at $75 million, unless the courts find gross negligence or determine that the company violated a rule that led directly to the spill.

BP has promised that in the Deepwater Horizon case, it will pay all legitimate damages.

Several members of Congress have introduced legislation to raise the cap; Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey has proposed $10 billion. But some members of the committee said they were not sure what the limit should be.

“Ten billion, is that the right figure?” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who is the ranking minority member of the committee. She said her colleagues should “take the time to assure we’re building good policy on this.”

Senator Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah, asked if setting aside all liability limits would preclude drilling by small operators, who could not afford enough insurance, or perhaps eliminate offshore drilling all together. “What are the chances that they will be able to get sufficient insurance if the cap is set so high, or the cap is lifted all together, so that a business decision will be made by the boards of these companies, ‘the risk is too great, we will drop all activities.’ ”

But the consensus in Congress is probably closer to the position articulated by Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, who said that it was “beyond comprehension” that at a time of record federal deficits and quarterly profits for BP in the billions, “that taxpayers should spend one nickel.”

He and other senators were skeptical that BP would waive all caps on liability, and said they thought Congress should raise the cap retroactively. A witness, Thomas J. Perrelli, associate attorney general of the Justice Department, said companies might try to file suit against that but they would probably not be successful. “Congress legislates retroactively all the time,” he said.

Another witness, Craig A. Bennett, director of the National Pollution Funds Center, an office established by the 1990 law, said federal response costs so far are about $72.4 million, and his office has disbursed $7 million to state agencies. BP is obligated to reimburse the fund for those expenditures, he said. BP, he noted, has reported spending more than $760 million directly.

Mr. Bennett writes checks from a fund gathered mainly from an eight-cents-a-barrel tax on oil produced offshore or imported, and which has in it more than $1.5 billion, but only $1 billion is available for any single spill. He has $100 million to spend immediately without Congressional authorization, but said he might run through that by June 5, “much earlier than previously though.”

Reimbursement goes into the oil spill liability fund, but he needs Congressional action to tap that beyond $100 million, he said.

Mr. Bennett said BP had told him it had 432 people working at claims centers to take claims from fishermen and others, and that they could accept up to 6,000 claims per day, but were only receiving about 2,000. He said he had told BP it would have to advertise the claim centers in Spanish, Vietnamese and Croatian, the language of some fishermen, and that the company had promptly hired translators and placed ads in the appropriate media.

The 1990 law set civil penalties for oil spills at $20,000 a day, later raised to $35,000, but either amount that now seems like an asterisk, given that BP is reporting daily costs is reporting daily spending in the range of $20 million.

Senator Bingaman said that by law, the secretary of the interior was supposed to adjust the $75 million liability cap every three years based on the Consumer Price Index, but had not done so.

“Twenty years of inflation have been ignored,” he said.

Administration witnesses did not address that issue, but they did seek to clarify what drilling activities they have suspended and what they are allowing to go forward.

David J. Hayes, deputy secretary of the interior, said that applications for permits to drill, known as APDs, or “the authority to put a new hole in the ground,” had been suspended. But some companies that hold APDs want to drill a second well in the same location, for safety reasons, he said, and that was being allowed.

“That’s the reason for the lack of clarity,” Mr. Hayes said.

A moratorium on new shallow-water drilling was put in place for 30 days, while the secretary of the interior prepared a preliminary report on the blowout. That report is expected this week, and what happens next is not clear.

Original Article

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Coastal Resilience

Adam Cooper, Oil Spill

By Andrew Cooper, in The Geographical Journal

With oil continuing to spill into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform, Andrew Cooper reflects on natural and man-made crises, environmental threats and issues of coastal risk and resilience. The author, in collaboration with John McKenna, has previously published on coastal protection strategies in the autumn issue of The Geographical Journal.

The close relationship between human activities and the ‘resilience’ of coastal regions has been highlighted by successive natural events, such as tsunamis and hurricanes, and man-made crises like the recent oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Australia.

We use the term ‘coastal resilience’ here to refer to the ability of a coast to cope with (i) impacts on the natural ecosystem (ii) impacts on the humans who derive benefit from coastal resources and (iii) interactions between humans and the environment. Geographers have a critical role to play in helping to make sense of this multifaceted concept of resilience, guiding coastal strategy and informing national and international policy and best practice.

The size and anticipated impacts of the massive oil spill (May 2010) in the Gulf of Mexico quickly focused people’s minds on the fragility and vulnerability of the Gulf coast in the same way that the threat to the Great Barrier Reef was clear from the recent grounding of a ship in April 2010. Oil spills present an immediate, dramatic and visible threat to coastal systems. Their impact can, however, be short-lived if the spill is contained and many ecosystems can indeed recover fairly quickly as we have seen elsewhere. At Gladstone, Australia, for example a mangrove ecosystem affected by an oil spill in January 2006 was well on the way to recovery two years later (Melville et al., 2009). There can, however, be immediate and large scale impacts on human activities like fishing, tourism and recreation, which is exercising the minds of Gulf coast communities and coastal managers at the moment.

Human nature being what it is, our immediate focus seems to be on protecting the more visible parts of the ecosystem (like birds), and less on the other important constituents that are often microscopic (algae, plankton etc). Spraying detergents to disperse the oil and protect the birds might even have more serious and long-lasting impacts on the microscopic marine life on which all the visible parts of the ecosystem depend. Paradoxically, it might be better to let some oil wash up on the coastline making it easier to clean up. In the Gulf this would require sacrificing the immediate coastal margins of saltmarshes which would be politically very difficult because of the high visual impact and negative publicity that could ensue.

In contrast to the dramatic impacts of oil spills and hurricanes, there is a far more pervasive and long-lasting threat to coasts that arises from urban development. While it is not so dramatic or rapid as storms or oil spills, it is causing more and more of the coast to be defended, either with hard coastal defences or artificially nourished beaches and is fatally inhibiting the coast’s resilience. This activity is tying society into an unending commitment to maintain coastal defences in order to protect property – and when that commitment falls short, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, the results can be devastating. Natural coasts, in contrast, cope with hurricanes and tsunamis as they have always done, by adjusting their shape during the event and then recovering to a new equilibrium within a short period of time. When there are buildings to protect, we don’t allow this to happen and so the natural resilience of the coast is impeded and it is permanently damaged.

Working with natural processes can help minimise the destructive power of the sea-in fact, the destructive power of the sea comes to be seen as simply an increase in the intensity of coastal processes as long as no human infrastructure is at risk. Although ‘working with natural processes’ means different things to different people, in our 2008 paper we contend that the true sense of the term implies allowing coasts room to adjust themselves. So-called soft engineering such as beach nourishment or dune restoration is often regarded as ‘working with natural processes’ but it is not a long-term solution. It might ‘patch up’ current problems but ties society into an unending commitment to continue the practice at considerable cost to this and future generations. A deliberate decision to not protect some existing coastal property needs to be taken alongside a decision to properly control future development at the coast if we are to achieve the ideal of working with natural processes to maintain coastal resilience.

At a time of global sea level rise, coasts are adapting their shape to adjust to these changed circumstances. This will mean coastal erosion in some (most) places and accretion in others as the coast re-equilibrates. For this adjustment to happen, the coast needs adequate space – a concept partially embodied in the UK in government’s ‘making space for water’ policy. Building on low-lying land or even artificially constructed land as in the Persian Gulf at a time of rising sea level emphasises the disconnect between what scientists know about coastline response to rising sea level, and human systems for developing, let alone regulating coastal development. When the Maldives government is talking seriously about finding a new homeland because of the threat of rising sea levels, artificial islands, very like the sand islands of the Maldives, are being constructed off Dubai. In spite of the threats faced by rising sea level storms, oil spills and so on, we are modifying and distorting our coastlines more than ever and in so doing are reducing their resilience.

Allowing coasts the space and time to function naturally maintains their resilience and creates the best natural protection for society against coastal hazards. Building either on mobile coasts and/or attempting to stabilise them, seriously impairs that resilience.

As events in the Gulf of Mexico suggest, our approach to marine and coastal management might yet prove inadequate, especially if we continue our current mad phase of coastal development and persist in delving further into the unknown by drilling for oil resources in ever deeper and remoter regions of the seabed. Oil spills dramatically focus our attention on the fragility of coastal ecosystems but our bigger challenge is to regulate development.

Original Article and Photographs

BP Ordered to Use Less Toxic Chemicals in Oil Cleanup

By Bertha Coombs, CNBC Reporter.

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered BP to use a less toxic chemical dispersants to break up the oil spill from its broken undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP has been using a dispersant called Corexit to break up the oil slick into smaller particles since the leak, deploying more than 600,000 thousand gallons on the ocean surface. The manufacturer, Nalco recently boost its sales forecast as a result of the Gulf spill orders.

Nalco shares slumped 5.26% on news of the EPA’s directive, but the company says it remains committed to helping with the Gulf clean up.

“Our goal throughout the entire event is to help where we can, and provide whatever products we can.” says Nalco spokesperson John Schoen.

Smaller dispersant manufacturers like Joannie Doctor, president of GlobeMark Resources, welcomed the EPA’s decision. “It’s about time. It’s fair,” she says, but she wishes the EPA had moved sooner.

Doctor claims her JD-2000 dispersant is more than 10 times less toxic on shellfish and other marine life than Nalco’s Corexit. But while BP has been scrutinizing her product over the last few weeks, it had yet to place an order.

The EPA has given BP 24 hours to find alternative chemicals.

The company has reached out to the maker of an EPA-approved dispersant called Sea Brat 4, Alabaster Corp. a family-owned manufacturer in Pasadena, Texas. “They said there’s a possibility that we may have to to gear up production,” says Charles Sheffield, Alabaster’s CEO.

Sheffield says BP has yet to confirm a new order. The oil company ordered 100,000 gallons of Sea Brat weeks ago, but never took delivery. “It’s still sitting in my yard,” he says, “I have 200,000 gallons ready to go right now.”

Critics have charged that Nalco’s Corexit is over 10 times more toxic than over a dozen of the other EPA-approved dispersants listed on the agency’s website. Nalco defended the safety and effectiveness of its dispersants on its website today, noting that toxicity data collected so far does not show any significant affects on aquatic life from dispersants.

The EPA’s decision comes one week after it authorized BP to use dispersants at the source of the leak. The use of tens of the thousands of gallons of dispersant near the ocean floor in deepwater is unprecedented, and critics such as Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) say in this case it amounts to “an aggressive experiment” and the long-term environmental impact is unknown.

The EPA has also ordered BP to make public the data it has been collecting on the use of dispersants at the leak source, and to continue to monitor the impact at the source. The agency is now posting those results on its web site.

GlobeMark’s Joannie Doctor says the need for continued use of dispersants at the source may be no longer be as big a priority. “I think they’re getting that leak more and more under control.”

BP tells CNBC the company is now capturing oil at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day, up fivefold from Sunday, when it succeeded in connecting a riser insertion tube into the severed well. “The visible plume escaping from the riser pipe has noticeably declined, as the flow increases,” BP’s Scott Dean wrote in an e-mail.

The government’s most recent estimate had put the flow of oil at 5-thousand barrels a day, but a number of scientists have disputed that figure, some believing the flow to be much great. A live feed of the leak shows a steady flow of oil still spewing from the broken undersea pipe despite the ramped up pace of containment.

Rep. Ed Markey demanded the company allow access to its undersea transmission, and the stream is now posted on the House Energy and Commerce website. “This footage will aid analysis by independent scientists blocked by BP from coming to see the spill, ” says the Massachusetts congressman.

Original Article

As Oil Begins Clogging Marshes, BP Admits Leak Bigger Than It Said

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN & GREG BLUESTEIN, The Associated Press.

BP conceded today that more oil than it estimated is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico as heavy crude washed into Louisiana’s wetlands for the first time, feeding worries and uncertainty about the massive month-long spill.

Mark Proegler, a spokesman for oil giant BP PLC, said a mile-long tube inserted into a leaking pipe over the weekend is now capturing 210,000 gallons a day — the total amount the company and the Coast Guard have estimated is gushing into the sea — but some is still escaping. He would not say how much.

Several professors who have watched video of the leak have already said they believe the amount gushing out is much higher than the official estimates.

Proegler said the 210,000 gallons — 5,000 barrels — has always been just an estimate because there is no way of measuring how much is gushing from the seafloor.

The well blew out after an explosion a month ago on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon

that killed 11 people.

Brown ooze from the spill coated marsh grasses and hung in the shallow water of a wetland at Louisiana’s southeastern tip, the first heavy oil seen on shore so far. Gov. Bobby Jindal declared Wednesday it was just the outer edge of the real spill, much heavier than an oily sheen seen before.

“This is the heavy oil that everyone’s been fearing that is here now,” Jindal said during a boat tour. The wetlands at the mouth of the Mississippi are home to rare birds, mammals and a wide variety of marine life.

BP, which was leasing the rig when it exploded, was marshaling equipment and conducting tests today ahead of a new effort to choke off the oil’s flow. Crews hoped that by Sunday they can start a procedure known as a “top kill,” which involves pumping heavy mud into the crippled equipment on top of the well, then permanently sealing it with cement.

The procedure has been used before to halt gushing oil above ground, but like other methods BP is exploring it has never been used 5,000 feet below the sea.

That’s why scientists and engineers have spent much of the last week preparing and taking a series of measurements to make sure that the mission doesn’t backfire.

“The philosophy from the beginning is not to take any action which could make the situation worse, and those are the final steps we’re doing,” said Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer.

In addition to the oil washing up in Louisiana, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that a small portion of the slick had entered the so-called loop current, a stream of fast moving water that circulates around the Gulf before bending around Florida and up the Atlantic coast. Its arrival may portend a wider environmental catastrophe affecting the Florida Keys and tourist-dotted beaches along that state’s east coast.

Tracking the unpredictable spill and the complex loop current is a challenge for scientists, said Charlie Henry, a NOAA environmental scientist.

The loop moves based on the shifting winds and other environmental factors, so even though the oil is leaking continuously it may be in the current one day, and out the next. And the slick itself has defied scientists’ efforts to track it and predict its path. Instead, it has repeatedly advanced and retreated, an ominous, shape-shifting mass in the Gulf, with vast underwater lobes extending outward.

Even farther south, U.S. officials were talking to Cuba about how to respond to the spill should it reach the island’s northern coast, a U.S. State Department spokesman said.

Florida’s state meteorologist said it will be at least another seven days before the oil reaches waters west of the Keys, and state officials sought to reassure visitors that beaches are still clean and safe. During a news conference, David Halstead, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, showed off a picture of a Coppertone bottle on a beach.

“What’s the only oil on the beaches? Suntan oil,” Halstead said.

Tar balls found earlier in the Florida Keys were not from the spill, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

Still, at least 6 million gallons have already poured into the Gulf off Louisiana since the rig explosion that killed 11 workers and led to the spill, the worst U.S. environmental disaster in decades. The Exxon Valdez tanker spilled 11 million gallons in Alaska in 1989.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., said in a news release that BP complied with his request that a live feed of the oil spill be made publicly available on the Web.

It was not up this morning but Eben Burnham-Snyder, spokesman for the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, said in an e-mail that it should show up soon.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said the government has access to that live video and scientists will be using it along with satellite imagery to check estimates from early on in the disaster about how much is leaking.

“The government will be making its own, independent verification of what those total numbers are,” Salazar said on the CBS “Early Show” today.

Greenpeace activists scaled BP’s London headquarters today to hang a flag accusing the oil company of polluting the environment. The group said the action was prompted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as well as a controversial project in Canada.

BP spokesman Robert Wine called the action “a very calm and genteel protest,” and said no employees had been prevented from getting to work.

Original Article

BP hopes to siphon up to half of oil in Gulf

By JEFFREY COLLINS and JASON DEAREN, Associated Press Writers

NEW ORLEANS – BP said Monday it hopes to siphon as much as half of the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico and is getting ready to shoot mud into a blown-out well later this week to try and stop all of it.

Meanwhile, scientists said they were concerned about the ooze reaching a major ocean current that could carry it through the Florida Keys.

BP PLC chief operating officer Doug Suttles said at a press conference that the company will never again try to produce oil from the well, though BP did not rule out drilling elsewhere in the reservoir.

“The right thing to do is permanently plug this well, and that’s what we will do,” Suttles said.

BP’s mile-long tube is funneling a little more than 42,000 gallons of crude a day from the well into a tanker ship.
That would be about a fifth of the 210,000 gallons the company and the U.S. Coast Guard have estimated are gushing out each day, though scientists who have studied video of the leak say it could be much bigger and even BP acknowledges there’s no way to know for sure how much oil there is.

Suttles said BP would be pleased if the siphoning eventually captures half of the oil, though the company originally said it hoped the tube would catch most of it. Chemicals were also being used to disperse the oil underwater.

In the nearly a month since the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers, BP has made several failed attempts to stop the leak, trying in vain to activate emergency valves and lowering a 100-ton container that got clogged with icy crystals.

The political fallout from the spill continues. Congress is holding hearings, and the federal Minerals Management Service said Monday that Chris Oynes, who oversees offshore drilling programs, will retire at the end of the month. Oynes has come under criticism for being too close to the industry the agency oversees. His departure comes as President Barack Obama has vowed to end a “cozy relationship” between the MMS and the oil industry.

Millions of gallons of oil have already gushed into the Gulf, and researchers said that in recent days they have discovered miles-long underwater plumes of oil that could poison and suffocate sea life across the food chain, with damage that could endure for a decade or more.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that the researchers’ announcement of the oil plumes was premature, and that further tests need to be conducted to confirm that the plumes detected were indeed caused by the well blowout.
But Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia, said researchers have found more underwater plumes of oil than they can count from the well.

“The discovery of these plumes argues that a lot more oil and gas is coming out of that well every day, and I think everybody has gotten that fact except BP,” she said.

Engineers finally got the siphoning contraption working Sunday after several setbacks. BP PLC engineers remotely guiding robot submersibles had worked since Friday to place the tube into a 21-inch pipe nearly a mile below the sea.

Once the oil reaches the tanker, the oil is being separated from the natural gas and sea water. The natural gas is being burned off, while the crude is being sent to oil terminals.

Crews will increase how much the tube is collecting over the next few days. They need to move slowly because they don’t want too much frigid seawater entering the pipe, where it could combine with gases to form the same ice-like crystals that doomed the previous containment effort. BP said it is building a second tube system as a back up.

The company said Monday that it has started drilling a second well to relieve pressure on the blown-out well and also getting ready to try a procedure known as a top-kill that uses a tube to shoot mud and concrete directly into a device on the well called the blowout preventer to stop the oil.

As engineers worked to get a better handle on the spill, a researcher told The Associated Press that computer models show the oil may have already seeped into a powerful water stream known as the loop current, which could propel it into the Atlantic Ocean. A boat is being sent later this week to collect samples and learn more.

“This can’t be passed off as ‘it’s not going to be a problem,'” said William Hogarth, dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. “This is a very sensitive area. We are concerned with what happens in the Florida Keys.”

Landry said Monday no oil has reached the loop current.

Original Article