There are many in the mix that contributed to the oil disaster that still unfolds and is threatening Florida’s coastlines now. If the oil slick catches the Gulf Stream our eastern seaboard could also have fouled beaches. BP is the overall responsible party and will pay billions for the aftermath. The media blames BP. Sec’y of Interior Ken Salazar blames BP. But look at all the hands in this mess that aren’t mentioned by the media. Transocean Ltd. leased the $600 million oil rig to BP from its inventory. Before oil drilling ever began Halliburton cemented the pipe into the hole. And 2 U.S. agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Minerals Management Services have varying degrees of oversight. The USFWS states that as part of its management goals for the wildlife refuge struck by the oil slick is “oversight of oil and gas development and production.” Minerals Management Services agency “determined there was ‘no discernible improvement by (oil) industry over the past 7 years’” relative to safety/drilling practices and ‘proposed taking a more proactive stance by requiring operators to have their safety program audited at least once every three years.’” One would think that before any more drills were placed, the new regulations would be in effect and current inspections completed especially with the U.S. announcing more offshore drilling. As it stands right now, the oil industry safety programs are “self-managed and voluntary for operators.” Ah, self regulation shows its ugly head. The foxes watching the henhouses or self-regulation didn’t work out too well for us AGAIN, while we continue the mantra-less government, less government.
Both “BP and TransOcean Ltd. aggressively opposed the new safety regulations proposed last year. And the oil industry launched a coordinated campaign to attack those regulations, with over 100 letters objecting to them”. Why? Minerals and Management Services estimated that “the proposed rule, which has yet to take effect, would cost operators about $4.59 million in startup costs and $8 million in annual recurring costs.” So there you have it. Ethics regarding safety takes a back seat to costs or MONEY.
TransOcean’s Deepwater Horizon rig was “placed into service in 2001.  Working with BP, the Transocean crews on the Deepwater Horizon previously drilled a well to 35,050 vertical depth and 35,055 feet measured depth (MD), or more than six miles, while operating in 4,130 feet of water.” It set a record for this and so drilling extremely deep has all been done before. But:
Relatives of workers who are presumed dead in this disaster claim that BP and rig owner TransOcean “violated numerous statutes and regulations” issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a lawsuit filed by Natalie Roshto, whose husband Shane, a deck floor hand, was thrown overboard by the force of the explosion and whose body has not yet been located.
Both companies failed to provide a competent crew, failed to properly supervise its employees and failed to provide Rushto with a safe place to work, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
2001-2007 is the timeline for the study by Minerals Management Services that determined self operated safety programs/practices had not improved within the industry. But even though safety practices may have been lax, the drill supposedly never struck oil prior to the explosion.
When the explosion first happened, I blogged that ABC News reported BP had not yet struck oil with the TransOcean rig. The concern was mainly for the 11 missing crew members and the diesel fuel onboard the oil rig when it began to list. Homeland Security’s Janet Napolitano stated on CNN that the Coast Guard was there from the beginning, as well as BP, and a host of others to contain what should have been only diesel fuel spillage. So why the oil?
Halliburton was contracted to cement the pipe in the hole. The lawsuits filed by family members of the missing 11 workers “also names oil-services giant Halliburton as a defendant, claiming that the company “prior to the explosion, was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap and, upon information and belief, improperly and negligently performed these duties, which was a cause of the explosion.”
After digging around to learn more about it, I found an interesting article on seminal.firedoglake.com about known problems with cementing the pipe for drilling at extreme depths. It has to do with gas bubbles trapped in frozen crystals and a very interesting read. The article went on to say that late last year Halliburton did a presentation about cementing and there is admitted shortcomings in the process in deep water. According to Halliburton’s PDF of the presentation:
Deepwater Well Objectives
Cement slurry should be placed in the entire annulus with no losses
Temperature increase during slurry hydration should not destabilize hydrates
There should be no influx of shallow water or gas into the annulus
The cement slurry should develop strength in the shortest time after placement
Conditions in deepwater wells are not conducive to achieving all of these objectives simultaneously.
What? If they cannot achieve all of these objectives than something can definitely go wrong, is liable to go wrong especially when the frozen crystals of gas melt, releasing that gas. According to the diary on sentinel.firedoglake.com, “The problem is that when you drill into these formations, and then try to inject cement into the hole/gaps to prevent leakage, the curing process for that creates heat. That heat can, if not controlled, cause the gas to escape the frozen crystals. If a lot of gas is released all at once, as could happen during the cement/curing process, it can cause a blowout where the cementing is occurring.” In short, too many gas bubbles released = Kaboom.
Minerals Management Service’s 2007 study revealed that 18 out of 39 gas explosions on rigs were a result of improper cementing procedures.
Congress is investigating Halliburton too.
And what about Ken Salazar’s statement, “Those responsible for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will be held accountable.” Um, the USFWS and Minerals Management Service are under the Dept. of the Interior, or Ken Salazar. Both agencies have degrees of oversight in oil production in the gulf. Those agencies knew the safety practices/programs for oil drilling were self-regulated, not effective, and had not improved in 7 years! It looks like Salazar’s Dept., once again gave more credence to industry’s stance than the overall protection of our wildlife and habitat the Dept. of Interior oversees. Let’s see, we have an ongoing and unscientific wolf and mustang horse slaughter on what appears to be the behalf of the cattle and sport hunting industry condoned by Salazar. Now we have a huge wildlife refuge ruined with thousands of animal, bird, fish, and reptile lives at stake on behalf of the oil industry. They only wrote 100 letters? Thousands of letters have been written to Salazar on behalf of wolves/mustangs.
Finally, BP just wasn’t prepared for a deepwater spill. According to an article on Daily Finance:
BP’s 52-page exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon Well, filed with the federal Mineral’s Management Service, says repeatedly that it was unlikely an accidental surface or sub-surface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.
And while the company concluded that a spill would impact beaches, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas, it argued that due to the distance to shore, (48 miles), and that response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant, adverse impacts are expected.
Robert Wiygul, an Ocean Springs, Mississippi based environmental lawyer and board member for the Gulf Restoration Network didn’t see anything in the document that BP addressed the kind of technology needed to control a spill in water at that depth.
This morning, BP made a statement on ABC’s GMA that they aren’t totally responsible for the accident. They do take responsibility for the oil and the clean-up, but… Watch it:
ABC’s GMA also showed a picture of a dead sea turtle one of 20 giant DEAD sea turtles that have washed up on shore already. Some 5,000 dolphins are among the rigs in the Gulf this time of year. It is the birthing season for them. I’m waiting for dead baby dolphins to wash up next. Hopefully, dolphins are smart enough to get out of Dodge.
After what I’ve gathered and summarized here, I think BP is right to take a stance against ALL the blame. There were a lot of hands in the pot for this mess. Of this I am certain. What looks to be the largest environmental disaster in the U.S. was created by MAN. There is no brushing this one off as natural. WE DO AFFECT our world and everything in it.