OGJ Senior Staff Writer
HOUSTON, Aug. 12 -- The US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are considering how to expand and coordinate oil tracking efforts to include Gulf of Mexico coastal state officials and others, a spill response official said.
National Incident Commander and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said questions have been raised since NOAA reported 74% of the oil spilled from BP PCL’s Macondo well has evaporated or been burned, skimmed, dispersed, and recovered. NOAA’s report also called for more research (OGJ, Aug. 9, 2010, p. 28).
“I think what we’d like to do is go out there and make sure we absolutely have a coordinated effort: federal, state, and local,” Allen told reporters during an Aug. 11 conference call. “What we’d like to do is create an integrated monitoring system…now that the well is capped.”
NOAA’s report prompted questions about the rate of the oil’s biodegradation. Pedro Alvarez, Rice University chairman of civil and environmental engineering, said the report did not include specific date on which its conclusions were based.
“The bottom line is that 26% of the estimated release remains as an oily phase,” Alvarez said. “This does not mean the remaining 74% of the spill has been solved. Most of that has not been removed as implied by the report. Most of that 74% is still in the water, migrating and spreading, and also possibly degrading.”
More than 25 government and independent scientists contributed to calculating the remaining oil. NOAA’s report was based upon an estimated 4.9 million bbl of oil total released by the well as calculated by the government's Flow Rate Technical Group. BP captured 800,000 bbl.
Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator, said, "Less oil on the surface does not mean that there isn't oil still in the water column or that our beaches and marshes aren't still at risk. Knowing generally what happened to the oil helps us better understand areas of risk and likely impacts."
The oil spill stemmed from a blowout of the Macondo well in 5,000 ft of water on Mississippi Canyon Block 252. Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilled the well for BP and its partners. A fire and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 people.
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