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.
Flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico increased today, as BP was forced to remove a cap that they previously placed on top of one of the oil leeks. This cap has been collecting about 700,000 gallons (~16,600 barrels) per day, piping it into nearby tankers. This removal became necessary after an underwater robot “bumped” into the venting system. This system has been preventing the formation of the ice crystals that botched the first cap attempt.
According to Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the cap will be brought to the surface and then checked to ensure that ice crystals have not formed. If the system is still in operating condition, it could be placed back on the leak.
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.
Regardless of the outcome of BP’s ‘top kill‘ process at stopping the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, this disaster has probably already resulted in the largest spill in U.S. history. I say likely because, unlike an oil spill where a known volume of oil flows out of a tanker, at which point no more oil flows (the ship is empty), the Gulf oil leak is continuous. At a mile under the water’s surface, it is very difficult to calculate exactly how much oil has escaped. What we do know is that it’s A LOT of oil – likely more than any other spill in U.S. history. And we haven’t stopped the flow of oil after more than a month.
Yesterday, President Obama spoke about the need for our country to transition to a new energy future dependent on alternative and renewable fuels. A quote from this speech
“But we also have to face a broader fact. There’s a reason why those folks are out there drilling a mile down in the water, and then when they hit ground a mile down, they have to go another mile down to get oil. That’s an expensive proposition, it’s a dangerous proposition, it’s a risky proposition. Why are we doing it? Well, we’re doing it because we have not made a transition to a new energy future.”
BP started it’s ‘top kill’ procedure today as its latest efforts to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosionlast month. This procedure uses mud to slow the flow of oil into the ocean from the oil well and then pumps concrete unto the well, sealing-off the oil’s exit. BP says that they will know in the next few days if the procedure has worked.
Check out a video explaining the ‘top kill’ procedure here.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, below is a video taken by the US Coast Guard of the post-explosion fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
Over the past few weeks, I have written about the status of the energy and climate bill in the Senate and the recent accident in the Gulf of Mexico with the sinking of an oil rig and the resulting three leaks that are pumping oil into the gulf. These events have given rise to great doubts and great hope when it comes to our nation’s ability to successfully develop legislation that is necessary to ensure a sustainable energy future for our country, a key to our continued success as a world power.
The departure of Senator Graham from the negotiating table (see post on April 28th) lowered supporters hopes as a nail in the coffin of a bi(tri)-partisan agreement for energy and climate legislation in 2010. But, the subsequent accident in the Gulf has given the same group hope that, when faced with the real negative environmental impacts of our current dependence on oil, citizens will step up and demand that we protect our country’s precious ecosystems, wildlife, waterways, and air. They hope, perhaps realistically, that we can pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation before midterm elections get into full swing.
The oil leaks in the Gulf of Mexico have already caused irreversible damage and as the oil continues to flow, the number of casualties in the form of ecosystems and wildlife will only increase despite the commendable efforts of the United States Coast Guard. How to best stop these leaks and contain the oil is being debated, with consensus arising only with the statement that there will be significant negative environmental impact to our coastline, no matter what we do.
The silver lining to this disaster is the awareness that it has drawn to the negative impacts of offshore drilling. The oil industry has an impressive record when it comes to safety on their oil rigs and significant spills are rare occurrences. But, drilling for oil is not without risks as clearly seen by this latest incident. It reminds us of what can happen when the oil we depend on to fuel our cars is let loose in our oceans.
What does this mean for energy and climate legislation? While my heart has saddened at the sight of the spreading oil slick in the Gulf, my hope has also grown. I hope that this latest incident will bring Senator Graham back to the table, ideally with his Republican colleagues. I hope that we will come together as a nation to make tough decisions that will ensure the success of our country, without sacrificing our land, water and air.