Jul 13, 2010 11:04 AM by Melissa Canone
A summary of events Tuesday, July 13, Day 84 of the Gulf of
Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on
the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and
leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment.
The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into
the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.
After securing a new, tight-fitting cap on top of the leaking
well in the Gulf of Mexico, BP prepared Tuesday to begin tests to
see if it will hold and stop fresh oil from polluting the waters
for the first time in nearly three months. The oil giant expects to
know within 48 hours if the new cap can stanch the flow. It landed
Monday after nearly three days of painstaking, around-the-clock
work a mile below the Gulf's surface. The solution is only
temporary, but it offers the best hope yet for cutting off the gush
of billowing brown oil.
The cap's installation was good news to weary Gulf Coast
residents who have warily waited for BP to make good on its promise
to clean up the mess. Still, they warned that even if the oil is
stopped, the consequences are far from over. "I think we're going
to see oil out in the Gulf of Mexico, roaming around, taking shots
at us, for the next year, maybe two," Billy Nungesser, president
of Louisiana's oil-stained Plaquemines Parish, said Monday. "If
you told me today no more oil was coming ashore, we've still got a
massive cleanup ahead."
The cap will be tested by closing off three separate valves that
fit together snugly, choking off the oil from entering the Gulf. BP
expects no oil will be released into the ocean during the tests,
but remained cautious about the success of the system. Pipes can be
hooked to the cap to funnel oil to collection ships if BP decides
the cap can't take the pressure of the gusher, or if low pressure
readings indicate oil is leaking from elsewhere in the well. BP
will be watching pressure readings. High pressure is good, because
it would mean the leak has been contained inside the wellhead
machinery. But if readings are lower than expected, that could mean
there is another leak elsewhere in the well.
Even if the cap works, the blown-out well must still be plugged.
A permanent fix will have to wait until one of two relief wells
being drilled reaches the broken well, which will then be plugged
up with drilling mud and cement. That may not happen until
Even if the flow of oil is choked off while BP works on a
permanent fix, the spill has already damaged everything from beach
tourism to the fishing industry. Tony Wood, director of the
National Spill Control School at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi said the
sloppiest of the oil - mousse-like brown stuff that has not yet
broken down - will keep washing ashore for several months, with the
volume slowly decreasing over time. He added that hardened tar
balls could keep hitting beaches and marshes each time a major
storm rolls through for a year or more. Those tar balls are likely
trapped for now in the surf zone, gathering behind sand bars just
like sea shells.
Rebuffed twice by the courts, the Obama administration is taking
another crack at a moratorium on deep-water drilling, stressing new
evidence of safety concerns and no longer basing the moratorium on
water depth. But those who challenge the latest ban question
whether it complies with a judge's ruling tossing out the first
one. The new order does not appear to deviate much from the
original moratorium. It still targets deep-water drilling operators
but defines them in a different way.
The first public hearing by a presidential oil spill panel
Monday zeroed in on the relationship between BP and the company it
hired to drill the now exploded rig. In an effort to fight a new
drilling moratorium, a rival drilling executive and a Louisiana
congressman said other oil operators shouldn't be tarred because of
one bad apple: BP's Deepwater Horizon rig. Larry Dickerson,
president of a rival drilling company, told commissioners the April
20 explosion and resulting oil spill were "the result of reckless
operating mistakes." He said errors were likely made in monitoring
drilling mud, in decisions on when to use the blowout preventer and
about whether BP PLC or its contractor, Transocean Ltd., was in
charge of safety.
The Coast Guard has modified a policy on safety zones around
boom deployed on oiled coastlines, a policy news organizations had
said unnecessarily restricted coverage of the impact of the BP oil
spill and efforts to clean it up. In a statement Monday night, the
government's point man for the spill, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad
Allen, said new procedures permit credentialed news media free
travel within the boom safety zones. He says "clear, unfettered
access" has two exceptions: safety and security concerns. News
organizations, including The Associated Press, had argued being
kept at least 65 feet away from the boom impeded the ability to
cover the spill.