Gulf Oil Spill Update

As they worked on the system underwater, the effect of the BP spill was widely seen. Swimmers at Pensacola Beach rushed out of the water after wading into the mess while children played with it on the shore and others inspected the clumps with fascination, some taking pictures. Brown pelicans coated in chocolate syrup-like oil flailed and struggled in the surf on a Louisiana island, where the beached was stained in hues of rust and crimson, much like the color of drying blood.-The Associated Press

To get a better perspective of how huge this oil spill is, check out this visualization. The Boston Globe, as always, provides fantastic pictures to show the devastation it is wreaking on the animals of the Gulf.

President Barack Obama visited the Gulf Coast again this Friday to chastise BP for paying billions out in dividends and advertising to improve the public image while those affected by the oil spill were having difficulty receiving their claims. He also declared a moratorium on offshore deep oil drilling until a commission had found a way to safely drill this deep. Residents and politicians have criticized this fearing that the moratorium will further hurt the Gulf economy. Currently, BP is trying to slow the release of oil in to the Gulf. Michael Cooper of the NY Times writes:

Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who is commanding the federal response to the disaster, said earlier in the day that some oil had been collected in a cap that was placed over the leaking well and that it was beginning to be funneled up to a ship on the surface. But he noted that a great deal of oil was still escaping, by design, through vents in the cap. The vents were intended to let some oil out in order to keep cold Gulf water from rushing in and forming icy hydrates that could block the flow of captured oil to the surface.

Until those vents are closed, it will not be clear whether the cap is seated tightly enough on the cut end of the well’s riser pipe to prevent large amounts of oil from continuing to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, Admiral Allen said. He said that current plans call for closing those vents on Friday.

He said that a rough estimate of the rate at which leaking oil was being captured by the cap was 1,000 barrels a day, a small fraction of the estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day that is gushing into the Gulf. But he said that as the vents on the cap are progressively closed, more oil should be captured, as long as the seal continues to hold.

Al Jazeera reports the scope of the disaster:

So far more than 200km of Louisiana coast have been contaminated, triggering long-term fears for the region’s already vulnerable coastal wetlands and native wildlife, including lucrative fishing grounds.

Earlier scientists from the University of Miami released a study showing the oil slick’s surface area had expanded to cover 24,435km sq of the Gulf – triple the size of satellite imagery from May 1.

To ultimately stop the oil spill from further gushing in to the Gulf, BP will be drilling two relief wells towards the site of the current well. Then, the relief wells will be pumped with mud and cement to seal up the original well. Unlike previous measures by BP, experts are certain the relief wells will succeed because engineers are comfortable drilling wells like this.

The BBC reports that BP will also pay for the construction of sand barriers off the coast of Louisiana to prevent the oil from harming the state’s vulnerable wetlands.

BBC graphic

Some armchair engineers actually proposed nuking the oil well shut as a solution. However, that was immediately struck down by the administration. William J. Broad of the NY Times writes:

Much of the enthusiasm for an atomic approach is based on reports that the Soviet Union succeeded in using nuclear blasts to seal off gas wells. Milo D. Nordyke, in a 2000 technical paper for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., described five Soviet blasts from 1966 to 1981…

Government and private nuclear experts agreed that using a nuclear bomb would be not only risky technically, with unknown and possibly disastrous consequences from radiation, but also unwise geopolitically — it would violate arms treaties that the United States has signed and championed over the decades and do so at a time when President Obama is pushing for global nuclear disarmament.

  13 comments for “Gulf Oil Spill Update

  1. lefty
    June 5, 2010 at 10:50 am


    Thanks for the update.

    The photo link you provided is very powerful & moving:

    Please keep the updates & more photos coming.


  2. joe camel
    June 5, 2010 at 10:34 pm


    • Ms.American Pie
      July 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

      joe camel, it’s that kind of negitive wave that fuels the fires of hate.
      These people and creatures are victims of the quick buck not some karmic revenge, no roosting chickens just good old fashion greed.
      That spells D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R.

  3. jon
    June 7, 2010 at 6:40 am

    it realy sucks for the animals

  4. Stephen Camm
    June 7, 2010 at 8:32 am

    One (of many) interesting (disturbing) issue with respect to the oil well (and other disasters in the past) is the lack of a simple item, a clear cut plan. Had BP stated the issue – We have a very significant problem that can be defined as..,.. and the following are the plans to address sealing the leak, the resulting environmental problems, the hardship and economic problems brought to the people of the Gulf and longer term corrective actions so this will hopefully never happen again……they would have lost little credibility. As it stands now there media \ image team is very probably out the door as well as the CEO but not during the crisis for reasons that are presumably obvious. At the same time Obama and his (lack of) press (advertising) team could have made it a political win by doing the same thing. Such simple and obvious items as….we clearly do not have the type of safety compliance in place that is required to protect our country, it would appear we have either insufficient or incorrect laws on the books, we may very possibly have relationships between members of the government at many levels that are not in the taxpayer’s interest. Each of these areas, with a specific focus on protecting American workers will be looked at by independent panels. There recommendations will be put into effect and the results will be published as these committees formulate what is essential to prevent disasters like this from occurring. Upon completion of this effort we will look at other areas where we are vulnerable as a nation. It may not be just the oil industry where vulnerabilities may exist. For the short term we will work with BP, local and state government to formulate the detail operational plans to address the spill. Those plans will be made public. I personally would like to apologize to the American people and those families who lost loved ones for sins of the past including my time in office. This problem did not occur yesterday and it, in truth, has been a question of if….never when. Thank you for your time.

    I suspect those responses might have made a difference as opposed to Obama clearly not knowing where he was going or what needed to be done and the business ethics problem the BP CEO clearly demonstrated with his remark and past actions (safety record).

  5. C. Diamente
    June 9, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    On Larry King tonight Former Governor Jesse Ventura asked “why was this allowed?” And the answer, as so many other disasters leads us right back to Mr. Oil and his puppeteer–Bush and Cheney. The website explains how Cheney’s “National Energy Policy”
    made recommendations (which later became law) which included: that the “President direct the Secretary of the Interior to consider economic incentives for environmentally sound offshore oil and gas development where warranted by specific circumstances: explore opportunities for royalty reductions, consistent with ensuring a fair return to the public where warranted for enhanced oil and gas recovery; for reduction of risk associated with production in frontier areas or deep gas formations;” and “that the President direct the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to re-examine the current federal legal and policy regime (statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders) to determine if changes are needed regarding energy-related activi- ties and the siting of energy facilities in the coastal zone and on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)” and that “the President direct the Secretary of the Interior continue OCS oil and gas leasing and approval of exploration and development plans on predictable schedules.” This led to “the SAFE Act, introduced in the House in 2001″ which called for: ” * Taxpayer funds to reimburse oil companies for the costs of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (Sec. 6234)
    * A suspension of royalties on tens of millions of barrels of oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico—especially from deepwater wells like the one now spewing into the gulf (Sec. 6202)
    * Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling—with expedited leasing, limited judicial review, and lip service to environmental concerns (Div. F, Title V”)”
    This all enabled “the Department of Interior to fast-track permits, and allocate $2 billion for oil companies to drill in ultra deepwater areas.”
    The fast-tracking of “approvals by waiving environmental reviews and granting ‘categorical exclusions.'” Crooksandliars notes thatthe Bush-Cheney backed legislation virtually told “the oil companies like BP that it’s totally okay to ride their iron horses out to the wild coastal frontier without regard for safety or environmental damage.”
    The Deepwater Horizon offshore well was approved On October 22, 2007 by Randall B. Luthi, Wyoming attorney, Cheney cohort and new director of MMS.” Cheaters and Liars notes that “he signed a ‘Finding of No New Significant Impact’ (PDF) with regard to Lease Sale 206, also known as the Deepwater Horizon.”
    This opened the last gate that could have barred BP from destroying our coastline. The website explains “this finding was the last barrier for BP to cross before plunging equipment 5000 feet under the ocean’s surface, using Halliburton fracture techniques to open the well, and beginning the flow of oil which ends as an environmental and economic disaster to Gulf inhabitants. No significant impact, indeed!”
    They conclude: “It’s unclear how the Cheney Energy Act will play out in the legal morass yet to come. What we should expect are many challenges by BP lawyers to any effort to claim damages under the Clean Water Act (given the exemptions) as well as challenges for liability beyond cleaning up the spill.

    But whatever happens, dear viewers, know this: The responsible parties are George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Joe Barton, and Tom DeLay.”

    Thanks again, Republicans, because we can all see how effective derregulation is, we can all see how well big business polices itself, we can all see how much more important it is to make things easy for Big Oil than to make things safe for the people of the nation and the environment. Next we should build more ‘clean’ nuclear power plants, perhaps in school yards where the maximum impact of the ‘clean’ nuclear energy can best be demonstrated, as in Louisiana’s fragile Gulf environment. Greed, greed, greed, the beginning and the end of this great country–stolen from the natives, and destroyed by the theives. Poet end perhaps,

    • just a guy
      July 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm

      you talk too much

  6. Concerned
    June 13, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Lindsey Williams who was a Missionary for Exxon in Alaska during the Exxon oil spill has the most detailed info on this current spill which he calls the worst disaster on Earth in his lifetime…he’s 75;

  7. June 21, 2010 at 1:06 am

    I have suggsted, that a sort of a sock should be placed over the gusher to control the flow and the spreading of the oil in the Gulf. Bp has subsequentely gone ahead with cut and cap the gusher.
    Not enough. Oil still comes out and spreads. I still think that they need to control the flow of the oil and stop it from spreading in such regard nothing is being done. The oil continues to spread. I am not an expert, and not fully aware of the difficulties in working at such depth. But Bp has done nothing to prevent Flow of oil,
    control its direction before spreading and reaching land.
    A barrier should have been erected around the gusher to prevent spreading. Even now the cut and cap still causes oil to continue to come out. Till a more effecient way to permanentely seal the leak is found or built. A barrier should be placed around the gusher to allow for the oil flowing out to be directed to the surface where is sucked onto a tank ship. Oil ones in the water kills, the water the marine life in it and around it; and no amount of money can ever repay that. Thank you

  8. June 23, 2010 at 12:07 am

    This whole oil issue is a shame. I wish BP was more thoughtful about the spill.

  9. lynn
    July 4, 2010 at 9:49 am

    When physicians want to block an internal hemorrhage, such as a gastric bleed, they run a rubber sound down into the stomach with a sort of deflated balloon attached to it. When the sound is in the right position, they inflate it, which pushes it tightly against the gushing vessel and cuts off the flow.

    I wonder if they couldn’t do something similar on a much larger scale…?

  10. Howard be my name
    July 4, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Giovanni and Lynn: the problem is the pressure and the depth of the rupture. Estimates vary, but the pressure at the leak is probably at least 6000 psi. For a comparison, the natural gas supplied to your home is probably at 1 or 2 psi. The rupture is another 2 1/2 miles below that.

    There’s no way to run a sock-like device to that depth, due to both pressure and distance. And it would be impossible to inflate a rubber tube (as Lynn suggests) at the kinds of pressures found in that environment.

  11. RadicalModerate
    July 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Three Thoughts
    (and two comments)

    “Bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.” –Oscar Wilde

    What I want to know is this: why are politicians always trying to take the blame for things, rather than trying to organize relief efforts? When a high school wants to have a senior or junior prom, the senior or junior class leaders go out, raise money, and organize the event. Doesn’t it make sense for the politicians to do the same? I don’t care what your decisions on policy would be, I’d rather see Republicans or Democrats trying to fix the problems in their regions, rather than trying to legislate our lives into perfection.

    “The best politics is right action.” –Mahatma Gandhi

    When an oil spill is drifting around in the Gulf of Mexico, wouldn’t it make sense for the politicians to start raising money and solving the problem? The least they could do would be to help organize a system for collecting donations. People, I’m sure, would be willing to give money to clean up the Gulf. Politicians are public servants; the buck for organizing relief ought to stop there.

    “Each generation is responsible to make the future for the next” –Nancy Pelosi

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