While driving across the hill country this morning, I caught up on some national news via National Public Radio (and KUT). On the docket – a story discussing the fact that Halliburton and BP knew that the cement used to seal the bottom of the well that would later spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 3 months, was flawed and did not meet industry standard. Failing 3 of the 4 tests it was subjected to, the concrete slurry was labeled “unstable” by Halliburton as early as February 2010.
According to an article published by the NY Times:
In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.
A new cap has been put in place over the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. This newest effort was originally announced on July 2nd via a report in the Miami Herald (see my previous post on July 5th). This cap has the potential to contain all of the leaking oil and send it to ships waiting at the surface for transport. BP will test the cap this week to gauge its effectiveness.
Today, oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day.
As I wrote yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard has announced plans to place a cap over the leak well that could capture the entire stream of oil.
According to a CNN report published this evening, the cap could capture up to 80,000 barrels per day of oil, sending it to ships connected at the surface.
Crews are already working to position a vessel capable of containing 53,000 barrels of oil per day.
Lets do the math…
Rate of oil leak: 35,000 – 60,000 barrels per day
Potential rate of oil capture by cap: 80,000 barrels per day
(Rate of leak) – (Rate of capture) = - 45,000 to -20,000 barrels per day
(a.k.a. we’d have an excess of capture capacity)
Potential rate of oil capture at surface: 53,000 barrels per day (assuming no creative storage techniques such as siphoning oil to nearby ships)
(Rate of leak) – (Rate of capture) = -18,000 to +7,000
(a.k.a. we might capture it all, we might not)
Either way, this new set-up has the potential to vastly improve the situation in the Gulf of Mexico as BP works stopping the flow of oil using relief wells.
The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed today that tar balls from some Galveston beaches originated at the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. However, they are unsure if these balls arrived in Texas via currents or if they were transported by boasts travelling in the area that might have picked them up accidentally. The tacky nature of the balls make it possible for them to stick to the sides and bottoms of boats over long distances.
This latest announcement means that all of the Gulf Coast states have now seen oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill wash up on their shores.
The Miami Herald reported on Friday that a new cap is being readied for placement over at least one of the Gulf oil leaks that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. According to the article, the cap could contain all of the oil leaking from the well.
The article also reported that the drilling of the ultimate solution – a relief well – is running a week ahead fo the original schedule.
The BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf might find its technological savior in Hollywood. Kevin Costner, actor and apparent tech-aficionado, has a technology that is designed to separate oil and water to minimize environmental damage from oil spills. For more than 15 years, Costner has funded the company Ocean Therapy Solutions (OTS) and its team of scientists to work this technology, originally obtained from the Department of Energy in 1992-93 via a technology transfer agreement. Today, the company has a series of five machines that process 2-200 gallons-per-minute of contaminated water. Due to the scale of the Gulf oil spill, the V20 (200 gallon-per-minute) version is the likely front-runner. Another example of the long-term positive impacts of basic R&D funding.
Costner’s centrifuge technology separates the oil and water to a greater than 99% purity – meaning it gets almost all of oil out of the water. After initial testing by BP, the oil company has signed on the dotted line to purchase 32 of these machines for use in the Gulf. Each machine is capable of processing 200 gallons-per-minute of contaminated sea water, removing about 3,000 gallons per day of oil.
After two months of botched “containment” and failed “top kill” efforts, I am heartened to learn about a technological solution that might help in the situation we have now – where the oil has escaped and we are already experiencing the negative environmental impacts.
To watch a video on the technology, you can go here.
To see an interview with Costner on the technology, check out this video.
To learn (briefly) about Costner’s testimony on Capitol Hill, check out this link .
According to Mark Mykleby, it is time for us to pony up and make the choices in our lives that will reduce our dependence on oil – driving us to a more sustainable future. These views were expressed in a letter written by Mykleby, in response to the BP blame game, and became the subject of Thomas Friedman’s column this past week. The title of the column – This Time is Different – argues that we are our own enemy in the drive toward sustainability. I agree.
Thomas Friedman is one of the few columnists that I follow every week. His commentary on current events and America in an international context is consistently insightful and eloquently presented. More fundamentally – I like reading his pieces. His work challenges me, taking my mind in different directions that it might have gone on its own. It doesn’t shock me to know that Friedman has won three Pulitzer Prizes for the New York Times and is the author of at least 5 books (depending on how you count).
One of Friedman’s banner issues is global climate change. His book, titled Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How it Can Renew America is but one example of his numerous writings on the topic. His NY Times column is another example, that I personally find more compelling (it is a favorite of mine when I only have 10 minutes before class – not nearly enough time to read a 528 page book). Friedman’s column this past Friday was another case of clear, concise, and powerful writing on the topic from the desk of this NY Times author.
In this column, titled This Time is Different, Friedman presented a letter to the editor written by his friend, Mark Mykleby, for the Beaufort Gazette that is “the best reaction [Friedman has] seen to the BP oil spill – and also the best advice to President Obama on exactly whom to kick you know where.”
Quite a bold statement. OK, now I’m intrigued and must read this purported “best” advice. Here goes…
I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V.
Short, sweet and to the point. Nicely done, Mr. Mykleby.
In the face of the growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, we should all pause before placing the blame exclusively on the shoulders of BP and recognize our role in creating this mess. But, we should also recognize that acknowledging our role is the first step toward solving the problem (sound familiar?).
Emily Grubert, a friend and fellow graduate student at UT wrote a piece for the Daily Texas that was published this week. Here’s a short excerpt:
“How is the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico going to affect Texas?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering for a while now, and I’m still not sure. Texas is unlikely to see much oil contamination on the shore, and coastal Texas fishing and tourism industries could actually benefit as people look for alternatives to Louisiana and Florida, according to The Brownsville Herald. Longer-term restrictions on offshore drilling could affect Texas and Texan companies, as could more stringent oversight.
But I think the real question evokes an inspirational JFK quote, or a bad Soviet Russia joke (depending on your mood): How are Texans affecting oil spills? More specifically, how are consumers affecting oil spills?”
Check out the rest of the article here.
The oil slick that has rolled onto the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama does not care about politics. It does not care that Congressmen in Washington are working on an energy and climate bill. It does not care about the press conferences or the evening news reel. The rate at which this slick grows is not impacted by politics – the tradeoffs don’t change because of a great speech by our President or BP officials. As one Boston.Com reader put it, we need to ”stop blaming the Republicans or the Democrats!…It’s time for ALL of us to care! Politics has nothing to do with this mess.”
Our oil consumption has tradeoffs and this oil slick is a perfect example of the risks we’ve accepted when we drive our cars, eat fruit driven to us from California, or buy water bottles made from petroleum-based plastics.. We drive our cars, which requires oil that comes from reserves in sensitive regions all over the world. Oil spills happen, even when we are careful. This time the disaster is something not just seen on the news, but felt by Americans. Maybe the silver lining in all of this is that our representatives in Washington will use the momentum created by this disaster (I would say catastrophe) to find intelligent technological and political solutions to our unsustainable energy economy.
Some incredible pictures of wildlife caught in the oil slick can be found here.