Climate:The Gulf’s Spreading Oil Slick & a History of BP

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

In oceania, no one can hear you seep.

The U.S. Coast Guard “discovered” 4 days after an explosion destroyed and sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig 40 miles off the coast of Venice, Louisiana,  killing 11 crew workers, that indeed, oil does appear to be leaking out of the well head on the floor of the ocean.

From HuffPo this morning:…

“We thought what we were dealing with as of yesterday was a surface residual (oil) from the mobile offshore drilling unit,” (Rear Admiral Mary) Landry said. “In addition to that is oil emanating from the well. It is a big change from yesterday … This is a very serious spill, absolutely.”

Coast Guard and company officials estimate that as much as 1,000 barrels – or 42,000 gallons – of oil is leaking each day after studying information from remotely operated vehicles (underwater) and the size of the oil slick surrounding the blast site. The rainbow-colored sheen of oil stretched 20 miles by 20 miles on Saturday – about 25 times larger than it appeared to be a day earlier, Landry said.

BP PLC, which leased the rig and is taking the lead in the cleanup, and the government have been using the remotely operated vehicles to try to stop the leak by closing valves on the well deep underwater.  If that doesn’t work, the company could drill what’s called an intervention well to control the oil flow. But the intervention drilling could take months.

The article says that the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker wreck in Alaska was 11 million gallons.   By dividing 11 million by 42,000 gallons, assuming the government is not lowballing this estimated amount, which seems like a nice, suspiciously round number, “1000 barrels,”  I’m coming up with 261 days before this is as big as the Exxon Valdez spill.  The regional director for the Federal government’s Mineral Management Services (the wonderful folk who let the companies bid on offshore drilling tracts) says that leaks have been repaired at this depth before, but it is difficult.  Bad weather is currently delaying the cleanup of already spilt oil.  

The best writeup I’ve seen is today’s from the Times UK is here

The newly drilled well had just struck oil, and the rig was specially designed to float on pontoons in deepwater and had thrusters that adapt to tidal changes and keep it stable.

Blowout: BP’s deadly oil rig disaster…

BP, which had hired the rig, was preparing a press release to trumpet its latest success. The news would have gone down well in Washington. Weeks earlier President Barack Obama had opened up to explorers swathes of the Gulf and east coast, much of which had been off limits since the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989.


Obama enraged environmentalists last month when he repealed a moratorium on oil exploration on America’s east coast. His choice of venue for the announcement, Andrews air force base in Washington DC, in front of an F16 fighter jet modified to fly on biofuel, carried a less-than-subtle message. Finding domestic sources of fossil fuels is not just an economic issue, but a security one.


It is still unclear what caused the accident but it appears to have been a blowout – a sudden spike in pressure that sends oil or gas bursting up to the surface. If that happens, the blowout preventor, a guillotine-type valve on the seafloor, triggers automatically to cut the flow. It didn’t. BP sent remote-control submersibles to close it manually but they failed, which is why the rig continued to burn.

Hello. The cutoff valve failed which is why the rig continued to burn, which BP knew about because they were trying to SHUT IT OFF before the thing toasted and the carcass frame sank to the seafloor.  So that earlier Press Conference with the Coast Guard 2 days after the initial explosion, when they said that they didn’t know if any oil was leaking from the well itself ……  ?  Valve on, things tend to flow through….

The best video with pictures of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig which exploded, caught on fire, and sunk is here, (cannot be embedded) from WDSU Channel 6 in New Orleans, from thursday 4/22/10…

The title is “Oil Rig Explosion Could Impact Environment”

Synopis: This rig was drilled to a depth of 18,000 feet (3.4 miles, 5.44 km) and the Coast Guard on Thursday said it was a “wait and see” situation as to whether or not oil was leaking into the Gulf. (The well head is nearly a mile deep, at 5000 ft down on the ocean floor)   The newscaster said the worst case scenario was that 336,000 gallons per day of crude could be released into the water, threatening the local fishing business..

They interviewed Anne Rolfe of the Bucket Brigade, who said that since 2001, there had been 95 fires per year, 150 worker injuries, and an average of 7 deaths per year on oil rigs in the Gulf.

(to the idiot who has posted multiple youtube videos of different oil rigs burning and deliberately mislabeled them as this incident, did you know that not all oil rigs look alike ? )

The rig exploded about 10pm Tuesday April 20th. Transocean, based in Zug, Switzerland, is the offshore drilling contractor,…  which was working for BP Plc oil company,  the third largest global energy company and the 4th largest business entity in the world, headquartered in London, England.  (BP was formerly British Petroleum, formerly Anglo Iranian Oil Company AIOC, founded in 1935.  In 1951, Iran nationalized their oil industry to NIOC, the National Iranian Oil Company.  By 1953, the American CIA worked a coup against the prime minister, and returned the Shah of Iran to power, split the oil business up, and AIOC turned into British Petroleum in 1954.  In 1979, the Iranians and the Ayatollah Khomeini dumped the Shah and confiscated BP’s Iranian assets.  BP subsequently expanded into Alaska and the European North Sea, and more recently, Russia. )

Until Jan 1st this year, the Chairman of BP’s board was Ireland’s Peter D. Sutherland, who was also chairman on the board of Goldman Sachs International, a subsidiary broker of Goldman Sachs.…

This short Sutherland bio from the LSE is interesting: Boards:  Goldman Sachs International, London School of Economics, pharma co Eli Lilly and Allianz,  UN Special Rep for Migration & Development, and a financial advisor for the Vatican, the Patrimony of the Holy See.  Used to be director of the World Trade Organization ’92 – ’95

The current non executive chairman of BP is Carl Henric Svanberg, former president and CEO of Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson.…   and the CEO is Tony Hayward, lifelong BP executive, who gave an Oct 2009 speech at MIT in Massachusetts  on “The harsh realities of energy” here…  which is suggested reading for how oil executives really see the future of energy use.  

Hayward, CEO of BP, 2009, excerpt of speech at MIT:

The starting point for any analysis of energy has to be the scale of demand. For the next several decades we are looking at strong, rising demand, driven by the extraordinary economic transformation of China, India and other developing countries.

Demand for energy is projected to rise by around 45% between now and 2030. That is roughly equivalent to adding two more United States to the world’s consumption. Meeting that demand growth will require between $25 and $30 trillion of investment – or $1 trillion a year.

In terms of oil supply alone, the current production of around 85 million barrels a day will need to increase to around 100 million a day by 2030.

Over half of that total – nearly 50 million barrels a day –  will need to come from new sources as existing fields decline and demand grows. That’s equivalent to adding four more Saudi Arabias to the world’s production capacity.

Some may question whether so much of the growth needs to come from fossil fuels. But here it is vital that we face up to the harsh reality. These projections assume that current policies to promote emissions reduction are not only continued but tightened. And yet we still foresee up to 80% of energy coming from fossil fuels in 2030. This is because of the sheer scale of the world’s energy industry – and the slow turnover in capital stock such as power stations and long lead times required to build assets such as nuclear facilities or renewable power at scale.

If you look at the IEA projections, even their most radical scenarios for emissions reduction still envisage two thirds of energy coming from fossil fuels in the year 2030.

Renewable energy is an essential part of the future energy mix. We support that aim as a company with major investments in wind, solar and biofuels. But the harsh reality is that as of today, all of the world’s wind, solar, wave, tide and geothermal energy accounts for only around 1% of total consumption. And looking ahead, on the most radical scenario put forward by the IEA, these forms of energy will only meet 5% of the total demand in 2030.

Sobering, isn’t it ?  


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    • Edger on April 25, 2010 at 22:50

    of that well head for Mr. Obama so he can see up close and personal how great offshore drilling is, to give him a better feel for it?

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