With BP Well Capped For Now, What’s Left Of Life On The Gulf Coast Resumes
As I write this, BP and government scientists were still monitoring extended pressure tests and seismic probes on the site of the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Bob Cavner, the oceanic engineer who is becoming a media star explaining the capping process, said the pressure of 6,700 pounds per square inch (psi) is below what Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s on-site commander, hoped to rise to 8,000 psi or better. Cavner suggests a small leak in the pipe between 1,200 and 18,300 feet below the wellhead. It also means the well casing lacks pressure integrity. Or, the best possibility is that the reservoir is partially depleted at the bore hole because of the gushing of some 50,000 barrels of gas and crude over the past three months when the blowout occurred April 20.
(New: Cavner filed this update Sunday.)
The good news is the gusher is plugged now in its fourth day. The most likely next step is BP opening valves to siphon the oil to surface container ships. In August, the first relief well will bore into the pipe at about an 8,000-foot depth in efforts to permanently plug the spillage.
With the end of the beginning now facing Gulf Coast residents, the next step is mopping up the world’s largest blob. In what may appear as a rash decision, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission opened 86% of state waters to recreational fishing that includes shrimping and crabbing. It includes areas three miles off shore except those “heavily oiled areas, areas associated with boom and areas of active cleanup.”
Commercial fishing remains closed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates interstate commercial fishing, and the National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration requires a strict protocol of testing before commercial fisheries can be reopened. A state wildlife commissioner said the decision was influenced to help restore the $2.4 billion fishing industry. And how do people know their catch is not contaminated? By sniffing the fish. If it has oil spots and smells like Louisiana crude, don’t eat it, the officials warned. Wow. That’s taking Cajun cooking to new heights.
It is too early for scientists to determine if the estimated 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants sprayed on the oil slick on the Gulf’s surface and at the site of the blowout 5,000 feet below has had detrimental harm to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tolerated its use but I’ll be damned after spending an hour reading its website whether they know it is more damaging than helpful.
The dispersants which break down the viscosity of the leaked crude to fist-sized blobs and minute particles are attributed for the failure of the 1,100-foot-long converted iron ore freighter “A Whale” superskimmer from collecting oil on the surface to a depth of 20 feet.
Brought to the Gulf by Taiwanese shipping magnate Nobu Su to help sop up the vast blanket of oil covering parts of the Gulf, the massive A Whale held a tantalizing promise for Americans frustrated by the slow pace of the spill clean-up. Under ideal conditions, the ship’s owners said, the A Whale could gather more oil in a day than all the other skimmers on the Gulf combined.
In reality, the A Whale gathered a “negligible” amount of oil over a 24-hour period while nearly 600 smaller skimmers sucked up 25,551 barrels of oily water and recovered 12,800 barrels near the source of the spill.
Certainly, Gulf residents and businesses welcomed the blowout capping. Here’s just one account:
The public beach at Gulf Shores, Ala., had its busiest day in weeks on Saturday despite oil-stained sand and a dark line of tar balls left by high tide.
Darryl Allen of Fairhope, Ala., and Pat Carrasco of Baton Rouge, La., came to the beach to throw a Frisbee just like they’ve been doing for the past 30 years…People also were fishing again, off piers and in boats, after most of the recreational waters in Louisiana were reopened late this week. More than a third of federal waters are still closed and off-limits to commercial fishermen.
“I love to fish,” said Brittany Lawson, hanging her line off a pier beside the Grand Isle Bridge. “I love to come out here.”
And even though it has been only days since the oil was turned off, the naked eye could spot improvements on the water. The crude appeared to be dissipating quickly on the surface of the Gulf around the Deepwater Horizon site.
Houma, La., is the site of one of several command centers operated by the Coast Guard directing the massive cleanup efforts. Coast Guard Capt. Roger Laferriere oversees about 20,000 people tracking where the oil is headed, lay protective boom, skim what they can and clean shorelines. He calls his enemy The Blob.
Some are analysts who sit in darkened rooms at the BP warehouse, feeding satellite data into computerized maps that show where the oil is moving, what marshes have already been boomed and what areas skimmers are toiling.
Others — many of them shrimpers and fishermen turned cleanup contractors — work out of quaint docks converted into “forward operating bases,” hitting the water after sunup to do the hands-on tasks necessary to contain and clear the oil. There’s displaced boom to be repositioned. Torn boom to be picked up, brought to shore and repaired. Absorbent boom soaked through on one side that must be turned or swapped out.
The spilling may have stopped at least for now, but their work goes on. Before a new cap fitted onto the busted wellhead corked the leak this past week, anywhere from 92 million to 184 million gallons of oil had gushed into the sea. Somehow, it’s got to be cleaned up.
I deliberately spaced photos of oiled sea birds and the tarred beaches. They speak for themselves for words can not do justice for this atrocity, a raping of our environment and ecological system on the Gulf Coast.
Cross posted on The Remmers Report
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