Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill

Okay, I have done a poor job of keeping this information updated and I am sorry for that that.  This has gotten me so depressed that I have spent a lot more time outside, watching the Osprey and Sandhill Cranes that regularly visit my yard, and some time at the beach, watching the waves roll in and thinking about the disaster that lurks below the surface.

These are dolphins, seen swimming under the oil coated waters in the Gulf:

This is an oil soaked bird struggling against the side of a supply vessel. 

Blobs of oil floating on the water in the Gulf

More pictures can be seen at Boston.Com and while some are older pic's some are newly updated! photos of the spill

I am posting this counter here since I can not make it small enough to permanently sick it on the sidebar:

In Gulf Spill, BP Using Dispersants Banned in U.K.
BP is using two products from a line of dispersants called Corexit, which EPA data appears to show is more toxic and less effective on South Louisiana crude than other available dispersants, according to Greenwire.

(they were removed from the approved list more than a decade ago)

Why Is the EPA Letting BP Use Dirty Dispersants?

This week, lawmakers are grilling BP executives and government officials about the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But they should be asking tougher questions about the recovery effort, too. BP's critics say the company is spraying hundreds of thousands of gallons of harmful chemical dispersants into the Gulf when less toxic options are available. Which raises the question: Why is the Obama administration allowing a company whose poor safety record led to the spill make crucial decisions on the chemicals used for the clean-up?

Gulf Oil Spill: Government Remains Blind To Underwater Oil Hazard
The Obama administration is actively trying to dismiss media reports that vast plumes of oil lurk beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, unmeasured and uncharted.
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose job it is to assess and track the damage being caused by the BP oil spill that began four weeks ago, is only monitoring what's visible -- the slick on the Gulf's surface -- and currently does not have a single research vessel taking measurements below.

White House lies in press release saying that a commander of a NOAA research vessel was providing information on the oil spill, but the named commander is actually in the Western Gulf area doing plankton research and says he doesn't know anything about it.

"The fact that NOAA has missed the ball catastrophically on the tracking and effects monitoring of this spill is inexcusable," said Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska marine conservationist who recently spent more than a week on the Gulf Coast advising Greenpeace. "They need 20 research ships on this, yesterday."

After oil spill, worried scientists watching Gulf of Mexico's endangered sea turtles
PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE, Texas – It is nesting season here, and just offshore, Kemp's ridley sea turtle No. 15 circles in the water before dragging herself onto the sand to lay another clutch of eggs.
The sea turtle, affectionately nicknamed Thelma by a National Park Service employee, has already beaten terrible odds. In the egg, she was airlifted here from Mexico in the wake of the 1979 blowout of the Ixtoc 1 rig, which spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and covered the turtles' primary nesting place.
Now Thelma and others of her species are being monitored closely by worried scientists as another major oil disaster threatens their habitat. Federal officials said Tuesday that since April 30, 10 days after the accident on the Deepwater Horizon, they have recorded 156 sea turtle deaths; most of the turtles were Kemp's ridleys. And though they cannot say for sure that the oil was responsible, the number is far higher than usual for this time of year, the officials said.

WRAPUP 7-Gulf Coast fears spreading slick, fishing ban widens
In a sign of the spill's widening environmental impact, the United States nearly doubled a no-fishing zone in waters seen affected by the oil gushing from the blown well, extending it to 19 percent of U.S. waters in the Gulf.

That 19% of the gulf that is closed represents about 46,000 square miles.

Federal government extends area of fishing ban in Gulf of Mexico

NOAA's latest order extends the closed zone to a nearly 46,000-square-mile stretch, about 19 percent of the Gulf. The ongoing spill now threatens to be picked up by the Loop Current, which could spread some oil around the tip of Florida and up the U.S. East Coast.

Deborah Long, a spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimpers Association, said fishermen could face a "multi-generational effect" on the creatures from which they draw their living, with shrimp and bluefin tuna the two species with the most to lose."We're not just worried about the shrimp stocks here," Long said. "We're worried about the entire marine food chain."

Now we've seen how Republicans are blocking the attempts to either raise the cap or eliminate it altogether on the damages that oil companies must pay.....the latest?

Bid to lift liability cap in spill is blocked

Who blocked it?

Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma used procedural move to stop the bill from coming to the Senate floor, saying that raising the cap would hurt smaller drillers.

"Big Oil would love to have these caps up there so they can shut out all the independents," he said.

Federal law requires companies to pay for all environmental damage, but economic damages are now capped at $75 million. Some Democrats want to raise the cap to $10 billion, and a few want to take it off completely.

In the 2008 election cycle, Senator Inhofe’s largest campaign donors represented the oil and gas ($446,900 in donations), leadership pacs ($316,720) and electric utilities ($221,654) industries/categories.[48] In 2010, his largest donors represented the oil and gas ($429,950) and electric utilities ($206,654).[49]

Lisa Murkowski, Republican from Alaska stopped it previously:

And of course we find that her 2nd largest contributor at $288,400.00 is from Oil Companies.

Hardly a surprise there.

I wonder if those donation amounts from the Oil & Gas Companies has anything to do with these decisions by Inhofe & Murkowski?   I'd bet we can safely make that connection.

Are these guys really trying to tell us that small businesses that can't afford to pay for cleaning up a spill is a reason for us to not expand or remove altogether the cap on what the oil companies should pay for cleaning up a spill? The republicans are basically saying that the american people should foot the bill if the damage exceeds what the cap is.

So we are encouraging businesses with such a huge potential for risk to take that risk without requiring them to be able to pay should the worst happen?

So what are some of the concerns regarding the damage?

The Atlantic Coast horseshoe crab,Limulus polyphemus, is the single most-studied invertebrate animal in the world. Not only have researchers examined the ecology and behavior of horseshoe crabs, but they are also intrigued by the benefits horseshoe for humans.
Three Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scientists who did some or all of their research on an aspect of the horseshoe crab's physiology. Thanks to the horseshoe crab, medical science has made great strides in eye research, development of surgical sutures and wound dressings, and detection of bacterial contamination in drugs. In the future, new probes based on the horseshoe crab's blood may help space scientists search for primitive life on Mars and other planets.

And of course there are serious concerns about the oil reaching into the mangroves....

Black gold is black death for mangroves
Gulf oil gusher would choke natural habitat if it came to the Florida Keys

Key points from this article....

Mangroves encompass an estimated 781 square miles of South Florida habitat, providing food and protection to fish, crabs and many other species, buffering coastlines from hurricanes and improving water quality by trapping sediment in their sophisticated root systems.

But these days, with 210,000 gallons of oil still gushing out of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig site each day, South Florida scientists and environmental advocates worry about what might become of the area's mangrove forests should it reach the shorelines of the Florida Keys, Biscayne Bay or the rest of the greater Everglades ecosystem.

"It's scary-depressing," said Jerry Lorenz, a biologist who heads the Audubon Society's Tavernier Science Center.

The concern of Lorenz and other like-minded individuals is driven by mangroves' unique physical makeup. Unlike seagrass and coral reefs, the other primary hatcheries of the South Florida marine ecosystem, mangroves have root systems that break the surface of the waterline.

Recovery of the forests can take more than 30 years, according to a NOAA planning document for handling oil spills.

Juvenile gamefish species such as redfish and sea trout would lose their nursing grounds. So would vital commercial shellfish such as lobster, shrimp and stone crab. Snook and mangrove snapper, which feed around the mangroves throughout their lives, would be affected. Wading birds that forage in mangroves, from roseate spoonbills to osprey to heron, would become coated in oil.

Meanwhile, dead mangroves, rather than buffering against hurricane impacts, would become projectiles for the raging winds.

"We could lose 2 percent, we could lose 50 percent, we could lose 80 percent," Lorenz said of potential mangrove mortality scenarios should oil from Deepwater Horizon flow into the nearshore waters of South Florida. "Without mangroves, our ecosystem basically collapses."

Here is some good information along with video recently released:

1) Are we really being asked to believe that the spill-response capability of one of the world's biggest oil companies AND the United States Coast Guard has been totally overwhelmed by a spill of just 210,000 gallons per day? That's a big spill, but not nearly as big as could reasonably be anticipated. Plenty of wells in the Gulf produce more than that under controlled flow-rate conditions; plenty of tankers plying our waters hold millions of gallons of oil.

2) BP claims the siphon they've inserted into the end of the damaged riser pipe is 
diverting 84, 000 gallons (2,000 barrels) of oil per day from the main leak to a tanker at the surface. That is good news indeed. But it's worth remembering that for nearly a week BP stated the total spill rate was only 1,000 barrels per day.

3) Scientists analyzing 
video of that main leak, apparently shot on May 11 and released by BP on May 12, have estimated the flow rate from that leak to be anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 barrels per day. This makes SkyTruth's 1.1 million gallon (26,500 barrel) per day estimate, based on our measurements of the oil slick as observed on satellite images and mapped by the Coast Guard, look fairly conservative. And it doesn't even include the additional 15-20% coming from the secondary leak. That means BP's siphoning effort is only capturing, at best, about 10% of the flow. This video of the main leak, shot on May 17 after the siphon was inserted and apparently working, shows the plume of oil continuing to spew into the Gulf; it hardly looks abated.

4) Speaking of which: 
video shot on May 15 and 16 has just been released showing the secondary leak, where the riser pipe is kinked and bent about 90 degrees a few feet above the blowout preventer stack. Unlike the short, blurry clip of the main leak, this video is several minutes long and quite sharp.

BP has released two new videos of the leaking riser from their Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well showing the leak after activation of the RIT (riser insertion tool).  If they are indeed getting 1,000 barrels per day from the RIT, they're missing a whole lot more from the end of the riser and the worsening leak above the BOP.  First, the video of the RIT in the end of the riser.  The small pipe with vapor coming off of it is probably the nitrogen injection line to lighten the hydrostatic head.  Have a look:

This second video is from the kink in the riser above the BOP.  As was reported to me earlier, it looks like it is definitely getting worse.   Blow it up to full screen.  At about 2:30, it shows a closeup.  Pretty scary stuff:

Both of these video's can also be found at the Huffington Post here.

(in this second video, the first half of the video is dated May 15th, and the second is dated the 16th and shows the  leak after the insertion tube was put in place to suction off some of the oil)

Now lets take a look at some of the projections...

This one is from Weather Underground:

So, many have questioned the fact that hurricane season is nearly here (it starts June 1st which is only a week and a half from today)

Jeff Masters, from Weather Underground offers his opinions...

A tropical cyclone in its formative stage--as either a tropical depression or a tropical storm with 40 mph winds--might be adversely affected if it encountered the Gulf of Mexico oil slick, due to the reduction of evaporation into the storm. However, a full-fledged hurricane would mix the oil into the ocean to such a degree that the storm would probably not see any significant reduction in evaporation. It remains unknown how the reduction of sea spray by oil might affect a hurricane. If the oil slick expands to a much larger size, there might be a significant reduction in strength of the hurricane, if theory of how a reduction of sea spray will decrease a hurricane's winds is correct. However, the oil slick is currently Delaware-sized, while a hurricane tends to be Texas-sized, and I doubt that the oil slick at its current size is large enough to have a significant impact on a hurricane's intensity. The slick is about 60 miles across, and it would take a hurricane about four hours to traverse the spill at a typical hurricane forward speed of 15 mph. Furthermore, the slick is within 50 miles land, and interactions with land will dominate the behavior of a hurricane that gets that close to the coast. Unfortunately, there is a decent chance that we'll get a real-world opportunity to see what will happen. June tropical storms tend to form in the Gulf of Mexico, and we've been averaging one June storm every two years since 1995. This year, the odds of a June Gulf of Mexico storm are probably a little lower than usual, shear from our lingering El Niño may bring wind shear levels a bit above average. I expect there is a 20% chance that we'll see a June tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico that would interact with the oil spill.

More to come as surely this is only going to get worse.............

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