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NOAA can't find oil. It's hard not to wonder if NOAA is actually trying to find oil since other reputable scientists don't seem to be having problems finding it..

A government-sponsored expedition of scientists searching for leaked oil in the Gulf of Mexico is reporting Thursday that, more than halfway into the 10-day voyage, testing has not yet produced evidence of oil either in underwater plumes or embedded in sediment.

That conclusion contradicts recent findings by several independent research expeditions that discovered oil close to the Macondo well, which released 4.9 million barrels (205 million gallons) of oil into the Gulf following the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. BP, which owned rights to the well, said it permanently plugged the Macondo well on Sept. 19. Some researchers say as much as 80 percent of the oil spilled since April remains in the Gulf.
In a teleconference with reporters Thursday, Janet Baran, a NOAA scientist and co-director of the monitoring program, said the agency has so far collected 30,000 water and sediment samples from approximately 10,000 locations. Ms. Baran said traces of oil have diminished since sampling began in the spring, and at this time all water and sediment collected "have no visible oil on them."

NOAA’s efforts are clashing with research expeditions from academic and environmental groups.

Rainer Amon, an assistant professor of marine science at Texas A&M University, reported Thursday his sampling showed remnants of an oil and gas plume about 300 miles from the Macondo wellhead and about 3,000 feet underwater. His testing was conducted during a 10-day expedition sponsored by Greenpeace. the environmental advocacy organization.
NOAA is also having to answer to contrary findings reported earlier this month by Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia marine biologist whose team reported finding thick layers of oil deeply embedded on the ocean floor as far as 70 miles from the Macondo well site. Ms. Joye told ABC News that every sample her team collected was contaminated by oil from the April spill.

"We’re finding it everywhere that we’ve looked. The oil is not gone ... it’s in places where nobody has looked for it," she said.

Greenpeace's independently funded research finds remnants of oil.

Gulf of Mexico – Remnants of the oil and gas plume from the Deepwater Horizon disaster have been discovered at depths of over 3000ft (1000m), some 300 miles (500km) from the wellhead by a team of independent scientists on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise during a ten-day voyage not funded by BP or the US government, but instead relying on donations from Greenpeace supporters [1].

The discovery was made by biogeochemist Dr Rainer Amon while the Arctic Sunrise carried out four transects [2] of the Gulf of Mexico. The scientists and crew of the Greenpeace vessel deployed Amon’s sampling equipment to analyze the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water column – a clear marker for bacterial degradation of oil and gas [3], and to take seawater samples from several points in the water column.

"From the measurements we’ve taken," said Dr Amon, "we see clear signs of oxygen deficiency on a large transect starting at the Macondo wellhead, all the way 300 miles to the west. How much of oil and gas components are still in the water is something that we need to now investigate in the laboratory".

The levels of dissolved oxygen did not fall as low as Dr Amon would expect if a major portion of the oil and gas had been consumed in these waters, suggesting that the petrochemicals, have not "gone away" as has been claimed by the government, and that between three and four million barrels of oil still remain unaccounted for following the disaster.

"What we want to do," explained Dr Amon, "is to come up with a mass balance of how much oil was put in the water column, the sediment surface. When we’ve analyzed all the samples we’ve collected for our work and that of our colleagues, we hope to come up with a pretty good estimate of how much of the oil and gas was put into the system - hopefully we can then come up with good ideas of where that missing oil and gas has gone."

A colleague of Dr Amon’s also on board the Arctic Sunrise, benthic ecologist Cliff Nunnally, carried out a separate survey on the effects of the oil released into the benthic environment, by taking sediment samples from the ocean floor at depths of over 4300ft (1300m) just 4.5 nautical miles (8km) from the site of the disaster [4].

The samples retrieved – some of which contained visible amounts of oil with a strong odor - will be used to investigate the ecological status of the benthic environment and will be compared to base-line data collected by the scientists earlier this decade. This will provide a clear understanding of the effects of the massive quantities of oil released onto the benthos of the Gulf of Mexico.

Greenpeace has sent also sent a sample of this oily sediment to an independent lab for analysis, for fingerprinting to Deepwater Horizon disaster, and to check for presence of dispersants.

The Arctic Sunrise is on a three-month research expedition to investigate the environmental impacts of the Gulf oil spill, during which it has welcomed on board scientists from several US academic institutions in the Gulf of Mexico, and provided a platform for independent research.  

"Despite everything that BP and the government would like us to think, the truth is, the oil spill's impact is not ‘over’", said Greenpeace US research director Kert Davies.  "Scientists know better, fishermen know better, the people of the Gulf and certainly the clean up crews endlessly picking up tar balls know better. The government and BP need to be honest with everyone about the extent of the damage, admit what they do not know and prevent this from ever happening again."

In October, the Arctic Sunrise will be working with Steve Ross of North Carolina State University and Sandra Brooke of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, using a submersible to dive to the floor the Gulf of Mexico, where they will study the effects of the oil disaster on coral reef habitats and marine communities.

[1] Greenpeace does not solicit contributions from government or corporations, or endorse political candidates. Greenpeace’s 250,000 members in the United States and 2.8 million members worldwide provide virtually all of the organization’s funding through individual contributions.

[2] Four transects were carried out at locations west of the spill site, investigating what is thought to have been a major trajectory for the deepwater plumes of oil and gas.

[3] The CTD probe lowered from the Arctic Sunrise into the Gulf measures physical parameters on its descent through the water column. CDT stands for conductivity (from which salinity is determined), temperature and depth (measured as pressure). The particular model used by Dr Amon also contains a fluorometer and dissolved oxygen probe. The latter is now a key tool in locating the fate of petrochemicals in the gulf; any metabolic activity resulting from bacterial degradation of the oil and gas consumes oxygen, and as oxygen transport at depth is very slow, this consumption results in a marked reduction in the dissolved oxygen levels for a considerable time period.

Once the probe reaches maximum depth, back on ship, the scientists carefully observe the graphs produced in real time, for evidence of dissolved oxygen anomalies. As the CTD returns the surface, water sampling bottles are triggered at the depths considered most interesting based on the graphs. Once recovered these samples are probed and analyzed for a range of parameters. Back in the laboratory, the scientists will study the influence or oil and gas determining the amount of metabolised hydrocarbons in each sample by looking at the ratio of carbon isotopes in the dissolved inorganic carbon (the products of metabolism), genetic studies will examine shifts in the bacterial community composition, and two techniques will be used to determine the levels of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) present.

Scientists from a range of disciplines will analyze the sediments gathered:
Chemists will determine the abundance of different elements, isotopes, ions and compounds both to characterize the composition of the cores and to determine the levels of oil and oil derived carbon they contain.
Geologists will determine the physical nature of sediment.
Biologists will then work on three levels studying the bacteria, meiofauna (particularly the nematodes), and macrofauna present. They will determine the community composition and abundance of the life that dwells in the benthos at these depths and will compare the results to baseline data to gain understanding into the disturbance to the ecosystem caused by the massive influx of oil.

Researchers found 40x increase in carcinogens between May and June.

Researchers testing the waters off Louisiana in June found hugely elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, some of which are known carcinogens.

The researchers from Oregon State University say that a device taking samples just off the shore of Louisiana's Grande Isle registered a 40-fold increase in PAHs between May and June.

What's worse is that the sampling device was specifically designed to measure the fraction of PAHs in the environment that could make their way through a biological membrane.

"This is a measure of what would enter into an organism," said Kim Anderson, an OSU professor of environmental and molecular toxicology.
"This would be the largest PAH change I've seen in over a decade of doing this," she told HuffPost.
So just how many of these toxic compounds actually ended up in the food chain was beyond her area of research, she said.

She did not issue any warning to consumers, noting: "The USDA is testing the seafood and I would presume that they've ensured that what's on the market is safe to eat."

Anderson said that based on the findings of other researchers, she suspects that the abundant use of dispersants by BP increased the bioavailability of the PAHs in this case.

Gulf Governors will control $500 million in research funds.

BP and the governors of the five Gulf Coast states announced plans Wednesday to funnel a promised $500 million in research funds through an organization run by the governors, not the nation's scientific community.

As word leaked out before the announcement that politicians would have considerable control over the BP research money, scientists voiced fears that most of the grants would be doled out to institutions in the governors' home states, raising the possibility of pork-barrel projects.
It remains unclear if research organizations outside the Gulf Coast, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, will be permitted to apply for grants on their own or will have to link up with local scientists.

WaPo's Joel Achenbach writes about the perils of complex systems. BP's version of events that the the Macondo blowout was caused by an unusual coincidence of events, mainly caused by others.

There is a different, and simpler, way to describe what happened: They weren't careful enough.

For the can-do culture of petroleum engineers, this catastrophe should heighten respect for the way bad things can happen to what looks like proven technology. Oil drilling is a risky business, and deep-water drilling is riskier still. Depth matters. And as the industry went deeper, it didn't commensurately increase its safety margin -- or prepare for the worst-case scenario.
The more complex the job, the more potential infiltration points for gremlins.

"We believed that the blowout preventer was the ultimate fail-safe mechanism," BP CEO Tony Hayward testified before Congress in June, bringing to mind the captain of the Titanic, believing that his ship was unsinkable.

Charles Perrow, in his seminal book on technological disasters, "Normal Accidents," writes, "We have produced designs so complicated that we cannot anticipate all the possible interactions of the inevitable failures; we add safety devices" -- think blowout preventers -- "that are deceived or avoided or defeated by hidden paths in the system."

His argument is that such accidents, though rare, are integral characteristics of the system, with its interlinked components. That's what happened here.
BP's industry competitors will favor the simple explanation that this was a catastrophe caused by a single bad actor, a company with a sketchy safety record. These companies spent the summer throwing BP under a bus as though it were a boardwalk game. They want to get back to deep-water drilling. Policymakers will have to ponder the fact that these other companies use the same contractors as BP, the same kind of technology, the same line of blowout preventers, etc.
What we thought we were seeing, in the summer of the spill, was a worst-case scenario unfolding in front of us. But there are even more dire scenarios out there. Blowouts can happen in many ways, some of them creating, potentially, multiple leaks from the seafloor, a situation not readily fixed. It's not inconceivable that an oil field deep in the rock could effectively bleed out.

Unlikely, sure. But catastrophes are always hard to imagine until the very moment you are up to your eyeballs in one.

Salazar announces new regulations for offshore oil and gas drilling.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior today announced two new rules that will help improve drilling safety by strengthening requirements for safety equipment, well control systems, and blowout prevention practices on offshore oil and gas operations, and improve workplace safety by reducing the risk of human error.
"These two rules are part of a broader series of reforms we are undertaking to reduce the risks of offshore energy operations," said Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM). "We are substantially raising the standards for all offshore operators, and are doing it in an orderly and responsible way. We will continue to move forward with other changes and reforms in what will remain a dynamic regulatory environment. We owe the public nothing less."

The Drilling Safety Rule, effective immediately upon publication, makes mandatory several requirements for the drilling process that were laid out in Secretary Salazar’s May 27th Safety Report to President Obama. The regulation prescribes proper cementing and casing practices and the appropriate use of drilling fluids in order to maintain well bore integrity, the first line of defense against a blowout. The regulation also strengthens oversight of mechanisms designed to shut off the flow of oil and gas, primarily the Blowout Preventer (BOP) and its components, including Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), shear rams and pipe rams. Operators must also secure independent and expert reviews of their well design, construction and flow intervention mechanisms.

The Drilling Safety Rule is being issued under an emergency rule-making process. Director Bromwich said that BOEM will soon move forward with a standard rulemaking process that includes greater opportunity for public comment and that considers implementing additional recommendations of the Secretary’s May 27th Safety Report, such as the requirement that BOP’s have two sets of blind shear rams.

The second regulation, known as the Workplace Safety Rule, requires offshore operators to have clear programs in place to identify potential hazards when they drill, clear protocol for addressing those hazards, and strong procedures and risk-reduction strategies for all phases of activity, from well design and construction to operation, maintenance, and decommissioning.

The Workplace Safety Rule requires operators to have a Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS), which is a comprehensive safety and environmental impact program designed to reduce human and organizational errors as the root cause of work-related accidents and offshore oil spills. The Workplace Safety Rule makes mandatory American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommended Practice 75, which was previously a voluntary program to identify, address and manage safety hazards and environmental impacts in their operations.

BOEM will undertake additional workplace safety reforms, such as requirements for independent third-party verification of operators’ SEMS programs, through an additional rulemaking process that BOEM will be launching soon.

Predictably, big oil whines pitifully about new offshore regulations.

The Interior Department Thursday issued two new rules to improve safety on offshore oil and gas rigs, bringing the Obama administration a step closer to lifting its ban on drilling in deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil and gas industry groups denounced the new regulations as likely to delay new government permits to drill.

"We cannot have an approval process that creates unpredictable delays that could place at risk the flow of domestic energy in our country," said Erik Milito, a director for the American Petroleum Institute, which represents large oil companies.
Jacqueline Savitz of the conservation group Oceana said the new regulations didn't go far enough and called for a ban all offshore drilling.

There's no guarantee that the stricter standards won't be ignored, she said. "The BP disaster revealed that conditions are unpredictable and companies take shortcuts to increase profits," she noted.
Marilyn Heiman, director of the Pew Environment Group's offshore energy reform program, praised the rules and said she expected that when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar lifts the Obama administration's current moratorium on offshore drilling - the moratorium is set to expire Nov. 30, but is expected to be lifted earlier - he will slow down approvals of new permits to ensure that there's a thorough review and a real commitment to the new regulations.

"We're really glad that the secretary is not allowing politics to enter into this and doing a good job to ensure prevention and safety are in place," she said.

WaPo held a panel discussion, Energy is Urgent. The panelist list is long on politics and industry reps while being woefully short on scientists.

BP's Dudley expects to pay dividends in early 2011 It's too bad that many of BP's victims aren't facing such a rosy financial outlook.

BP's incoming chief executive talked up the prospects for the embattled oil company on Thursday, giving investors hope that dividend payments will resume early next year.

Just hours before taking over the top job, American Bob Dudley put a positive spin on the transformation forced on the company by the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP gets hit for pocket change fine of $15 million

(Reuters) - A unit of BP Plc (BP.L) has agreed to pay $15 million to settle Clean Air Act violations related to fires and a leak at its Texas City refinery in 2004 and 2005, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

The penalty addresses violations from two fires at the Texas refinery in March 2004 and July 2005 as well as a leak in August 2005, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.

As a result of the fires and leak at the BP Products North America refinery, thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic air pollutants were released, forcing residents to take shelter, the agencies said.
The fires and leak were separate from the March 2005 accident at the Texas City refinery in which 15 workers were killed and 180 others were injured. BP was put on probation in 2009 as a result of that incident.

BP Asks Judges to Send Workers’ Savings Cases to Texas

Lawsuits by workers claiming BP Plc’s North American unit mismanaged their retirement savings plan should be sent to the Texas court already handling investor claims prompted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, company lawyers told a panel of judges.

The employees previously asked that the suits be combined in Chicago, where the retirement plan is administered. BP today told a panel of federal judges meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, that the cases belong in Houston because the claims are similar to those in other investor suits.
In the suits, filed as class actions on behalf of all U.S. employees participating in the company’s retirement savings plan, workers claim losses of more than $1 billion from the stock plunge after the April 20 spill. BP’s pre-spill safety record made the company a risky investment, the employees say.

The New School in NYC will hold a panel discussion on BP's catastrophe.

The Oil Spill
October 6, 2010 6:30 p.m.

A man-made catastrophe of rare magnitude has changed the Gulf of Mexico. In the largest marine oil spill in history, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, oil spewed into the sea for close to three months, from April 20 to July 15, 2010, at the rate of 60,000 barrels per day. Join faculty members from across The New School as they analyze aspects of the oil spill. Each panelist will speak for five minutes and address the crisis from their particular professional domain, including political science, economics, environmentalism, media, ethics, fashion, and art. Questions participants consider may include: What is the nature of our dependency on technology? What issues of design are implicated in the inability to cap the well? How have images of the plume served as a metaphor of the failures of both corporate responsibility and government regulation? What are the long-term social, political, and environmental consequences of this disaster?

This interdivisional presentation is organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School for Social Research, and Parsons The New School for Design.

60 Minutes will be doing an interview with Ken Feinberg this Sunday.

==== ROV Feeds =====
20876/21507  - Development Driller II's ROV 1
32900/49178  - Development Driller II's ROV 2

41434/41436 - Olympic Challenger's ROV 1
40788/40789 - Olympic Challenger's ROV 2

39168/39169 - Chouest Holiday's ROV 1

40492/40493 - Chouest Holiday's ROV 2

47146/47147 - Development Driller III's ROV 1
43698/43699 - Development Driller III's ROV 2

==Multiple stream feeds (hard on browser/bandwidth)==

BP videos All the available directly feeds from BP.

Bobo's lightweight ROV Multi-feed: is the only additional up to date multiple feed site.

See this thread for more info on using video feeds and on linking to video feeds.

Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
Gulf Watchers Morning Edition - BP Catastrophe AUV #398 - Gulf Watchers/peraspera/story/
Gulf Watchers Morning Edition - BP Catastrophe AUV #397 - Gulf Watchers/peraspera
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers Morning Edition - BP Catastrophe AUV #396 - Gulf Watchers/peraspera
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #395 - Condition: transition - BP's Gulf Castastrophe - David PA
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #394 - Transitions - BP's Gulf Castastrophe - Lorinda Pike
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #393 - BP's Gulf Catastrophe - Lorinda Pike
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #392 - BP's Gulf Catastrophe - When Can we Share a Soda? - khowell
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #391 - BP's Gulf Catastrophe - Talking about Change - khowell
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #390 - Drips Redux - Lorinda Pike
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #389 - Night of the Living Drips - Lorinda Pike
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #388 - Sittin' Up With the Dead - khowell
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #387 - Time for a Wake? - khowell
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #386 - The Coroner Won't Pronounce - BP's Gulf Catastrophe - Yasuragi
Daily Kos Gulf Watchers ROV #385 - Is it Dead? - BP's Gulf Catastrophe - Lorinda Pike
The last Mothership has links to reference material.
Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.

Originally posted to Gulf Watchers on Fri Oct 01, 2010 at 03:00 AM PDT.

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