Category Archives: Features

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and International Law

Photo source: ©© TedX


The environmental catastrophe following the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold. Yet, our growing consumption of oil and gas means that the incident is unlikely to stop the quest for drilling oil at such depths, despite the risks. Questions can be asked about whether or not international law can assist in helping to prevent further accidents of a similar nature arising again…

There are no binding international rules or standards for oil platforms although the International Maritime Organization recently updated its Code for the Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units in November 2009. This Code could arguably qualify as recommended practices and procedures which coastal states must incorporate into their national legislation under Article 208 of the LOSC…

Given the potential for serious transboundary harm if a similar spill did occur in the future, coastal states may want to takes measures to ensure that minimum standards are applied wherever a drilling operation takes place. In addition, Benitah argues that a treaty would help governments resist pressure from the oil industry and related lobby groups to minimise regulatory supervision…

Read Full Article, International Law Observer.

PSDS scientists monitor oil spill progress

By Robert Young, Coastal Geologist, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.

On June 21 I flew the Gulf Coast from Perdido Pass in Alabama to Panama City, FL. Oil was clearly visible in large amounts just offshore of the Pass and of Orange Beach, AL. Tar Balls have been washing up on beaches along the Florida coast east to Bay County. Over the past two days, the oil that was offshore of Alabama has begun to wash ashore on Pensacola Beach, Fl. It is like watching a slow car wreck. As I flew the coast, I saw many varieties of preparations for the incoming oil. Booms deployed along, beaches, wetlands and inlets. Booms lying curled up on beaches waiting. Clean-up crews working the beach. Clean-up crews sitting under canopies watching for trouble. Some localities have pushed up sand ridged on the lower part of the beach, hoping to keep the oil away from the upper beach and make it easier to clean. Many counties have bull dozed sand berms across small tidal passes that connect the Gulf to the back-barrier lakes of the Florida Panhandle. I’m not sure what is worse, the waiting for the oil or dealing with its impact.

Yet, our desire to spend some of our summer at the beach is strong. I saw far more people in the water than I saw oil. The hotel I stayed in that night, in Destin, FL, was sold out. I think that the oil will literally have to chase people out of the water. Meanwhile, in Louisiana oil is definitely covering beaches and wetlands. In order to attempt to halt some of the disastrous impact of the spill, Jefferson Parish Louisiana has submitted a permit application to the US Army Corps of Engineers to close several inlets (passes) with rock dikes. Once again, we have a proposal to deal with the oil that involves large-scale coastal engineering with little thought to the potential impacts of this drastic project. Many groups in Louisiana are opposed, and many local scientists are throwing up their arms in exasperation.

Stay tuned.

Stunningly High Levels of Toxins Found in Whales

Photo source: ©© Angieandsteeve


Sperm whales feeding even in the most remote reaches of Earth’s oceans have built up stunningly high levels of toxic and heavy metals, according to American scientists who say the findings spell danger not only for marine life but for the millions of humans who depend on seafood.

A report released Thursday noted high levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury and titanium in tissue samples taken by dart gun from nearly 1,000 whales over five years. From polar areas to equatorial waters, the whales ingested pollutants that may have been produced by humans thousands of miles away, the researchers said…

Read Full Article; By Arthur Max, The Associated Press.

Hands Across The Sand

Photo source: ©© Syedasif


All across America, from St. Petersburg, Florida to Cannon Beach, Oregon, from Santa Cruz, California to Coney Island, New York, tens of thousands of people yesterday came together at ocean beaches and inland waterways to form a human barrier against offshore oil drilling in a nationwide protest called Hands Across the Sand.

But what started as a U.S. protest quickly went global. Hands Across the Sand drew people to 820 sites in 34 countries, including North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa…

Read Full Article: :World Joins “Hands Across the Sand” to Protest Offshore Oil Drilling; ThoughtCo.

A Line in the Sand Over Offshore Drilling, New York Times

Hands Across The Sand

Beneath the Surface: if only it were just a nightmare

Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care


After Oceanographers, Scientists and Official recognition of underwater plumes, Undersea robot aimed for 3-D image of BP oil plume.

By Xavier Briand, Reuters.

Scientists geared up on June 16th, for a 12-day trip in the Gulf of Mexico with an undersea robot they hope will capture 3-D images of oil plumes from the BP spill.

Oceanographers and others have been monitoring the plumes of oil, gas and dispersant chemicals coming from the broken BP wellhead since soon after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.

An underwater video camera shows the oil gushing from the wellhead on the sea floor, and aerial and ship observations have charted where the spill has drifted on the water’s surface…

Read Full Article, Reuters

National Science Foundation Article

Beneath The Surface, oil plume explained; By Donald Reinhardt, Professor of Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Oil and water don’t mix” but “oil and water and dispersants do mix” and then large underwater oil plumes will exist and wreak havoc wherever they go.
The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill of April 20, 2010 at the Deepwater Horizon Rig in Mississippi Canyon 252 is a historic, economic, environmental, engineering and scientific event of major significance. The spill is already one of the greatest man-made and natural disasters in American history with hundreds of thousands gallons of Louisiana crude streaming daily into the Gulf waters from one mile below…

More On What is an oil plume?

How does the oil plume looks like? in Washington Post

Recent Tests confirm spreading of plume, in NY Times

International Help En Route For The Gulf

The Deepwater Horizon site. Photo source: NOAA


With no assurances it will be allowed to join the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup, a Taiwanese-owned ship billed as the world’s largest skimming vessel was preparing to sail Friday evening to the scene of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The ship, the length of 3 1/2 football fields and 10 stories high, is designed to collect up to 500,000 barrels of oily water a day through 12 vents on either side of its bow. It docked in Norfolk en route to the Gulf from Portugal, where it was retrofitted to skim the seas. The ship and its crew of 32 were to leave Virginia waters Friday evening.

The owners of the “A Whale” said the ship features a new skimming approach that has never been attempted on such a large scale. They are anxious to put it to its first test in the Gulf…

Read Full Article; The Time Picayune

Minimal Advances in Oil Spill Cleanup Since Valdez Spill

Big Smith Island near Valdez Alaska. Taken during clean-up of Exxon Valdez spill. 700 miles of coast line was contaminated with crude oil. Captions and Photo source: ©© Jim Brickett


Two decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, cleanup technology has progressed so little that the biggest advancement in the Gulf of Mexico disaster, at least in the public’s mind, is an oil-water separator based on a 17-year-old patent and promoted by the movie star Kevin Costner…

Read Full Article; The New York Times

Sand mining ban for North Stradbroke Island, Australia

North Stradbroke Island. Photo source: ©© Paul Welding


The ancient dunes of North Stradbroke Island will be saved under a bold new plan to phase out sand mining and convert the ecosensitive tourist playground to a national park.

Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, just announced that the Government will progressively halt sand mining on North Stradbroke Island by 2027.

After 50 years of mining, 80 per cent of the island will eventually be converted to national park, with 50 per cent of it to be declared within the next 18 months…

Read Full Article, Courier Mail

Green jobs to replace mining work on Stradbroke: Bligh, Brisbane Time (06-21-2010)
Hundreds of mining jobs set to disappear as the industry is wound up on North Stradbroke Island will be replaced with green positions, Premier Anna Bligh claims. Ms Bligh announced on Sunday, up to 80 per cent of the huge sand island off Brisbane would be declared a national park and no new mining leases would be signed…

1 million times the normal level of methane gas near the Gulf oil spill

Photo source: ©© Eric Vondy


It is an overlooked danger in oil spill crisis: The crude gushing from the well contains vast amounts of natural gas that could pose a serious threat to the Gulf of Mexico’s fragile ecosystem.

The oil emanating from the seafloor contains about 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits, said John Kessler, a Texas A&M University oceanographer who is studying the impact of methane from the spill.

As much as 1 million times the normal level of methane gas has been found in some regions near the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, enough to potentially deplete oxygen and create a dead zone, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday…

Read Full Article, Reuters

Methane adding New Concerns; BBC News
The massive floating drilling rig Deepwater Horizon was around 50 miles off the coast when it sank. Now the area where it was once positioned in the Gulf of Mexico is comparable to a floating town, with around 60 vessels involved in the efforts to capture and clean up the oil, and to drill relief wells to seal the leak…