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January 1, 2015

United Nations analyzes oil spill in Sundarbans, Bangladesh

United Nations analyzes oil spill in Sundarbans, Bangladesh

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

A United Nations (UN) team assessed the damage from an early December oil spill in Sundarbans, Bangladesh, to the world’s largest mangrove forest. Team leader Emilia Wahlstrom yesterday presented preliminary assessment results at a press conference in the capital, Dhaka.

Mangrove forests in Sundarbans, Bangladesh in 2008.
Image: Sayamindu Dasgupta.

The 25-member UN team arrived in Bangladesh on December 18 and visited the Sundarbans from December 22 to December 27.

At the press conference, Wahlstrom said the pollution was spread 40 kilometers up and downstream, but no impact on the mangrove forest floor was observed. She said the Pashur and Shela rivers contributed by washing some of the oil. She also suggested a ban on water traffic in the area, saying “regular monitoring and stopping traffic through the Sundarbans are needed to tackle the long-term impact.”

Anwar Hossain Manju, Minister for Forest and Environmental Affairs of Bangladesh, acknowledged that vessel traffic in Sundarbans was suspended. He also said “alternative options” were “being explored”.

Wahlstrom also commented cleanup by local villagers removed about a fifth of the oil spill.

On December 9, the OT Southern Star 7 tanker sank in an accident with another vessel. Reportedly visibility was poor due to thick fog. OT Southern Star 7 was carrying about 350,000 L of fuel oil.

Sundarbans is a World Heritage Site. The UN plans to release a final report in two weeks.



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April 25, 2012

Disposal of fracking wastewater poses potential environmental problems

Disposal of fracking wastewater poses potential environmental problems

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

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  • 31 January 2015: Scottish gamekeeper jailed for bird crime in national first
  • 1 January 2015: United Nations analyzes oil spill in Sundarbans, Bangladesh
  • 20 November 2014: FAA: Metroplex NextGen project in place in north Texas

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A recent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that the oil and gas industry are creating earthquakes. New information from the Midwest region of the United States points out that these man-made earthquakes are happening more frequently than expected. While more frequent earthquakes are less of a problem for regions like the Midwest, a geology professor from the University of Southern Indiana, Dr. Paul K. Doss, believes the disposal of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) process used in extracting oil and gas has the possibility to pose potential problems for groundwater.

Map showing significant earthquakes in the Midwest region of the United States. It was analyzed to show links between felt earthquakes and energy development.
Image: United States Geological Survey.

“We are taking this fluid that has a whole host of chemicals in it that are useful for fracking and putting it back into the Earth,” Doss said. “From a purely seismic perspective these are not big earthquakes that are going to cause damage or initiate, as far as we know, any larger kinds of earthquakes activity for Midwest. [The issue] is a water quality issue in terms of the ground water resources that we use.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique used by the oil and gas industries which inject highly pressurized water down into the Earth’s crust to break rock and extract natural gas. Most of the fluids used for fracking are proprietary, so information about what chemicals are used in the various fluids are unknown to the public and to create a competitive edge.

Last Monday four researchers from the University of New Brunswick released an editorial that sheds light on the potential risks that the current wastewater disposal system could have on the province’s water resources. The researchers share the concern that Dr. Doss has and have come out to say that they believe fracking should be stopped in the province until there is an environ­mentally safe way to dispose the waste wastewater.

“If groundwater becomes contamin­ated, it takes years to decades to try to clean up an aquifer system,” University of New Brunswick professor Tom Al said.

While the USGS group which conducted the study says it is unclear how the earthquake rates may be related to oil and gas production, they’ve made the correlation between the disposal of wastewater used in fracking and the recent upsurge in earthquakes. Because of the recent information surfacing that shows this connection between the disposal process and earthquakes, individual states in the United States are now passing laws regarding disposal wells.

Cquote1.svg The problem is that we have never, as a human society, engineered a hole to go four miles down in the Earth’s crust that we have complete confidence that it won’t leak. Cquote2.svg

—Dr. Paul K. Doss

“The problem is that we have never, as a human society, engineered a hole to go four miles down in the Earth’s crust that we have complete confidence that it won’t leak,” Doss said. “A perfect case-in-point is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, that oil was being drilled at 18,000 feet but leaked at the surface. And that’s the concern because there’s no assurance that some of these unknown chemical cocktails won’t escape before it gets down to where they are trying to get rid of them.”

It was said in the study released by the New Brunswick University professors that if fracking wastewater would contaminate groundwater, that current conventional water treatment would not be sufficient enough to remove the high concentration of chemicals used in fracking. The researchers did find that the wastewater could be recycled, can also be disposed of at proper sites or even pumped further underground into saline aquifers.

The New Brunswick professors have come to the conclusion that current fracking methods used by companies, which use the water, should be replaced with carbon diox­ide or liquefied propane gas.

“You eliminate all the water-related issues that we’re raising, and that peo­ple have raised in general across North America,” Al said.

In New Brunswick liquefied propane gas has been used successfully in fracking some wells, but according to water specialist with the province’s Natural Resources De­partment Annie Daigle, it may not be the go-to solution for New Brunswick due its geological makeup.

“It has been used successfully by Corridor Resources here in New Bruns­wick for lower volume hydraulic frac­turing operations, but it is still a fairly new technology,” Daigle said.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working with U.S. states to come up with guidelines to manage seismic risks due to wastewater. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA is the organization that also deals with the policies for wells.

Oil field located in Lost Hills in California
Image: Arne Hückelheim.

Oil wells, which are under regulation, pump out salt water known as brine, and after brine is pumped out of the ground it’s disposed of by being pumped back into the ground. The difference between pumping brine and the high pressurized fracking fluid back in the ground is the volume that it is disposed of.

“Brine has never caused this kind of earthquake activity,” Doss said. “[The whole oil and gas industry] has developed around the removal of natural gas by fracking techniques and has outpaced regulatory development. The regulation is tied to the ‘the run-of-the-mill’ disposal of waste, in other words the rush to produce this gas has occurred before regulatory agencies have had the opportunity to respond.”

According to the USGS study, the increase in injecting wastewater into the ground may explain the sixfold increase of earthquakes in the central part of the United States from 2000 – 2011. USGS researchers also found that in decades prior to 2000 seismic events that happened in the midsection of the U.S. averaged 21 annually, in 2009 it spiked to 50 and in 2011 seismic events hit 134.

“The incredible volumes and intense disposal of fracking fluids in concentrated areas is what’s new,” Doss said. “There is not a body of regulation in place to manage the how these fluids are disposed of.”

The study by the USGS was presented at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America on April 18, 2012.



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April 24, 2011

U.S. Coast Guard investigation finds \’poor safety culture\’ contributed to Deepwater Horizon disaster

U.S. Coast Guard investigation finds ‘poor safety culture’ contributed to Deepwater Horizon disaster

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deepwater Horizon disaster
Other stories about the Deepwater Horizon disaster
NASA photo of Deepwater oil slick

Oil  spreading north-east from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico

Fireboats tackling the fire on Deepwater Horizon last year. The explosion on the rig killed eleven people and began the largest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
Image: United States Coast Guard.

An investigation by the United States Coast Guard has concluded the largest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry was partly the result of a “poor safety culture” aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The April 2010 explosion aboard the rig, which is located in the Gulf of Mexico, triggered a disaster that led to widespread environmental damage.

The report squarely blames Transocean, which managed the Deepwater Horizon, for being largely responsible for the explosion that claimed eleven lives. The rig had “serious safety management system failures and a poor safety culture,” the report says. Transocean fiercely rejected allegations that crews aboard the rig were badly trained and equipment was poorly maintained.

Cquote1.svg Deepwater Horizon and its owner, Transocean, had serious safety management system failures and a poor safety culture. Cquote2.svg

United States Coast Guard

A slapdash safety environment on Deepwater Horizon would mean equipment was not mended or replaced if it meant losing valuable hours of drilling, the Coast Guard found. Electrical equipment believed to have caused a spark that ignited flammable gas was described as being in “bad condition” and “seriously corroded.” The report found that other deficiencies—improperly assembled gas detectors and emergency equipment; audible alarms switched off because of nuisance false warnings; complacency with fire drills; and poor preparation for dealing with a well blowout—all contributed to the disaster.

Transocean attacked the report’s conclusions and suggested the Coast Guard may have played a role in the disaster. A spokesperson for the company said Deepwater Horizon had been inspected by Coast Guard officials only months before the explosion, officials who said it complied with safety standards. “We strongly disagree with—and documentary evidence in the Coast Guard’s possession refutes—key findings in this report,” the company said.

This week, Deepwater Horizon owner BP launched legal action against Transocean. It also filed a lawsuit against Halliburton, the company that cemented the well, and Cameron, which manufactured the rig’s failed blowout preventer. BP is reportedly seeking to claim US$40 billion in damages, and alleges it has taken a massive financial hit and loss of reputation. In a statement, BP said it filed the lawsuits “to ensure that all parties … are appropriately held accountable for their roles in contributing to the Deepwater Horizon accident”.

A robotic submarine working on the blowout preventer of Deepwater Horizon while oil was leaking from the well. BP is suing Cameron, who manufactured the blowout preventer.
Image: United States Coast Guard.

In the lawsuit against Transocean, BP claims the company missed signs that a disaster was imminent and that it “materially breached its contractual duties in its actions and inactions leading to the loss of well control, the explosion and the loss of life and injuries onboard the Deepwater Horizon, as well as the resulting oil spill.” Halliburton, BP alleges, was riddled with “improper conduct, errors and omissions, including fraud and concealment” which led to the disaster, and continues to refuse to cooperate with investigators.

Transocean dismissed the lawsuit as “desperate” and “unconscionable,” and announced a countersuit against BP, which it claims was responsible for the disaster “through a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk, in some cases severely.” Halliburton and Cameron, which is also countersuing, announced they would defend themselves against BP’s allegations.

U.S. President Barack Obama marked the anniversary of the explosion by conceding that although “progress” has been made to ensure the safety of deep water drilling rigs, “the job isn’t done.” Obama’s comments came less than a week after leading experts raised serious questions over the security of deep water drilling as the U.S. government approves more exploration without improving safety measures.

Barack Obama marked the anniversary by conceding that although “progress” has been made to ensure the safety of deep water drilling rigs, “the job isn’t done.”
Image: Obama-Biden transition project.

Charles Perrow, a professor at Yale University, said the oil industry “is ill prepared at the least” to deal with another oil spill, despite repeated assurances from the industry and the government, which insists lessons have been learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “I have seen no evidence that they have marshaled containment efforts that are sufficient to deal with another major spill,” he said. “Even if everybody tries very hard, there is going to be an accident caused by cost-cutting and pressure on workers. These are moneymaking machines and they make money by pushing things to the limit.”

However, politicians have insisted they are doing all they can to help clean the coast of oil. “Cleanup efforts in some places are still ongoing, and the full scale of the damage done to our state has yet to be calculated, but the good news is that most all of our fishing waters are back open again,” said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal at a press conference. “All of us here today want the entire nation to get the message that Louisiana is making another historic comeback.”

Cquote1.svg I don’t see any hope at all. We thought we’d see hope after a year, but there’s nothing. Cquote2.svg

Gulf Coast fisherwoman

Gulf Coast residents, activists and relatives of the crewmen who were killed in the explosion paused this week for the anniversary of the oil spill’s beginning. A helicopter took the victims’ families from New Orleans to over the site where the rig stood, where it circled. “It was just a little emotional, seeing where they were,” said one victim’s mother. Remembrance services and candlelight vigils were held in the Gulf Coast region, which continues to suffer from the fallout of the catastrophe. The families have expressed anger at BP, who they say is being unfair and slow in paying out compensation from a $20 billion fund.

The area is still heavily affected by the disaster and reconstruction of the seafood industry that once thrived is slow. While tourists are beginning to return to the region, many are angry at BP and the Obama administration over how they handled the disaster. All the fishing waters in the area have now opened again, but people who live in the area remain dissatisfied. “I don’t see any daylight at the end of this tunnel,” one fisherwoman said. “I don’t see any hope at all. We thought we’d see hope after a year, but there’s nothing.”



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September 20, 2010

Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say

Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say

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Deepwater Horizon disaster
Other stories about the Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 24 April 2011: U.S. Coast Guard investigation finds ‘poor safety culture’ contributed to Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 16 April 2011: Experts raise serious questions over safety of U.S. oil industry and warn another spill may be ‘unavoidable’
  • 30 March 2011: BP lose laptop containing sensitive claimant data
  • 21 October 2010: Scientist demands end to US ‘addiction to oil’
  • 20 September 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say
NASA photo of Deepwater oil slick

Oil  spreading north-east from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico

Monday, September 20, 2010

A worker cleans up oily waste on the coast of an island in the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of workers are cleaning up oil from the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead that reached the shore a month after the ultra-deepwater oil rig exploded, killing 11 people.

The Deepwater Horizon is dead. Almost five months after an explosion rocked an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana and caused a natural disaster on a scale not seen before, BP yesterday announced that that the well has been completely shut off. Thad W. Allen, the former Coast Guard admiral who is heading up the response to the oil spill on behalf of the U.S. government said in a statement that the well now “poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.” He also released a U.S. goverment department’s confirmation of the news. “The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has confirmed that the cementing operation on the Macondo well was successful, that the well has been permanently sealed with cement plugs, and that pressure tests verify the integrity of the plugs,” it read. BP released a statement, describing the sealing of the well as “a significant technological accomplishment and another important milestone in our continued efforts to restore the Gulf Coast.”

Early on Sunday morning, those aboard Development Driller III drill rig, which aided in the shutting down of the well, successfully conducted a pressure test, and concluded that cement pumped through a relief well into the Macondo well was going to hold. The tests concluded that the cement finally put an end to an environmental disaster that has affected BP, the wildlife on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and the hundreds of people who make their living by fishing in the area. Forrest Travirca, who lives in Louisiana, said he was very angry with the response by BP and the authorities. “All the brown spots and patches you’ll see on this beach for the next nine miles is oil, too… And if you dig down a few inches or a few feet, you’ll see oil, too. And if you walk into that marsh back there, you’ll find oil,” he said. “So don’t tell me we dodged any bullets. Or that it wasn’t so bad. ‘Cause I’ve been out there every day since May dealing with all that oil we dodged. It just makes my blood boil.”

Admiral Allen admitted that the disaster was far from over. “Although the well is now dead, we remain committed to continue aggressive efforts to clean up any additional oil we may see going forward,” he said, adding that the response, lead by his team and BP “has been driven by the best science and engineering available. We insisted that BP develop robust redundancy measures to ensure that each step was part of a deliberate plan, driven by science, minimizing risk to ensure we did not inflict additional harm in our efforts to kill the well. I commend the response personnel, both from the government and private sectors, for seeing this vital procedure through to the end.”

The spill began in April, when Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing eleven people, after the blowout preventer failed. Oil began to leak into the Gulf, soon developing into the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. 4.9 million barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Extensive measures were used to prevent the oil from reaching the coastline of Louisiana, including skimmer ships, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, and sand-filled barricades. Scientists have also reported immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil not visible at the surface. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party, and officials have committed to holding the company accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage.

BP released their internal review into the spill last week, but it was rebuffed by the head of Greenpeace’s energy campaign, Jim Footner, who said that it was “highly likely that a truly independent report would be even more damning for BP.” However, he said, “the real problem is our addiction to oil, which is pushing companies like BP to put lives and the environment at risk. The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now. The time has come to move beyond oil and invest in clean energy.” The report concludes by stating that decisions made by “multiple companies and work teams” contributed to the accident which it says arose from “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.” In their statement, BP said that they “will continue sharing what we have learned in an effort to prevent a tragedy like this from ever being repeated. We also believe that the industry will gain important insights on how to be better prepared to respond to any future incidents.”



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September 10, 2010

BP report into Gulf of Mexico disaster lays blame on other contractors

BP report into Gulf of Mexico disaster lays blame on other contractors

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Deepwater Horizon disaster
Other stories about the Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 24 April 2011: U.S. Coast Guard investigation finds ‘poor safety culture’ contributed to Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 16 April 2011: Experts raise serious questions over safety of U.S. oil industry and warn another spill may be ‘unavoidable’
  • 30 March 2011: BP lose laptop containing sensitive claimant data
  • 21 October 2010: Scientist demands end to US ‘addiction to oil’
  • 20 September 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say
NASA photo of Deepwater oil slick

Oil  spreading north-east from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico

In their report on the disaster, BP shifts a large proportion of the blame to other contractors, including Transocean and Halliburton. The report was likely written with the company’s legal liability for the disaster in a prominent position. The executive summary is four and a half pages long—and the first page is made up entirely of legal disclaimers—if BP was found to be negligent in their operations of the rig, they could be fined a good deal more.

BP released their report into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster earlier this year on Wednesday, and shifted much of the blame for the explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, onto Transocean, the company managing the rig. The report concludes by stating that decisions made by “multiple companies and work teams” contributed to the accident which it says arose from “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.” The report, the product of a four-month investigation conducted by BP’s Head of Safety Operations, Mark Bly, criticizes the oil rig’s fire prevention systems, the crew of the rig for failing to realize and act upon evidence that oil was leaking from the surface of the ocean, and describes how BP and Transocean “incorrectly accepted” negative pressure test results. The document goes on to note that the blow-out preventer failed to operate, likely because critical components were not operational.

Bob Dudley, who will become chief executive of BP, described the accident as “tragic”. He said, “we have said from the beginning that the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon was a shared responsibility among many entities. This report makes that conclusion even clearer, presenting a detailed analysis of the facts and recommendations for improvement both for BP and the other parties involved. We have accepted all the recommendations and are examining how best to implement them across our drilling operations worldwide.” The report included 25 recommendations, according to a press release, “designed to prevent a recurrence of such an accident.” The oil company has previously blamed Transocean and Halliburton, the well contractor, for the disaster and BP executives feel they have been unfairly blamed by US politicians for the disaster, and the report continues this view.

Tony Hayward, who was fired from the position of BP’s chief executive following multiple public relations issues, squarley places the blame for the disaster on Halliburton. “To put it simply, there was a bad cement job,” he said in a statement, also claiming that BP should not be the only company to take the blame for the explosion. “It would appear unlikely that the well design contributed to the incident,” he argues. The report blames the type of cement used by Halliburton, designed to prevent harmful hydrocarbons from reaching the seabed, as well as criticizing the crew of Deepwater Horizon, for failing to realize for forty minutes that oil had started to leak from the well, and once it was realized, the crew “vented” the hydrocarbons “directly onto the rig”.

Describing how the explosion, which killed eleven rig personnel, occurred, the report states that “the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system probably transferred a gas-rich mixture into the engine rooms,” where the hydrocarbons ignited and a fireball engulfed the rig. But, the report states, the blowout preventer, the ultimate failsafe on the Deepwater Horizon failed, likely due to the fire on the rig. An automated system was not operational because the batteries powering it, located in a control pod, had gone flat, and another control pod contained a faulty solenoid valve.

The report was likely, however, written with the company’s legal liability for the disaster in a prominent position, since they are facing hundreds of lawsuits and criminal charges as a result of the spill. The executive summary is four and a half pages long and the first page is made up entirely of legal disclaimers saying if BP was found to be negligent in their operations of the rig, they could be fined a good deal more.

Questions have also been raised as to why BP has chosen to release their report before authorities examine the blowout preventer. The energy editor of The Guardian, Terry Macalister, wrote that the “catalougue of errors – both human and mechanical” in the report “demolish” the oil industry’s “much quoted mantra” of safety first. “It may come first in the board room but it does not down at the wellhead where the real dangers are faced,” he wrote. “It is worth remembering that BP, its rig operator Transocean and the main well contractor Halliburton are the blue chip companies in the wider oil and gas sector. If the shoddy work practices highlighted here are what the best-in-class do, then what is happening in the lower reaches of this industry?”

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Transocean described the report as a “self-serving” attempt to “conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP’s fatally flawed well design. In both its design and construction, BP made a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk – in some cases, severely.” In a statement, the company listed five issues they felt had contributed to the disaster that were no fault but BP’s. “Transocean’s investigation is ongoing, and will be concluded when all of the evidence is in, including the critical information the company has requested of BP but has yet to receive.” Members of Congress, who are also carrying out a review into the disaster, also dismissed the report. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts democrat who has been investigating the spill in Congress, said that he felt the report was simply a lengthy defense of the oil company’s handling of the spill. “BP is happy to slice up blame, as long as they get the smallest piece,” he said.

Bly acknowledged during a press conference in Washington that the report did not detail the charges raised against the company in Congress and that BP permitted a culture of recklessness to flourish. He did, however, reject suggestions that cost-cutting had put lives at risk and the rig was a disaster waiting to happen. “What we see instead is, where there were errors made they were based on poor decision-making process or using wrong information,” he said. The Guardian reported that “the report is narrowly focused on the final days before the explosion rather than on earlier decisions about well design and safety procedures. It is also closely focused on the rig itself. No BP officials have been sacked for their role in the explosion, and Bly said there was no indication of any blame beyond the well-site managers.”

The Associated Press reported that Bly “said at a briefing in Washington that the internal report was a reconstruction of what happened on the rig based on the company’s data and interviews with mostly BP employees and was not meant to focus on assigning blame. The six-person investigating panel only had access to a few workers from other companies, and samples of the actual cement used in the well were not released.” The report continued, “Steve Yerrid, special counsel on the oil spill for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, said the report clearly shows the company is attempting to spread blame for the well disaster, foreshadowing what will be a likely legal effort to force Halliburton and Transocean, and perhaps others, to share costs such as paying claims and government penalties.”

Heavily oiled Brown Pelicans wait to be cleaned of crude oil in Louisiana. Jim Footner of Greenpeace said that “the real problem is our addiction to oil, which is pushing companies like BP to put lives and the environment at risk … The time has come to move beyond oil and invest in clean energy.”

Head of Greenpeace’s energy campaign Jim Footner said that it was “highly likely that a truly independent report would be even more damning for BP.” However, he said, “the real problem is our addiction to oil, which is pushing companies like BP to put lives and the environment at risk. The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now. The time has come to move beyond oil and invest in clean energy.” Alfred R Sunsen, whose oyster company operating in the Gulf of Mexico is facing the prospect of going out of business after 134 years, reacted angrily the the report. “The report does not address the people, businesses, animals, or natural resources that have been impacted by the disaster and will be dealing with the consequences of their inadequate and slow response to the disaster,” he said. The New York Times said that the report is “unlikely to carry much weight in influencing the Department of Justice, which is considering criminal and civil charges related to the spill,” and described it as “a public relations exercise” and a “probable legal strategy as it prepares to defend itself against possible federal charges, penalties and hundreds of pending lawsuits.”

Wayne Pennington, head of the geological engineering department at Michigan Technical University, also alleged that BP was wrong to blame other parties involved with the disaster. “The blowout and subsequent explosion and spillage appear to the result of an overall attitude that encouraged unwarranted optimism in the quality of each component of the job, allowing the omission of standard testing procedures, and the misinterpretation of other tests in the most-favorable light.” He continued: “Instead, skepticism should reign on any drilling job, and testing and evaluation at each stage of the drilling and completion would then be routine; instead of questioning the need for such things as the cement bond log, the companies involved should insist on checking and double-checking quality at each step of the process. This was clearly not done, repeatedly, in the case of the Macondo well, and disaster resulted.”

4.9 million barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Extensive measures were used to prevent the oil from reaching the coastline of Louisiana, including skimmer ships, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, and sand-filled barricades. Scientists have also reported immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil not visible at the surface. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party, and officials have committed to holding the company accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage.

Dudley went on to say that BP “deeply regret” the disaster. “We have sought throughout to step up to our responsibilities. We are determined to learn the lessons for the future and we will be undertaking a broad-scale review to further improve the safety of our operations. We will invest whatever it takes to achieve that. It will be incumbent on everyone at BP to embrace and implement the changes necessary to ensure that a tragedy like this can never happen again.”



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September 2, 2010

No oil spillage after platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico

No oil spillage after platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Map highlighting location of Deepwater well and Vermillion 380 platform.
Image: Edbrown05.

An oil platform owned by Mariner Energy has exploded in the Gulf of Mexico throwing thirteen people into the water, reports indicate. All thirteen men who fell into the water have been accounted for, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. No injuries were reported. Smoke was billowing from the oil rig named Vermilion 380, which is reported to still be on fire.

The blast occurred at around 9:19 a.m., approximately 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay off the coast of Louisiana. The Coast Guard confirms the platform was producing oil and gas at the time it exploded. They earlier reported a one mile long and 100 foot wide oil sheen which was spotted at the site of the explosion shortly after authorities responded to the scene, but later backtracked saying they could not confirm the presence of a sheen. Coast Guard chief petty officer John Edwards of the US Coast Guard earlier said that the platform, “was not actively producing any product.” Mariner Energy also released a statement earlier saying no oil sheen was spotted.

“In an initial flyover, no hydrocarbon spill was reported,” said Mariner Energy in a press release following the explosion. “The cause is not known, and an investigation will be undertaken. During the last week of August 2010, production from this facility averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate.” According to Bureau of Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement spokesperson Melissa Schwartz, the platform was authorized to produce natural gas and oil at those depths, but “there were ongoing maintenance activities underway” which caused it to stop producing. The platform sits in about 2,500 feet of water, though some reports put the platform in 340 feet of water.

As a result of the explosion and fire, Bobby Jindal, the governor for the state of Louisiana said that the Vermillion 380 platform had been “shut” and that oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf has been stopped. At least 6 other platforms are said to be connected to the well that Vermilion 380 was part of. Jindal also said the fire was burning due to flammable materials on the platform.

Apache Corporation, which has agreed to, but has not yet completed a merger with Mariner Energy, did not comment on whether the explosion would have any effect on the deal. The vice-president Bob Dye told Wikinews that “Apache and Mariner agreed to merge in April, 2010, however, the transaction has not yet closed so Mariner remains the operator of this platform”.

All 13 people have been rescued by an oil support vessel and have been transported to a nearby platform. Edwards earlier told MSNBC that all those who were in the water were “wearing some sort of an immersion suit that protects them from the water. Right now we’re focused on search and rescue and then, ultimately, as this thing progresses we’re going to be looking into the cause.”

The explosion comes only four months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig run by BP exploded in April, resulting in a massive oil spill. The platform is located about 200 miles west of the Deepwater incident.



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August 28, 2010

Oil-eating microbe found in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil-eating microbe found in the Gulf of Mexico

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

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A group of researchers led by Terry Hazen, a senior ecologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have discovered a new species of microorganism. Hazen’s team started research in May this year. Their findings were based on more than 200 samples collected from 17 deep-water sites in the Gulf of Mexico between May 25 and June 2. The new species is distinctive for its oil-consuming activity in a wide range of conditions, and is playing a role in depletion of oil spills in the area.

Scientists had been puzzled by the disappearance of oil in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Detailed maps were made on how the spilled oil went underwater and how far it was spread; however, some of it seemed to have disappeared.

A grant from the Energy Biosciences Institute, and a partnership led by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois that is funded by a USD 500 million, 10-year grant from BP, was the basis for support of the research. The U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Oklahoma Research Foundation also supported it.

The field study was conducted during the first week. As Hazen said, “We deployed on two ships to determine the physical, chemical and microbiological properties of the deepwater oil plume. The oil escaping from the damaged wellhead represented an enormous carbon input to the water column ecosystem and while we suspected that hydrocarbon components in the oil could potentially serve as a carbon substrate for deep-sea microbes, scientific data was needed for informed decisions.”

Sample analysis was eased because the researchers used the pocket-sized Berkeley Lab DNA sampler PhyloChip. It allowed researchers to detect the presence of thousands of species of bacteria in samples from a wide range of environmental sources, without the culturing procedures usually performed in a furnished lab workplace. With the device, Hazen and his co-researchers discovered that a dominant microbe, making up 90 percent of all the bacteria in the oil plume, is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales family, more specifically Oleispirea antarctica and Oceaniserpentilla haliotis.

The previous works were measuring low levels of oxygen in certain areas to detect microbes activity. Researchers thought that increased activity would lead to more aerobic activities, such as breathing, which depletes the oxygen content in water. However, the newly discovered species doesn’t seem to be consuming much oxygen from the water column. The study found that oxygen saturation outside the oil plume was 67-percent, while within the plume, it was 59-percent. By Terry Hazen’s words, “The low concentrations of iron in seawater may have prevented oxygen concentrations dropping more precipitously from biodegradation demand on the petroleum, since many hydrocarbon-degrading enzymes have iron as a component… There’s not enough iron to form more of these enzymes, which would degrade the carbon faster but also consume more oxygen.”

Analysis of changes in the oil composition as the plume extended from the wellhead pointed to faster than expected biodegradation rates with the half-life of alkanes ranging from 1.2 to 6.1 days. This microbe thrives in cold water, with temperatures in the deep recorded at 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit).

The summer observations showed the bacteria managed to consume the oil spill relatively quickly in June. Some commenters noted that the previously released oil dispersant COREXIT can have significantly eased the process of interaction of the microbes with the oil by making oil particles smaller and easier to access. As Hazen explained, “We’ve been out there continuously… Once the oil flow stopped on July 15, within two weeks we saw most of the plume disappear.”

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August 4, 2010

Wikinews Shorts: August 4, 2010

Wikinews Shorts: August 4, 2010 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: August 4, 2010

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Correction — August 13, 2010
 
This article incorrectly describes BP as ‘British Petroleum’. In fact, such a company has not existed for many years as BP dropped this name when becoming a multinational company. The initials no longer stand for anything.
 

A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, August 4, 2010.

BP starts “static kill” to permanently stop oil spill

With “static kill”, BP hopes to get rid of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for good.
Image: NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response.

BP (British Petroleum) engineers began injecting drilling mud into the capped Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico as the first part of a “static kill” procedure intended to permanently stop the flow of oil into the Gulf coast. Earlier in the day, the multi-national energy company ran “injectivity tests” to find out if the well, which had been leaking for months, could withstand the pressure of the procedure, which is meant to plug up the oil that isn’t flowing because the well has been capped. The procedure, unlike the “top kill” attempted in May, is designed to proceed slowly.

After a day-long delay, BP declared that the procedure could safely begin and that company’s senior vice president, Kent Wells, said that the afternoon pressure test “went exactly as planned”.

The company also said that the “static kill” was only half the solution, with the other half being two relief wells that are planned to plug the well from the bottom.

Sources


Drunk illegal immigrant kills nun, injures two

An illegal immigrant accused of driving drunk has been charged with killing Sister Denise Mosier, a nun, and severely injuring two other nuns. Carlos Martinelly Montano, 23, has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and involuntary manslaughter, following a car crash which occurred at 8:30 AM EDT on Sunday (0030 Monday, UTC). The man has also been charged with felony driving under a revoked drivers license. The car accident occurred in Virginia, USA’s Prince William County. Police also said that Montano is an illegal immigrant awaiting deportation and has also repeatedly been charged with drunk driving.

The US Department of Homeland Security stated that Montano had been released in 2008, with immigration judge’s review of his case pending. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the accident “a horrible thing” and saying, “this is a horrible case. Why is it that this individual was still out driving? He was in removal proceedings. Why were the removal proceedings taking so long?”

All three nuns were driving to a retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Bristow, Va when Montano crashed into their car. Montano has been treated for injuries.

Sources


Kenyans to vote on new constitution

On Wednesday, Kenyans will vote whether to accept a new constitution.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

On Wednesday, Kenyans will vote on a new constitution that intends to fix many of the country’s political problems like widespread corruption and heightened ethnic divisions. Wednesday has been declared a public holiday so more people can vote.

Billie O’Kadameri of Radio France International described opposition that arose from an alliance of churches and political leaders. Warnings of disruption in opposition areas have marred what the government initially hoped would be a united vote in support of the proposal.

However, Salim Lone, senior adviser to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, said that “[Kenyans] are united as we have never been since independence more than 45 years ago,” and, “Virtually all Kenyans, from across the political and ethnic divides, want this constitution”.

The new constitution would restrict the president’s power, gives the people a bill of rights, gives more power to local governments and encourages land reform. However, the Kalenjin tribe claims that the new land reform would lead to the taxation and even seizure of their lands.

The last time a major vote was held (the Kenyan presidential election in 2007), violence left almost 1,500 people dead and over half a million displaced.

Sources



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July 31, 2010

After 100 days, Deepwater Horizon oil spill still threatens Gulf coast

After 100 days, Deepwater Horizon oil spill still threatens Gulf coast

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Deepwater Horizon disaster
Other stories about the Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 24 April 2011: U.S. Coast Guard investigation finds ‘poor safety culture’ contributed to Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 16 April 2011: Experts raise serious questions over safety of U.S. oil industry and warn another spill may be ‘unavoidable’
  • 30 March 2011: BP lose laptop containing sensitive claimant data
  • 21 October 2010: Scientist demands end to US ‘addiction to oil’
  • 20 September 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say
NASA photo of Deepwater oil slick

Oil  spreading north-east from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico

Several workers wash a pelican caught in the spill
Image: International Bird Rescue Research Center.

Development Driller II digs a relief well in order to permanently close the leaking well.
Image: Barry Bena/US Coast Guard.

Wednesday marked the 100th day since the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and although the leaking well was recently capped, the estimated three million or more barrels of oil already in the Gulf of Mexico are still causing trouble for many residents of the Gulf coast.

There are still many unanswered questions about the long-term impact of the spill, including how it has affected the environment and natural habitats of the Gulf as well as whether residents of the area will be able to return to their jobs and livelihoods now that the leak has been capped. US government officials say that, even after the oil well is permanently sealed, workers will still have a lot to do, including the removal of around 20 million feet (6.1 million metres) of containment boom. “I would characterize this as the first 100 days. There’s a lot of work in front of us,” said Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft of the US Coast Guard.

Authorities will use submarines to assess damage underwater, while teams on the ground assess the shoreline. While removing oil from beaches is expected to be fairly straightforward, cleaning the marshlands will be particularly difficult, as boats are needed to maneuver through small channels and workers are unable to stand on solid ground. At least 638 miles (1,027 kilometres) of the Gulf coast have been hit by the oil.

The government is focusing on both cleaning sensitive coastal regions and looking for underwater oil plumes, but is also probing into what may have been the largest accidental oil spill. The US Justice Department, as well as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, are all investigating what contributed to the disaster. The Washington Post reported one team is looking into whether a close relationship between BP and government regulators played a role in the spill. The Post also said that Deepwater Horizon operator Transocean as well as oil services group Halliburton were being investigated.

BP officials say that they will try to perform the “static kill” process on Monday, a process which involves pumping a thick mixture of mud and cement down into the cap currently stopping the leak. At the end of next week, one of two relief wells currently being drilled should reach the leaking well, and officials will then know if the static kill has worked. It is hoped that this “bottom kill” operation will be able to permanently seal the damaged well.

Even though BP is close to sealing the oil reservoir, it still faces legal battles, economic struggles, and internal changes. On Tuesday, BP announced Tony Hayward would step down from his position as the company’s chief executive. His replacement, American Bob Dudley, will be the first non-British CEO of the company.

On Thursday, lawyers met at Boise, Idaho hearing to determine how around 200 various lawsuits against BP will play out. Depending on whether the suits can be consolidated, BP could be facing years of legal disputes. BP, Transocean, and Halliburton had already blamed each other for the disaster during a May hearing before the US Senate. Federal regulatory officials were criticized for allegedly taking bribes and not thoroughly inspecting the oil rig.

The company also reported a quarterly loss of US$16.9 billion and said it has allocated US$32.2 billion to pay for the spill. BP has a US$20 billion fund to help make up for the massive losses of the Gulf fishing, oil, and tourism industries and will pay damages for each of the millions of barrels of oil lost in the disaster.

BP says that it is the “responsible party” for cleaning up the spill because it owned the leaking well and had leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, but claims that it is not responsible for the entire spill.



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July 25, 2010

BP CEO Tony Hayward to resign, say analysts

BP CEO Tony Hayward to resign, say analysts

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Economy and business
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Hayward at the World Economic Forum in 2008
Image: World Economic Forum.

BP Chief Executive Anthony Bryan “Tony” Hayward is negotiating the terms of his departure and will stand down from the company; effectively taking responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to journalists. The New York Times cites an anonymous source “close to the board”, and the BBC’s business editor makes a similar analysis. It is expected that President and CEO of the company’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization Bob Dudley, a Mississippi native, member of the Board of Directors, and most senior American executive of BP, will replace Tony Hayward as Chief Executive.

A report by the BBC World Service said a BP press release asserted that, “[Hayward] has the full confidence of the Board.” The resignation, and change of leadership, at the multinational UK-based oil firm are expected to be discussed by the company’s Board of Directors on Monday, and will potentially be ratified as early as Tuesday.

Hayward’s position was, essentially, undercut when United States President Barack Obama said he “would have fired him.”



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