Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Worlds largest skimmer has arrived in the Gulf of Mexico to fight largest spill in Gulf history
BP spill a somber record as Gulf's biggest
This man mad(e) undersea oil volcano already has surpassed the 140 million gallon mark, eclipsing the record-setting Ixtoc I spill off Mexico's coast from 1979 to 1980. Even by the lower end of the government's estimates, at least 71.2 million gallons are in the Gulf. This though is much worse and catastrophic because of it's proximity and depth.
The growing total is crucial to track, in part because London-based BP PLC is likely to be fined per gallon spilled, said Larry McKinney, director of Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi's Gulf of Mexico research institute. "It's an important number to know because it has an impact on restoration and recovery," McKinney said.Based on federal law, BP and partners Anadarko Petroleum and Mitsui & Co. also face a minimum fine of $1000 per barrel of oil spilled, ... That's roughly $654 per gallon in today's dollars. Wow, wow, wow!
The oil calculation is based on the higher end of the government's range of barrels leaked per day, minus the amount BP says it has collected from the blown-out well using two containment systems. Measuring it helps scientists figure out where the missing oil is, hidden below the water surface with some even stuck to the seafloor. Oil not at the surface damages different parts of the ecosystem.
"It's a mind-boggling number any way you cut it," said Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University environmental studies professor who consults for the federal government on oil spills. "It'll be well beyond Ixtoc by the time it's finished." 140 million gallons times $650 per gallon by my calculation is 91, 560, 000,000! Can they pay that? Can they survive that?
Passing Ixtoc just before the July Fourth weekend, a time of normally booming tourism, is bitter timing said Overton. The BP spill is also the largest spill ever recorded offshore during peacetime But it's not the biggest in history. That happened when Iraqi forces opened valves at a terminal and dumped about 460 million gallons of oil in 1991 during the Persian Gulf war. I still say this is much worse because of the sensitive area it is in being in the breeding grounds for 40% of our shellfish and fish let alone its proximity to the gulf stream that will be sending its lethal toxicity around the world.
To make things worse as the Gulf gusher neared the record, Hurricane Alex whipped oil-filled waves onto the Gulf Coast's once-white beaches. The government has pinned its latest cleanup hopes on a huge new piece of equipment: the world's largest oil-skimming vessel, which arrived Wednesday. This is awesome in its size and amount of water it can clean if it works as hoped as it is of yet untested. This is baptism by fire for sure!
Officials hope the ship can scoop up to 21 million gallons of oil-fouled water a day. Dubbed the "A Whale," the Taiwanese-flagged former tanker spans the length of 3 1/2 football fields and is 10 stories high. It just emerged from an extensive retrofitting to prepare it specifically for the Gulf. "It is absolutely gigantic. It's unbelievable," said Overton, who saw the ship last week in Norfolk, Va.
The vessel looks like a typical tanker, but it takes in contaminated water through 12 vents on either side of the bow. The oil is then supposed to be separated from the water and transferred to another vessel. The water is channeled back into the sea. But the ship's never been tested, and many questions remain about how it will operate. For instance, the seawater retains trace amounts of oil, even after getting filtered, so the Environmental Protection Agency will have to sign off on allowing the treated water back into the Gulf.
Giant oil skimmer being tested in Gulf
watch the video of the tests in the Gulf
"This is a no-brainer," Overton said. "You're bringing in really dirty, oily water and you're putting back much cleaner water." The Coast Guard will have the final say in whether the vessel can operate in the Gulf. The owner, shipping firm TMT Group, will have to come to separate terms with BP, which is paying for the cleanup.Coast Guard has final say? Hurry up full speed ahead!
"I don't know whether it's going to work or not, but it certainly needs to be given the opportunity," Overton said. World's largest oil skimmer heads to Gulf spill
Meanwhile along parts of the Gulf, red flags snapped in strong gusts, warning people to stay out of the water, and long stretches of beach were stained brown from tar balls and crude oil that had been pushed as far as 60 yards from the water.
Hurricane Alex churned up rough seas as it plowed across the Gulf, dealing a tough setback to cleanup operations. It made landfall along a relatively unpopulated stretch of coast in Mexico's northern Tamaulipas state late Wednesday, spawning tornadoes in nearby Texas and forcing evacuations in both countries. Alex weakened to a tropical storm Thursday morning as it moved across Mexico.
Oil deposits appeared worse than in past days with oil in Lake Ponchetrane which really bothers me, and it has hit Texas also local officials feared the temporary halt to skimming operations near the coast would only make matters worse ahead of the holiday weekend. Good luck and God speed I say!