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October 26 2011

22:15

A Coast Guard Challenge: Arctic Drilling

The closest Coast Guard base to a proposed site for offshore drilling in the Arctic is in Kodiak, Ak., more than 1,000 miles to the south.

September 14 2011

22:02

Deepwater Horizon Still A Massive Headache For BP

The problems facing BP along the Gulf Coast continue to pile up. After more than a year of investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard has finally released their long-awaited assessment of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Their conclusion was that the ultimate blame for the disaster rests squarely on BP’s shoulders.

The new report, put together by The Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), was among the most exhaustive investigations to date, according to Reuters. The report claims that the decisions made by BP in the days before the rig explosion are what led to the catastrophe. Among those were BP’s decision to ignore the safeguarding of the cement plug, and the oil company’s decision to only use one type of cement to seal the well. The report also said that the location that BP chose for the casing was very poor, making it difficult to access in an emergency.

The new report does lay some blame at the feet of other companies involved, including Transocean and Halliburton, but they said that at the end of the day, BP was in charge of the decision-making process, and therefore they are the responsible party. This is a far cry from a recent report by Marshall Islands investigators, who recently pinned the blame for the disaster on the rig workers themselves, rather than the companies involved in the rig’s management. The new report is on par with other reports that also put most of the blame on BP.


But the report wasn’t just another episode of the blame game, it actually offered solutions to prevent further disasters. The Associated Press notes the recommendations of the panel as follows:
  

The panel recommended further changes to offshore drilling practices, including requiring at least two barriers to be placed in a well — one mechanical, and one cement. The Macondo well had a single barrier, the cement seal at the bottom, so when the blowout happened the only thing to stop it was the blowout preventer. That didn't work, the panel says, because the kink in the pipe caused by the force of the blowout kept it out of reach of the safety device's shearing rams. The rams are supposed to pinch a well shut in an emergency by slicing through the well's drill pipe.
 

But the Coast Guard report isn’t the only problem that BP is having to deal with in regards to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Reports over the last few weeks have been surfacing about oil sheens appearing in the Gulf of Mexico around the “sealed off” Macondo well where the Deepwater Horizon rig was located. Today, a new report by Al Jazeera highlighted the seriousness of the new oil being found in the Gulf:
  

Al Jazeera flew to the area on Sunday, September 11, and spotted a swath of silvery oil sheen, approximately 7 km long and 10 to 50 meters wide, at a location roughly 19 km northeast of the now-capped Macondo 252 well.

Edward Overton, a professor emeritus at Louisiana State University's environmental sciences department, examined data from recent samples taken of the new oil. Overton, who is also a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contractor, told Al Jazeera, "After examining the data, I think it's a dead ringer for the MC252 [Macondo Well] oil, as good a match as I've seen".

While not ruling out the possibility that oil could be seeping out of the giant reservoir, which would be the worst-case scenario, Overton believes the oil currently reaching the surface is likely from oil that was trapped in the damaged rigging on the seafloor. He said the oil could either be leaking from the broken riser pipe that connected the Deepwater Horizon to the well, or that oil is leaking from the Deepwater Horizon itself.
 

Other scientists along the Gulf Coast are worried that the oil could actually be coming from the actual oil reserve itself – speculating fissures developing along the floor of the Gulf of Mexico are leaking oil from the 50 million gallon reservoir beneath the sand. While events like that are actually quite common, none have been known to create sheens as massive as the current one being tracked in the Gulf.

While it will be difficult to prove where the new oil is coming from without extensive underwater surveillance, one thing is for sure: The damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster will not be subsiding any time soon, and BP’s troubles will linger even longer.

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18:02

August 22 2011

20:03

Is Deepwater Horizon Rig Owner Trying To Blame Victims For Gulf Oil Disaster?

A new report released by authorities in the Marshall Islands says that the failure of oil rig workers to properly address safety issues led to last year's catastrophic blowout and explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The Deepwater Horizon was registered in the Marshall Islands by rig owner Transocean. Much like large ships, oil rigs are often registered in overseas territories for tax purposes.

The Marshall Islands report is one of the first to explicitly put the blame for the disaster on workers rather than the companies involved – BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron International. While the new report is not the first to claim that communications broke down in the moments leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it is the first to place the blame mostly on the backs of the people who did everything in their power to avert the disaster, while only casually mentioning the fact that BP’s actions and those of the other companies with a stake in the rig might have also helped cause the disaster.

From The Star Tribune:

In somewhat of a pass for Transocean, the report concluded that confusion regarding decision-making authority during the incident was not a cause of the disaster.

The report also recommended rig operators ensure that new crew members, contractors and visitors be told when they board about the roles and responsibilities of people in charge of the vessel, and how the chain of command works in emergencies.

The report also makes the claim that the oil rig was completely fit for service during the time of the explosion. This claim is contrary to previous reports that Halliburton’s cement mixture was substandard, that BP cut corners on rig safety to save money and forged inspection documents, and that the design of the blowout preventer made the device utterly worthless.

An investigation this past April also revealed that the Marshall Islands had failed in their duties to inspect the vessel, which could have potentially implicated the nation in the spate of lawsuits surrounding the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

This report is similar to a report released earlier this year by investigators at Transocean. The Transocean internal report placed the blame squarely on the backs of both BP and Halliburon for a mix of failures, but also claimed that their rig was fit for duty.

What the report ultimately does is vindicate rig owner Transocean from any wrongdoing in the matter. It also protects the Marshall Islands’ stake in offshore drilling vessel registrations.

As mentioned above, oil rigs are usually registered overseas to help cut down on tax liabilities. Transocean, a company based in Sweden, owns roughly 50% of all deepwater rigs in existence, with countless rigs registered in the Marshall Islands. So the Marshall Islands has a deep interest in making sure that Transocean remains free of blame in the matter – they have a lot to gain financially from the company.

However, a report by the U.S. Coast Guard shows that the two entities might be the ones responsible for the command breakdown that they are now blaming for the disaster. From the Coast Guard’s report:

Because of a ‘clerical error,’ by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, DEEPWATER HORIZON, was classified in a manner that permitted it to have a dual-command organizational structure under which the OIM was in charge when the vessel was latched on to the well, but the master was in charge when the MODU was underway between locations or in an emergency situation. When the explosions began, however, there was no immediate transfer of authority from the OIM to the master, and the master asked permission from the OIM to the master, and the master asked permission from the OIM to activate the vessel’s EDS. This command confusion at a critical point in the emergency may have impacted the decision to activate the EDS.”

The Republic of the Marshall Islands’ (RMI’) “clerical error” in listing DEEPWATER HORIZON as a self-propelled MODU instead of a dynamic positioned vessel enabled Transocean to implement a dual-command organizational structure on board the vessel. This arrangement may have impacted the decision to activate the vessel’s emergency disconnect system (EDS). Even though the master, who was responsible for the safety of his vessel, was in the CCR at the time of the well blowout, it cannot be conclusively determined whether his questionable reaction was due to his indecisiveness, a lack of training on how to activate the EDS or the failure to properly execute an emergency transfer of authority as required by the vessel’s operations manual. U.S. regulations do not address whether the master or OIM has the ultimate authority onboard foreign registered dynamic positioned MODUs operating on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.”

In essence, by blaming the crew and the breakdown in the chain of command in the run up to the explosion, both Transocean and the Marshall Islands are actually blaming themselves.

So far, every corporate entity involved in the Gulf oil disaster has attempted to put the blame onto someone else. And as long as oil continues to roll up onto our shores, it is unlikely that the blame game will end.

March 21 2011

19:09

March 10 2011

22:00

January 14 2011

16:32

Spill Report Accuses Jindal of Showboating

The presidential commission that investigated the gulf spill says that jockeying by local politicians often hampered the federal cleanup effort.

November 03 2010

13:52

For Jumpy Gulf Residents, a Trust Gap on Oil

Federal officials assert that surface oil has largely vanished from the gulf and that seafood from formerly oiled waters is safe to eat. Some fishermen and residents beg to differ

October 22 2010

18:44

Deadline Slips on an Oil Spill Report

The Coast Guard and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management now face a March 27 deadline for completing their inquiry.

July 22 2010

17:41

Stop the Sand Berms, Scientists Plead

"Please understand that this kind of brute force engineering would cause drastic changes to the coast," scientists tell the Coast Guard.

July 07 2010

17:39

A New Look for the Spill on the Web

The federal government has opened a new Web site for all oil-spill related news and will soon phase out the site that it jointly ran with BP from the start of the Gulf of Mexico disaster in April.

June 24 2010

16:13

Order and Chaos in a Bustling Cleanup

For all of the declarations that the Coast Guard is in charge of the gulf cleanup and that BP and federal officials want to be transparent with the news media, there are signs that the spill response command is not a clear top-down hierarchy.

June 15 2010

19:03

Waste Plan Grows Along With the Spill

In the eight weeks since the oil from Mississippi Canyon Block 252 started to mix with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the endgame of finding a place to put the all the resulting waste has gotten more complicated.
17:48

Aerial View of a Battle for Survival

A Coast Guard captain oversees much of the coastal protection effort in the gulf, from skimming and burning vast quantities of oil near the rig site to laying chains of containment boom to protect beaches, wetlands and wildlife.

June 08 2010

15:50

Tracking Oil Though the Food Web

A scientist at the California Academy of Sciences is using his experience tracking oil pollution residues in the shells of San Francisco Bay mollusks to understand the impact of the oil spill on the food web in the Gulf of Mexico.

June 07 2010

19:42

A Cautionary Word on Sand Berms

A new report from the United States Geological Survey warns that a move to protect coastal marshes from the oil spill by constructing a six-foot-high sand berm could prove ineffective.

June 02 2010

16:47

May 27 2010

18:57

Coast Guard Approves Protective Sand Barrier

Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard on Thursday approved part of a plan by Louisiana officials to repel oil from the BP spill by building a barrier of dredged sand along islands off the state's southeast coast.

May 24 2010

21:19

A Last-Gasp Airlift for Oily Birds

In an unusual and no doubt bewildering migration, a handful of birds oiled by the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico have been transported by military aircraft from coastal Louisiana to Florida and released at coastal wildlife refuges there.

May 22 2010

17:17

Could a Sand Barrier Do the Trick?

For almost two weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal has urged the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers to sign off on a plan to build almost 80 miles of sand bems along Louisiana's southeast coast.
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