President Obama visits oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

(This story was updated May 3 with BP comment)

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer
HOUSTON, May 2 -- President Barack Obama on May 2 visited Venice, La., vowing to do whatever it takes to stop the continuing crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which he called a "massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster."

Spill response officials in southern Louisiana said they received reports of oil reaching the shore but these reports have yet to be confirmed. Authorities noted high winds prevented any airplane flights low enough to the ground for officials to tell if oil had reached land in the Mississippi River delta area.

The deadly Apr. 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire has tested industry and governmental response capability. Transocean Ltd.’s semisubmersible rig was drilling a well for BP PLC in 4,992 ft of water when the explosion occurred, leaving 11 workers missing and presumed dead.

The spill, fed by an estimated 5,000 b/d of crude oil leaking from the BP Macondo well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252, resulted in an oil slick that is spreading. The slick forced shutdown of two production platforms and evacuation of one of them, halting production of 6.2 MMcfd of natural gas (OGJ Online, May 1, 2010).

Weather, which has had an effect on recent cleanup efforts, also played a role in Obama’s trip to the gulf coast. He flew into New Orleans and was driven to Venice where he made comments while standing in the rain outside a US Coast Guard office.

"BP is responsible for this leak,” Obama told reporters in Venice. “BP will be paying the bill."  He also said his administration has acted promptly to address the rig accident and resulting spill. A National Response Team involves 16 federal departments and agencies along with BP.

"From day one...we have prepared for the worst while we have hoped for the best,” Obama said.

BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward said the US government leadership has been "excellent," and Hayward said he had reiterated his commitment to the White House "that BP will do anything and everything we can to stop the leak, attack the spill offshore, and protect the shorelines of the gulf coast."

Hayward said BP teams "are working hand in hand" with government oil spill response teams.

BP continued trying to stop the flow of oil at the blowout preventer and was attempting to use a new technology for dispersing oil at the seabed. It also is fabricating a subsea containment apparatus. In addition, BP plans to drill a relief well with the Transocean Development Driller III semisubmersible, which is on site. Cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Halliburton responds
Halliburton, one of several service providers on the Deepwater Horizon, said it is cooperating with investigations into the accident. Among various services, Halliburton provided cementing. Four Halliburton employees safely got off the rig.

“Halliburton continues to assist in efforts to identify the factors that may have lead up to the disaster, but it is premature and irresponsible to speculate on any specific causal issues,” it said in an Apr. 30 news release.

Tests demonstrated the integrity of the production casing string before the accident, Halliburton said.

“Halliburton had completed the cementing of the final production casing string in accordance with the well design approximately 20 hours prior to the incident,” the company said. “The cement slurry design was consistent with that utilized in other similar applications.”

At the time of the rig explosion and fire, well operations had not yet reached the point requiring the placement of the final cement plug that would enable the planned temporary abandonment of the well, Halliburton said.

Spill recovery efforts
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano appointed US Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen as the National Incident Commander. Allen is working with Rear Adm. Mary Landry, the federal coordinator in Roberts, La.

“The inevitability of contact of the shoreline is really dependent on the weather,” Allen said during a May 1 news conference. “The fact of the matter is it’s likely to contact shore in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama at some point.” 

Allen said any estimate of the volume of leaking oil “is probably impossible at this time due to the depth of the water and our ability to try and assess that from remotely operated vehicles and video.”

He said he was concerned about the accumulation of oil on the water’s surface, noting the potential exists for the oil leak to continue for 45-90 days. One promising way to reduce the amount of oil reaching the surface is to apply chemical dispersants to the leaking riser pipe and wellhead.

“A test application was made, and it appeared visually to have an effect,” Allen said of subsurface application of dispersants. “We want to make sure by taking water samples and analyzing the impact of the dispersants that there’s not a deleterious effect on the ecosystem down there.”

He said the first priority is to stop the oil at the wellhead. “Second, we need to attack the oil that is there at sea with all means available,” such as skimming, dispersants, and burning the oil on the water’s surface.

Meanwhile, boom is being deployed to protect shorelines based on spill trajectories, he said.

“Finally, we need to recover and mitigate the impacted areas…. There are town hall meetings that have been held in southern Louisiana. We have elicited the aid of volunteer boatmen,” Allen said.

Military equipment assisting
The Department of Defense has provided two C-130 aircraft with Modular Aerial Spay Systems that can dispense the same chemical dispersants already being used by BP and federal responders.

A C-130 can cover 250-acres/flight with each aircraft capable of making up to three flights a day. Adm. Allen said he has asked the DOD for two more C130 aircraft.

The Navy is providing various oil pollution control equipment, including thousands of feet of inflatable boom with mooring equipment.

Federal authorities authorized mobilization of the Louisiana National Guard to help assist communities in the cleanup and removal of oil and to protect critical habitats from contamination. The government said BP is accountable for the National Guard deployment costs.

On May 2, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration restricted commercial and recreational fishing for a minimum of 10 days in federal waters largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay. The closure was effective immediately.
Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com

Related Articles

EPA approves Magellan’s Corpus Christi splitter project

12/12/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final greenhouse gas prevention of significant deterioration construction permit to Magellan Pr...

US needs more data before ending crude export ban, House panel told

12/11/2014 Much more environmental impact information is needed before the US can reasonably remove crude oil export limits, a witness told a House Energy and...

BOEM raises offshore oil spill liability limit to $134 million

12/11/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management increased the liability limit for oil-spill related damages from offshore operations to $134 million from ...

Small subset of wells accounts for most methane emissions, researchers say

12/09/2014 A small subset of natural gas wells are responsible for most methane emissions from US natural gas production, said a study from the University of ...

Methane controls just part of complete climate strategy, speakers say

12/08/2014 Reducing oil and gas operations’ methane emissions is an essential, but far from the only, part of a comprehensive climate strategy, speakers at a ...

Cost-benefit believability

12/08/2014 In anticipation of what might become the costliest federal regulation in US history, Congress should join the Supreme Court in reviewing the Enviro...

EPA air proposals should recognize progress, API official says

12/08/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency should recognize progress that is continuing before it considers imposing costly new air quality requirement...

EPA poses tighter ground-level ozone pollution controls

12/08/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing ground-level emissions limits to 65-70 ppb from its current level of 75 ppb. It also will ...

API: Producers reducing methane emissions already

12/05/2014 US oil and gas producers are reducing wellhead methane emissions already and don’t need ill-conceived, overly prescriptive federal regulations, Ame...

White Papers

AVEVA NET Accesses and Manages the Digital Asset

Global demand for new process plants, power plants and infrastructure is increasing steadily with the ...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Approach for the Digital Asset

To meet the requirements for leaner project execution and more efficient operations while transferring...
Sponsored by

Diversification - the technology aspects

In tough times, businesses seek to diversify into adjacent markets or to apply their skills and resour...
Sponsored by

Engineering & Design for Lean Construction

Modern marketing rhetoric claims that, in order to cut out expensive costs and reduce risks during the...
Sponsored by

Object Lessons - Why control of engineering design at the object level is essential for efficient project execution

Whatever the task, there is usually only one way to do it right and many more to do it wrong. In the c...
Sponsored by

Plant Design for Lean Construction - at your fingertips

One area which can provide improvements to the adoption of Lean principles is the application of mobil...
Sponsored by

How to Keep Your Mud System Vibrator Hose from Getting Hammered to Death

To prevent the vibrating hoses on your oilfield mud circulation systems from failing, you must examine...
Sponsored by

Duty of Care

Good corporate social responsibility means implementing effective workplace health and safety measures...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts


On Demand

Optimizing your asset management practices to mitigate the effects of a down market

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The oil and gas market is in constant flux, and as the price of BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) goes down it is increasingly important to optimize your asset management strategy to stay afloat.  Attend this webinar to learn how developing a solid asset management plan can help your company mitigate costs in any market.

register:WEBCAST


Parylene Conformal Coatings for the Oil & Gas Industry

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

In this concise 30-minute webinar, participants have an opportunity to learn more about how Parylene coatings are applied, their features, and the value they add to devices and components.

register:WEBCAST


Utilizing Predictive Analytics to Optimize Productivity in Oil & Gas Operations

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Join IBM on Tuesday, November 18 @ 1pm CST to explore how Predictive Analytics can help your organization maximize productivity, operational performance & associated processes to drive enterprise wide productivity and profitability.

register:WEBCAST


US HYDROCARBON EXPORTS Part 3 — LNG

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US LNG Exports, the third in a trilogy of webcasts focusing on the broad topic of US Hydrocarbon Exports.

A discussion of the problems and potential for the export of US-produced liquefied natural gas.

These and other topics will be discussed, with the latest thoughts on U.S. LNG export policy.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected