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Gulf Oil Spill Left Rhode Island-Sized Oily ‘Bathtub Ring’ On Seafloor, Study Finds
By SETH BORENSTEIN
WASHINGTON (AP) — The BP oil spill left an oily “bathub ring” on the sea floor that’s about the size of Rhode Island, new research shows.
The study by David Valentine, the chief scientist on the federal damage assessment research ships, estimates that about 10 million gallons of oil coagulated on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico around the damaged Deepwater Horizons oil rig.
Valentine, a geochemistry professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, said the spill from the Macondo well left other splotches containing even more oil. He said it is obvious where the oil is from, even though there were no chemical signature tests because over time the oil has degraded.
“There’s this sort of ring where you see around the Macondo well where the concentrations are elevated,” Valentine said. The study, published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calls it a “bathtub ring.”
Oil levels inside the ring were as much as 10,000 times higher than outside the 1,200-square-mile ring, Valentine said. A chemical component of the oil was found on the sea floor, anywhere from two-thirds of a mile to a mile below the surface.
The rig blew on April 20, 2010, and spewed 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf through the summer. Scientists are still trying to figure where all the oil went and what effects it had.
BP questions the conclusions of the study. In an email, spokesman Jason Ryan said, “the authors failed to identify the source of the oil, leading them to grossly overstate the amount of residual Macondo oil on the sea floor and the geographic area in which it is found.”
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Offshore oil rig explodes in Gulf of Mexico, west of massive BP blast and oil spill: via Coast Guard
Offshore oil rig explodes in Gulf of Mexico, west of massive BP blast and oil spill: Coast Guard
An offshore oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, west of the site of the April BP blast that caused the massive oil spill.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Casey Ranel says the blast was reported by a commercial helicopter company about 9:30 a.m. CDT Thursday.
Seven helicopters, two airplanes and four boats are en route to the site, about 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay along the central Louisiana coast.
Ranel says it hasn’t been determined whether the structure is a production platform or a drilling rig or whether workers were aboard. Ranel says smoke was reported but it is unclear whether the rig is still burning.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BP says it might drill again in spill reservoir
By GREG BLUESTEIN and HARRY R. WEBER, Associated Press Writers
BP PLC said Friday it might someday drill again into the same lucrative undersea pocket of oil that spilled millions of gallons of crude, wrecked livelihoods and fouled beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
“There’s lots of oil and gas here,” Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said at a news briefing. “We’re going to have to think about what to do with that at some point.”
The vast oil reservoir beneath the blown well is still believed to hold nearly $4 billion worth of crude. With the company and its partners facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities, the incentive to exploit the wells and the reservoir could grow.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said he had no information on BP’s future plans.
“I would assume that’s a policy issue related to the management of the lease,” he told reporters. “Frankly, it hasn’t been raised to my level at this point. I’m not sure I can comment on it.”
Suttles has spent more than three months managing BP’s response efforts on the Gulf but is now returning to his day job in Houston, the company said. Mike Utsler, a vice president who has been running BP’s command post in Houma, La., since April, will replace him.
The personnel shift comes as BP appears to be gaining the upper hand on plugging the leak, triggered when an oil rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the massive spill.
Engineers this week poured in cement to complete a plug at the top of the well bore as part of a process dubbed a “static kill,” but they needed to wait at least a day for it to harden. Once it does, crews can finish the last stretch of a relief well intersecting the blown well just above the oil’s source, injecting more mud and cement from the bottom to form a final plug.
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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jason Dearen in Pass-A-Loutre, La., Jennifer Kay in Pensacola Beach, Fla., Brian Skoloff in Pass Christian, Miss., Jeffrey Collins and Jeff McMillan in New Orleans, and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.
New garbage patch discovered in Indian Ocean
Scientists previously mapped huge floating trash patches in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but now a husband-wife team researching plastic garbage in the Indian Ocean suggest a new and dire view. “The world’s oceans are covered with a thin plastic soup,” says Anna Cummins, cofounder of 5 Gyres Institute.
Cummins and her husband, Marcus Eriksen, established the 5 Gyres Institute to research plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. The team works in collaboration with Algalita Marine Research Foundation and Pangaea Explorations, two nonprofit scientific organizations devoted to marine preservation. They report that all of the 12 water samples collected in the 3,000 miles between Perth, Australia, and Port Louis, Mauritius (an island due East of Madagascar), contain plastic.
Their findings support earlier research about trash washed onto beaches in and around the Indian Ocean, and it’s already been well established that there’s an enormous amount of plastic trash swirling in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean Gyres.
Gyres are powerful rotating currents in the world’s major oceans. The five large subtropical gyres are located in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian oceans. Once plastic makes its way into the ocean (through sewers, streams, rivers, or from the coast), it is ultimately swept up and trapped in these gyres and forms a swirling soup of garbage.
“There is no island of trash,” says Anna Cummins, cofounder of 5 Gyres Institute. “It’s a myth.” Instead, she says the garbage patches resemble plastic soup or confetti. “We now have a third accumulation zone of plastic pollution that shows compounding evidence that the trash isn’t condensed to an island,” she says. “It’s spread out across the entire gyre from coast to coast.”
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By TIM MARTIN, Associated Press Writer
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – Federal officials now estimate that more than 1 million gallons of oil may have spilled into a major river in southern Michigan, and the governor is sharply criticizing clean-up efforts as “wholly inadequate.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the update Wednesday night, shortly after Gov. Jennifer Granholm lambasted attempts to contain the oil flowing down the Kalamazoo River. She warned of a “tragedy of historic proportions” if the oil reaches Lake Michigan, which is still at least 80 miles downstream from where oil has been seen.
Granholm called on the federal government for more help, saying resources being marshaled by the EPA and Enbridge Inc., which owns the pipeline that leaked the oil, were “wholly inadequate.”
Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge said earlier Wednesday that it had redoubled its efforts to clean up the mess. Chief executive Patrick D. Daniel said the company had made “significant progress,” though he had no update on a possible cause, cost or timeframe for the cleanup. The company didn’t return messages for comment after Granholm’s statements.
The overall work force on the spill Wednesday was likely more than 400 people.
EPA officials said they’re ramping up efforts with air and water testing. Local officials said they weren’t concerned about municipal water supplies.
Houston-based Enbridge Energy Co. spilled almost 19,000 gallons of crude oil onto Wisconsin’s Nemadji River in 2003. Another 189,000 gallons of oil spilled at the company’s terminal two miles from Lake Superior, though most was contained.
In 2007, two spills released about 200,000 gallons of crude in northern Wisconsin as Enbridge was expanding a 320-mile pipeline. The company also was accused of violating Wisconsin permits designed to protect water quality during work in and around wetlands, rivers and streams, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said. The violations came during construction of a 321-mile, $2 billion oil pipeline across that state. Enbridge agreed to pay $1.1 million in 2009.
The Michigan leak came from a 30-inch pipeline, which was built in 1969 and carries about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.
The river already faced major pollution issues.
An 80-mile segment of the river that begins at Morrow Lake and five miles of a tributary, Portage Creek, have unsafe levels of PCBs and were placed on the federal Superfund list of high-priority hazardous waste sites in 1990. The Kalamazoo site also includes four landfills and several defunct paper mills.
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800,000+ gallons of oil spill into a southern Michigan river…
By TIM MARTIN, Associated Press Writer
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – A company operating a pipeline that dumped more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a southern Michigan river says it’s doubling its work force on the containment and cleanup effort.
Officials with Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc. made the announcement during a Wednesday update on the spill. The company had about 200 employees and contractors working on the spill a day earlier.
The Environmental Protection Agency also is bringing in additional contractors.
Oil leaking from a 30-inch pipeline coated birds and fish as it poured into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, one of the state’s major waterways, before it was shut off Monday.
Enbridge estimates 819,000 gallons spilled. The state says it was told during a company briefing an estimated 877,000 gallons spilled.
The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected, a piece of good news that raises tricky new questions about how fast the government should scale back its response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion are largely gone, though there continue to be sightings of tar balls and emulsified oil here and there.
Reporters flying over the area Sunday spotted only a few patches of sheen and an occasional streak of thicker oil, and radar images taken since then suggest that these few remaining patches are quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf.
John Amos, president of SkyTruth, an advocacy group that sharply criticized the early, low estimates of the size of the BP leak, noted that no oil had gushed from the well for nearly two weeks.
“Oil has a finite life span at the surface,” Mr. Amos said Tuesday, after examining fresh radar images of the slick. “At this point, that oil slick is really starting to dissipate pretty rapidly.”
The response itself has become the principal livelihood for thousands of fishermen and other workers whose lives were upended by the oil spill. More than 1,400 fishing boats and other vessels have been hired to help deploy coastal barriers and perform other cleanup tasks. Those fishermen are unconvinced that the gradual disappearance of oil on the surface means they will be able to return to work soon.
“Surface is one thing; you know that’s going to dissipate and all,” said Mickey Johnson, who owns a shrimp boat in Bayou La Batre, Ala., pointing out that shrimpers trawl near the sea floor.
“Our whole big concern has always been the bottom,” Mr. Johnson said.
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – The US Coast Guard dispatched emergency teams Tuesday after a boat crashed into an oil well off the coast of New Orleans, reportedly sending crude spewing some 20 feet into the air.
The wellhead, located about 65 miles (104 kilometers) south of New Orleans, was ruptured when it was struck by a dredge barge being pulled by a tug.
The Coast Guard said it could not immediately confirm reports that a giant fountain of oil was now spewing from the damaged wellhead, which was situated only six feet (1.8 meters) below the surface of the sea.
A strike Coast Guard team from Mobile, Alabama had been dispatched by boat to the scene as well as a helicopter from New Orleans with a marine pollution investigator on board.
“There have been reports of oil from the elision and we are investigating those reports to mitigate any environmental concerns,” petty officer William Colclough, a Coast Guard spokesman, told AFP.
“The oil spill liability trust fund has been enacted to provide monetary support for any clean-up operation.”
Unrelated to the massive gusher recently capped by BP deep down on the seabed, the incident did occur in a nearby part of the Gulf of Mexico and could require clean-up vessels to be redeployed if reports are confirmed.