June 9th, 2010
11:26 AM ET

Day 51: Latest oil disaster developments

[Updated at 10:01 p.m. ET] It's Day 51 of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Here are the latest developments on the oil disaster, which unfolded after the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20:

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar defended the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, which has come under fire from critics who argue that the drilling is vital for reducing the dependence on foreign oil.

Federal agencies responsible for monitoring the toll to wildlife reported Wednesday that 442 oiled birds have been collected alive; 633 were dead. The report said 50 sea turtles have been collected alive; 272 were dead.

Government scientists estimate that the spill's flow rate after last week's cut of the well's riser pipe increased by 4 to 5 percent. That's well below an increase of as much as 20 percent that administration officials had indicated could happen.

States are tracking the disaster's health impact, including respiratory and skin irritation problems in Louisiana and Alabama, health officials said.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles denied Wednesday that BP has ordered cleanup workers not to talk to reporters.

Federal authorities gave BP until Friday to come up with a contingency plan for collecting gushing oil. In a letter written Tuesday to BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, the government instructed the company to submit redundancy plans in the event of operation failures or severe weather that could disrupt the continuous recovery of oil.

CLEANUP

BP said Wednesday that it has collected about 57,500 barrels (2.4 million gallons) of oil since it placed a containment cap on its ruptured well.

A second ship, the Massachusetts, started transferring crude oil Wednesday from the Discoverer Enterprise, which has been collecting the oil pumped up from the well cap, BP said.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Wednesday that slightly more than 15,000 barrels of oil - more than 630,000 gallons - were recovered from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday at midnight. A BP spokesman placed the total figure at 15,006 barrels.

In addition to the letter to Suttles, Allen wrote to BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward asking for the development of better redundancies in the company's short- and long-term containment plans.

The letter to Hayward also highlights concerns over BP's ability to effectively process damage claims associated with the Gulf disaster.

ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE

BP provided more insight into its claims process Tuesday, saying that as of Monday, it has paid nearly $49 million to individuals and businesses affected by the spill. The company also said it expects to issue a second round of payments this month to cover anticipated lost income or profits, bringing the total it has paid to about $84 million.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said Tuesday that he was frustrated with BP's reimbursement process, announcing that he will send National Guard troops and emergency management workers into affected communities to help residents with the preparation of claims forms.

POLITICS

The oil disaster took center stage on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as House and Senate panels tackled issues ranging from safety to cleanup to liability.

President Obama will make another visit to the Gulf Coast next week to review efforts to contain and clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the White House announced Tuesday.

BP's Hayward has been asked to appear at a hearing June 17 before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Norway has suspended issuing deepwater drilling licenses until it has more information on the BP oil disaster, according to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

Advocacy groups are planning a nationwide vigil for later this month. Hands Across the Sand and Sierra Club leaders announced Wednesday a "National Day of Action" for June 26. The groups said it could be "the largest gathering ever of Americans against offshore drilling."

In a letter to rig owner Transocean released Tuesday, Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, raised concerns about staffing shortages aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig on the day of the explosion, citing daily drilling reports provided by the company. Rahall, D-West Virginia, requested additional information in the letter.

Top congressional Democrats renewed their push Wednesday for legislation that would remove all oil spill liability caps - a move some Republicans warn will lead to stronger monopolies in the energy sector while increasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil sources. "If you or I ... got into an accident that we caused, [we'd be] responsible for all the damages," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "There would be "no caps in that case, and there should be no caps in this case."

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. relians

    run your cars on alcohol. use nuclear for electricity. maximize your effort to perfect hydrogen fuel cells and fusion process. tax gasoline to $5.00 or more. what's the problem? too easy? it's a "change"? lack of will?

    June 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • red

      Hell make it $15 a gallon so we can afford to pay people that are not working. Maybe pay for health care and SS.

      June 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bailoutsos

    Up to 3 months, or 90 days, for a relief well to be drilled. If they are getting 25% of 100,000 barrels per day, there will be another 6,750,000 barrels of oil in the Gulf in addition to what is already there. Can anyone give us a idea of what that many barrels would look like in area or volume?

    June 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • red

      42 gallons of crude in a barrel of oil.
      1,000 liters in a cubic meter.
      1 US gallon = 3.78541178 liters
      263.9 gallons in a cubic meter.
      Cubic meter is slightly larger than a cubic yard (a yard long by a yard wide by a yard high).
      That should allow you to make your on calculations. In other words that is a lot oil that has to be cleaned up.

      June 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SteveG

    100609 1830 edt
    re my prior comment on 07Jun10 re Day 49
    1) first, want to commend Secy Dr Chu et al as I see today that DOE has posted some minimal engineering data on their website. The data is limited with little/no helpful explantions as to trends, etc how these data support BPs past positions as to why they are doing what they are doing. Perhpas we can look forward to some updates and enhancements in this regard.
    2) i agree with Wagner Lip's comment expressing frustration that "we all" can't get any sense of specific response from BP re various ideas proposed to avoid further loss of effluent from the well head. Understand BP should be focusing most of their tech resources on getting a solution in place ASAP (to eliminate all further pollution) but it would be helpful to the process if we could find a way for BP to respond (plusses and minuses with some facts as to why) to "serious suggestions" people have taken the time to offer.
    3) As best I can discern, BP has been and is still saying (and Adm Allen has continually passed on their position) they have only closed 1 of 4 vents on the current cap installation (thereby allowing a lot of additional pollution) a) as closing more vents would increase pressures below too much thereby risking ruptures and/or b) they were waiting for the system to stabilze. While their PR people focus on bbls of oil collected and methane burned off (which IS some minimal progress), much leakage and pollution continues with major arguments going on as to how much. Adm Allen says total effluent is 12-25k bbls/day but initial estimates I read two weeks ago (when BP and our govt was saying 5k bbls/day) said total effluent (before the riser was removed) ranged from 40k to 100k bbls/day. Now having quickly reviewed the pressure data (put on DOE website 08Jun10) taken within the BOP on 25May (before the riser was cut off just above the BOP) was ~2250psia, it seems the current WH (wellhead?) pressure is only ~1000-1200psia. If I am understanding that data correctly, seems clear more vents could be closed without much risk as long as pressure just below is kept below ~2000psia. From all the PR I've seen in the last two days, seems the claim that more vents have not been closeed (greatly reducing pollution since 04 or 05Jun) is because there wasn't enough surface collection capacity in place to accept as much effluent as there really was. Now I read about more surface capacity being put into place "next week"...well, isn't that interesting. Too bad the current installed system was greatly undersized.
    4) While it MAY be true that concepts involving stopping the effluent at the seabed are not practical due to concerns about ability for the casing below to handle the resulting pressures, highly effective options exist to collect all of the effluent (while we all wait for the holy grail relief wells so save us) and collect it. While some of the various ideas I read online may seem a bit crazy on first read, some of them may not be traditional oil industry approaches but this situation is not a traditional problem. Sifting through the suggestions, categorizing them by concept, and providing some response to the public on a concept level with some specifics as appropriate is something BP should be sharing back with the public (or maybe our government should arrange be shared on some website).
    My agony continues while I watch and only hope someone finally takes charge and gets a real short term solution in place ASAP while we all wait for and expect BP to finally get this thing shut down ASAP.
    Cleaning up the mess created to date is and will continue to be a whole separate challenge for some time to come.
    Its time for those we have put in place to do whatever it takes to assure BP gets additional pollution stopped ASAP.
    SteveG
    SteveG

    June 9, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Doncinvegas

    Red iI'm glad I'm not that old, but this is a govenment problem, the oil companies only no how to cash in, it appears they don't have any solution to this, and no plan for stopping the flow completely, sectioned pipe will have water in it thus, no pressure, and the larger space surrouding the leak would make for less upward pressure, they make sewers the same way, but a stronger lighter material would have to be used due to downward weight of the pipe, the size I'm talking about is slightly smaller than a back yard smimming pool, it would completly surround the leak area, just an idea.

    June 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. theonly1

    The problem is that crude oil is not only oil, it is also:Four different types of hydrocarbon molecules appear in crude oil. The relative percentage of each varies from oil to oil, determining the properties of each oil.[3]
    Composition by weight Hydrocarbon Average Range
    Paraffins 30% 15 to 60%
    Naphthenes 49% 30 to 60%
    Aromatics 15% 3 to 30%
    Asphaltics 6% remainder less
    Now if this crude oil has to travel 5000ft to get to the surface, there is no doubt that the aromatics and naphthenes are being dissolved in the ocean water and causing great harm to ocean organisms.

    June 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • retired driller

      I don't know for sure if this is a sour gas well, but in, and along with, with the "Aromatics", comes H2s. This is what is most likely making people sick.
      Not food poisioning.

      June 10, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Brenton Wolf

    Yeah right- I want to believe but they are filthy liars

    June 9, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Dave K

    What assurance do we have that, after the two relief wells are finished, we won't have 3 wells spewing oil into the gulf?

    June 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. retired driller

    @ RED

    Thanks for the compliment...I wish there was something more that could be done to "plug the hole" but I left my magic wand in the "patch."
    I think what is making the clean-up workers sick is H2s.. not food poisioning. The symptoms of exposure and what happens to it when it comes in contact with water can probably be found in "Wikipedia" which also could explain the unusual "plumes" found underwater..I think this is most likely what they are seeing, Hydrosulfide.
    ie hydrosulfide

    June 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Craig N. Barthelmas

    Subject: PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN, Dated: 1814, this is an oil spill contingency plan that has a proven extraction process. If British Petroleum’s hired goons stop authorized U.S. press from filming on American Soil just one more time, History may repeat its self!

    THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS, by Johnny Horton: In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip, we took a little bacon and we took a little beans, we caught the bloody British in a town in New Orleans

    We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    We looked down the river and we see'd the British come, there must have been a hundred of'em, beatin' on the drums They stepped so high, and they made their bugles ring, we stood by our cotton bales, and didn't say a thing

    We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    Old Hickory said we could take 'em by surprise if we didn't fire our muskets 'Till we looked 'em in the eye, we held our fire 'Till we see'd their faces well Then we opened up our squirrel guns And really gave 'em – well we

    Fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    Yeah, they ran through the briars And they ran through the brambles And they ran through the bushes Where the rabbit couldn't go They ran so fast That the hounds couldn't catch 'em On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    We fired our cannon 'til the barrel melted down So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round We filled his head with cannon balls, and powdered his behind And when we touched the powder off the gator lost his mind

    We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    Yeah, they ran through the briars And they ran through the brambles And they ran through the bushes Where the rabbit couldn't go They ran so fast That hounds couldn't catch 'em On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Go Johnny!

    We posted a PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN, Dated: 10 May 2010, this is a post oil spill contingency plan that has a proven Oil Spill extraction process and a patented Hydro-Carbon (emissions free) recycling technology.

    We’ve found a pre-processed material and developed an action plan that will extract up to 98% of oil spill contaminants from the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It also includes contingencies for, re-processing all of the oil drenched materials back into re-usable fuels and commodities creating, long term renewable energy revenues for the community.

    We all know that BP has been feeding us misinformation and then trying to minimize their cost by denying problems exist. Yes! We sent BP and other agencies our plan. Operations of this nature have a price tag associated with them and so, it would appear that they have no wish to spend anything on an oil spill they can’t control or that won’t go back into their pockets. This cannot be allowed to go on any longer! We have four suggestions to remedy this situation.

    a. Executive orders from the president to keep BP within five miles of their oil rig to work on plugging their oil well.
    b. Executive orders from the president keeping BP completely out of the state containment and clean-up process.
    c. Executive orders from the president to keep BP paying for the affected business and state clean-up’s, on time.
    d. Find a way to approve pro-active plans rapidly and, for God’s sake, make decisions without first consulting BP.

    To date, BP has not plugged the well, contained the oil spill or even moved quickly to approve state contingency plans to keep oil off their shores. BP needs to plug their damned hole and pay the states for containment and clean-up operations.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely, Craig N. Barthelmas ge1re22@aol.com

    June 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. matthew james croft

    I need to get this off my mind. I have an idea concerning the leak in the Golf. Even a lay person knows what a tee is it's ironicly used in the game of Golf. Now don't laugh this is not a joke.
    1. How many tonns of pressure is coming out of the well?
    2.how wide is the inside diameter of the well?
    If a big steel tee could be constructed with a weight greater than the pressure coming out of the well and a shaft diameter just shy of the inside diameter of the well it would not come out unlike the hevey mud solution used that did not and would not work because it was not in solid form. The solution I propose may not totally seal the well but would significantly stem the flow and for the life of me I don't know why something like my proposal has not already been done. Now the question is how to place the tee in the well. I know there a ships that have cranes and winches. It's now simple just lower the tee into place. This would afford BP the time to drill relief wells. Without the wast of oil and ecological economical disarster that is currently occuring. I pray that a speedy solution to this problem happens asap.

    June 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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