What would a hurricane do to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:57 PM GMT on May 26, 2010

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Hurricane season is upon us next week, and the Deepwater Horizon blowout is still spewing a geyser of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. With this year's hurricane season likely to be a severe one, with much above average numbers of hurricanes and intense hurricanes, we have the unwholesome prospect of a hurricane churning through the largest accidental oil spill in history. A hurricane has never passed over a sizable oil spill before, so there are a lot of unknowns about what might happen. The closest call came in 1979, after the greatest accidental oil spill in history, the massive Ixtoc I blowout. That disaster dumped 3 million barrels (126 million gallons) of oil into the Southern Gulf of Mexico between June 1979 and March 1980. Category 1 Hurricane Henri passed just north of the main portion of the oil spill on September 16 and 17, generating 15 foot seas and southwest winds of 15 - 25 knots over the spill region on the 16th. Interestingly, the NOAA/AOML report on the spill found that the winds did not blow long enough or strongly enough to control the direction of oil flow, as evidenced by the fact that the wind direction was often 180° to the direction of plume flow. The main impact of the wind was to dilute the oil and weather it, converting it to a thick "mousse".

Oil and beaches
During the Ixtoc spill, prevailing currents circulating clockwise from the blowout carried a 60-mile by 70-mile patch of sheen containing a 300 foot by 500 foot patch of heavy crude 900 miles to the South Texas coast. On August 6, 1979, tarballs from the spill impacted a 17 mile stretch of Texas beach. Mousse patches impacted the shoreline north of Port Mansfield Channel on August 15 and again on August 18. On August 24, mousse impacted shoreline south of Aransas Pass. By August 26, most of North Padre Island was covered with moderate amounts of oil. By September 1, all of the south Texas coast had been impacted by oil. However, Hurricane Henri formed in the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche on September 17 - 18. At the same time, a strong non-tropical low pressure system formed along the Texas coast, bringing gale-force winds and rainfall amounts in excess of ten inches to the coast. The combination of swells from Hurricane Henri and wind-driven waves from the non-tropical low pressure system scoured the oiled beaches of over 90% of their oil (Gundlach et al., 1981). The oil washed over the barrier islands into the estuaries behind them, and much of it sank to the bottom of the ocean. According to NOAA, impacts to the estuaries were minor. However, Payne and McNabb (1984) noted that selected regions of the coast, most of the beached oil was heavily resistant to transport during storms. Oil/sediment mats were ultimately covered by clean sand, but the oil/sediment mats were re-exposed and washed into the lagoon behind the barrier islands one year later when Category 3 Hurricane Allen battered the coast. No transport of the oil/sediment mats from the lagoon bottom was observed in the 3-year period following Hurricane Allen.

So, the Ixtoc blowout experience shows us that if a sandy beach is already fouled by oil, a hurricane can help clean up the mess. However, the situation is different along shores with marshlands, where the many shoreline plants offer crevices and tangled roots for the oil to accumulate in. A hurricane will help scour some of the oil out of marshlands, but the majority of it will probably remain stuck. This is also true of rocky beaches. Rocky shores fouled by the great Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 have been pounded by many hurricane-strength storms over the years, but these storms were not able to clean the beaches of oil like Hurricane Henri did for Texas' beaches in 1979.

Transport of oil by hurricanes
Shores that are already fouled by oil will probably benefit from a hurricane, but the oil cleaned off of those shores then becomes someone else's problem. The strong winds and powerful ocean currents that a hurricane's winds drive will bring oil to large stretches of coast that otherwise would not have gotten oil. This is my chief concern regarding a hurricane moving through the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Consider the case of the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. The ill-fated tanker split open in Prince William Sound on March 24, and oil spill response crews were initially able to contain the spill behind booms and make good progress removing it. However, two days later, a powerful Gulf of Alaska storm with 70 mph winds roared through, overwhelming the containment booms and distributing the oil along a 90-mile stretch of coast. The oil went on to foul over 400 miles of Alaska coast, a far larger disaster than would have occurred than if the storm had not passed by. Similarly, a hurricane moving through the Gulf of Mexico spill will very likely make the disaster much worse, spreading out the oil over a larger region, and bringing the oil to shores that otherwise might not have seen oil. It is true that the oil will be diluted some by being spread out over a larger area, so some shores will not see a substantial oiling. But overall, a hurricane passing through the oil spill is likely to result in much higher damage to the coast.

I expect that during the peak portion of hurricane season (August - October), the clockwise-rotating eddy that is attempting to cut off from the Loop Current this week will be fully separated from the Loop Current. The separation of this eddy will substantially reduce the possibility that significant amounts of oil will reach the Florida Keys and Southeast U.S. coast, since the Loop Current will be much farther south, flowing more due east towards the Keys from the Yucatan Channel. Oil moving southwards from the spill location due to a hurricane's winds will tend to get trapped in the 250-mile wide eddy, potentially covering most of the surface of the eddy with oil. Thus we might have a 250-mile wide spinning oil slick in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico for days or weeks after a hurricane. This could potentially have a significant warming effect on the Gulf waters, since the oil is dark and will absorb sunlight, and the oil will prevent evaporation from cooling the waters underneath it. Since Loop Current eddies contain a large amount of very warm water that extend to great depth, they often act as high-octane fuel for hurricanes that pass over. The rapid intensification of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were both aided by the passage of those storms over Loop Current eddies. Thus the warming of the Loop Current Eddy by oil pulled into it by a passing hurricane or tropical storm could lead to explosive intensification of the next hurricane that passes over the eddy.

The Loop Current Eddy will move slowly westwards toward Texas at about 4 miles per day after it fully cuts off. When it reaches the shallow waters near the Texas coast in early 2011, the eddy will turn northwards and gradually dissipate, By then, I expect that the vast majority of the oil in the eddy will have dispersed, sunk, or evaporated.

Storm surge and oil
One of the more unnerving prospects to consider if a hurricane hits the oil spill is what the hurricane's storm surge might do with the oil/dispersant mixture. The foul mix would ride inland on top of the surge, potentially fouling residential areas and hundreds of square miles of sensitive ecosystems with the toxic stew. The impacts of the oil and dispersant on vegetation may be too low to cause significant damage, since the hurricane would dilute the mixture with a large amount of sea water, and wash much of the toxic brew off the vegetation with heavy rain. We do have some limited experience with oil spills during Hurricane Katrina's storm surge to shed light on the subject. Katrina's storm surge caused over 8 million gallons of oil to spill into the storm surge waters. The largest spill occurred when the storm surge hit the Murphy Oil refinery in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. According to Santella et al. (2010), The refinery was inundated with 12 feet of water, and a partially filled 250,000-barrel above ground storage tank was dislodged and ruptured, releasing 25,100 barrels (1.05 million gallons) of mixed crude oil. Dikes surrounding the oil tanks at the refinery were flooded and breached and oil from the spill covered a residential area of approximately one square mile affecting approximately 1,800 homes. Front-end loaders were needed to remove the oily sediments from the area. A class action lawsuit resulted from the spill, ending in a $330 million settlement with a buy-out of properties closest to the spill and graded compensation in a larger zone. Katrina also caused a 139,000-gallon crude oil leak from a 20-inch pipeline at Shell Nairn Pipeline Company in Port Sulphur, Louisiana. Approximately 10,500 gallons of the spill reached the shoreline and coastal marshes, and only 10,700 gallons were recovered. This release resulted in a $5.5 million class action settlement to nearby property owners (http://www.nairnclaims.com). I haven't been able to find any information on how the marshlands fared after getting oiled by this spill.

Katrina's storm surge also destroyed an oil tank at Chevron's Empire facility, releasing oil into a retention pond in a region surrounded by marshland. Three and half weeks later, Hurricane Rita's storm surge hit the oily mess in the retention pond, washing 4,000 - 8,000 gallons of oil into nearby marshlands, which were heavily or moderately oiled. According to the EPA and Merten et al. (2008), the oiled marshlands were set on fire six weeks after the spill, resulting in 80-90% removal of the oil and contaminated vegetation. The marshland recovered fairly quickly, as seen in aerial photos taken five months after the burn (Figure 1)--though oil still remained in the roots, affecting burrowing crabs and the wildlife that feed on them. So, oiled marshes can recover somewhat from a storm-surge driven oiling, but it is uncertain if burning could be successfully used to restore a 100+ square mile region of marshland oiled by the storm surge from a major hurricane. Another big unknown is how toxic BP's dispersants might be to the vegetation.


Figure 1. Upper left: oiled marshlands as seen on October 10, 2005, near Chevron's Empire facility, after the storm surges of Katrina and Rita. Right: The marshlands on March 16, 2006, five months after the controlled burn. The marshlands had largely recovered. Bottom: the controlled burn in progress (October 12, 2005.) Image credit: Merten, A.A., Henry, C., and J. Michel, 2008, Decision-making process to use in-situ burning to restore an oiled intermediate marsh following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 2008 International Oil Spill Conference.

Wind and oil
The winds from a hurricane hurl ocean sea spray miles inland, often causing major defoliation and tree damage far beyond where the storm surge penetrates. For example, Category 2 Hurricane Bob of 1991 blew sea spray inland 4 miles (7 km) inland over Cape Cod. The salt deposited defoliated nearly all the deciduous trees along the coast. Kerr, 2000 document the case of Category 2 Typhoon Gay of November 23, 1992, which hit the 15-km wide island of Guam with 95 - 100 mph winds. Interaction with another typhoon disrupted Gay's thunderstorm activity, resulting in a nearly rainless typhoon for Guam. As a result, heavy amounts of salt coated the entire island, resulting in nearly complete defoliation. The salt didn't actually kill many plants, and the island re-greened within a year. The Category 3 New England Hurricane of 1938 was able to cause salt damage to trees as far as 45 miles inland, due to wind-blown sea spray. Thus we can anticipate that a hurricane passing over the oil spill will be able to hurl oil and toxic dispersants many miles inland during landfall. In regions where little rain falls, the concentrations of the oil and dispersants may be a problem. Again, we have no experience with this sort of situation, so the potential risks are unknown.

Rain and oil
Hurricanes evaporate huge amounts of water from the ocean and convert it to rain. In general, we do not need to worry about oil dissolving into the rain, since the oil and water don't mix. Furthermore, about 50-70% of the oil that is going to evaporate from the spill does so in the first 12 hours that the oil reaches the surface, so the volatile oil compounds that could potentially get dissolved into rain water won't be around. Hurricanes are known to carry sea salt and microscopic marine plankton hundreds of miles inland, since the strong updrafts of the storm can put these substances high in the troposphere where they can be carried far inland as the hurricane makes landfall. The Eastern Pacific's Hurricane Nora of 1997, whose remnants passed over Southern California, brought traces of sea salt and marine microorganisms to clouds over the central U.S. similarly, we can expect any landfalling hurricanes that pass over the oil spill to pick up traces of Gulf of Mexico crude and transport it hundreds of miles inland. However, I doubt that these traces would be detectable in rainwater except by laboratory analysis, and would not cause any harm to plants or animals.

Lightning and oil
Could a lightning strike from a hurricane ignite oil from the spill, and the hurricane's winds hurl the flaming oil inland, creating a fiery maelstrom of water, wind, and flame? This would make a great scene in a typical bad Hollywood disaster movie, but it's not going to happen with the universe's current laws of physics. Lightning could set an oil slick on fire, in regions where the oil is most dense and very fresh. About 50-70% of the evaporation of oil's most flammable volatile compounds occurs in the first 12 hours after release, so fresh oil is the most likely to ignite. However, the winds of a hurricane are so fierce that any surface oil slick of flaming oil would quickly be disrupted and doused by wave action and sea spray. Heavy rain would further dampen any lightning-caused oil slick fires.

Bringing oil at depth to the surface
Hurricanes act like huge blenders that plow through the ocean, thoroughly mixing surface waters to depths as great as 200 meters (650 feet), and pulling waters from depth to the surface. Thus if sub-surface plumes of oil are located within 200 meters of the surface, a hurricane could potentially bring them to the surface. However, the huge sub-surface plumes of oil found by the research vessel Pelican were at depths of 2300 - 4200 feet, and a hurricane will not affect the ocean circulation at those depths.

Comparisons of the Deepwater Horizon blowout with Exxon Valdez
One footnote to consider when comparing the Deepwater Horizon blowout to the disastrous March 24, 1989 Exxon Valdez spill: the amount of oil spilled in that disaster is usually quoted as 11 million gallons (260,000 barrels.) However, this is the number given by Exxon Mobil, and independent assessments by the State of Alaska came up with a much higher figure--24 to 36 million gallons, with state investigators stressing that the lower number was very unlikely. I'd be inclined to believe Exxon grossly understated the actual severity of the spill, much like BP is attempting to do with the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Steven Wereley, an associate professor at Purdue University, used a computer analysis (particle image velocimetry) to arrive at a rate of 95,000 barrels (4 million gallons) per day since the April 20 blowout, nearly 20 times greater than the 5,000 barrel a day estimate BP and government scientists have been citing. If he is correct, and the State of Alaska's figures on the Exxon Valdez disaster are correct, the Deepwater Horizon blowout so far has spilled five times the oil Exxon Valdez did.

References
Gundlach, E.R., Finkelstein, K.J., and J.L. Sadd, "Impact and Persistence of Ixtoc I Oil on the South Texas Coast", Proceedings: 1981 Oil Spill Conference (Prevention, Behavior, Control, Cleanup) March 2-5, 1981, Atlanta, GA. p 477-485.

Kerr, A.M., 2000, "Defoliation of an island (Guam, Mariana
Archipelago, Western Pacific Ocean) following a saltspray-laden
dry typhoon," Journal of Tropical Ecology 16:895901.

Merten, A.A., Henry, C., and J. Michel, 2008, Decision-making process to use in-situ burning to restore an oiled intermediate marsh following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 2008 International Oil Spill Conference.

Payne, J.R. and D. McNabb, Jr., "Weathering of Petroleum in the Marine Environment", Marine Technology Society Journal 18, 3, Third Quarter 1984.

Santella, N., Steinberg, L.J., and H. Sengul, 2010,Petroleum and Hazardous Material Releases from Industrial Facilities Associated with Hurricane Katrina, Risk Analyis, Volume 30, Issue 4, Pages 635-649, Published Online: 16 Mar 2010

90L
I've been focused more on the oil spill, and will have just a limited discussion of (90L) off the South Carolina coast. The storm has changed little over the past 24 hours, and doesn't have time to develop into a subtropical storm, before an approaching trough of low pressure pulls the system out to sea Thursday and Friday. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is giving 90L a less than 10% chance of developing into a depression or tropical/subtropical storm, and anticipates not writing any more special advisories on 90L. There presently isn't much to be concerned with about this storm, though Bermuda may get more heavy rain and high seas from the storm late this week as it moves out to sea. Wunderbloggers Weather456 and StormW have more on 90L.

Central American disturbance
An area of disturbed weather has developed just off the Pacific coast of Mexico. The disturbance will bring heavy rains to Central America during the remainder of the week, potentially bringing serious flooding rains to portions of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. There is the potential for disturbed weather accompanying the disturbance to push into the Western Caribbean early next week and pose a threat to develop into a tropical depression. While there is high wind shear over the northern Caribbean, shear should be low enough to allow development should the disturbance stay in the southern reaches of the Caribbean. Any storm that develops in the Caribbean in the coming week would get steered to the northeast and will not pose a threat to the Gulf of Mexico.

Jeff Masters

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1641. xcool
JLPR true that..
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Get used to it, if the 2010 season is as active as everyone believes it will be, then there will be a lot of late nights


This reminds me of some quotes I read in a few stories today.

"THE REAL THREAT''
Despite all the focus on the Gulf and BP's oil spill, Read said Haiti, where more than 300,000 people died in January's earthquake, was probably what keeps him awake the most these days.

"My number one concern this year is Haiti,'' said Read, who noted that up to 1 million people made homeless by the quake were still living in tent cities or makeshift shelters with little or no protection from the elements. "We have the potential for another catastrophe there,'' Read said of Haiti. Link


Read said his biggest concern for the upcoming Atlantic storm season is the potential for a new catastrophe in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have been living under flimsy tents since the Jan. 12 earthquake. Heavy rains are enough to trigger flooding and landslides in the mountainous Caribbean country, but no evacuation plans exist for the makeshift camps prone to floods, torrents of mud and potential spread of disease.

"If I was stuck in a tent and high winds came, I would get as low to the ground as I could to avoid flying debris," Read said. "That doesn't sound very comforting, but that's better than standing up and getting buffeted around." Link

A lot of long nights indeed. :(
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1594. Pat, that article confirms a telephone conversation I had with Floodman today. It had to be the company man's decision to pull the mud out of the hole. What a tragedy. I'm especially sorry for the families of those who were lost but also for y'all who live along that coast.

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1637. JLPR
Quoting xcool:
2009 so so dam bored...


Oh, but I prefer boring to a cat 5 kicking my butt. XD
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1636. xcool


3 storms wt]]]]


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1635. xcool
here we emcwf out yayy
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Quasi-biennial oscillation. It's basically a measure of the periodic oscillation of easterly and westerly zonal flow at the equator. A more easterly phase tends to favor a stronger Cape Verde season, and vise versa. From what I understand of the phenomenon, it really only effects the eastern Atlantic, where all of our Cape Verde hurricanes originate, while only negligibly affecting other parts of the basin, if at all.
Okay thanks
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1633. xcool
2009 so so dam bored...
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
Whats the QBO? not familiar with that acronym


Quasi-biennial oscillation. It's basically a measure of the periodic oscillation of easterly and westerly zonal flow at the equator. A more easterly phase tends to favor a stronger Cape Verde season, and vise versa. From what I understand of the phenomenon, it really only effects the eastern Atlantic, where all of our Cape Verde hurricanes originate, while only negligibly affecting other parts of the basin, if at all.
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1630. xcool
TampaSpin: lol
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1629. xcool
oh coolbtwntx08
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Quoting TampaSpin:


LOL if the Euro keeps dropping like the Euro i am referring.......the Economy is about to tank again......big time.
HaHa yep thats true!
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Quoting JLPR:


Exactly why I'm nervous XD in 04 Jeanne was still a TS but it crossed PR, last one to cross PR was Georges in 98.

And yep in 09 shear saved us, Erika and the A one, I forgot the name xD Would have gotten us if it weren't for the shear. :3
Ana was the a name that year and thank god for shear last year.
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1625. xcool
not yet....
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1624. JLPR
Quoting alexhurricane1991:
Whats the QBO? not familiar with that acronym


I'm even more confused with the name than the acronym lol XD

Quasi-Biennial zonal wind Oscillation
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
Good just waiting on the euro


LOL if the Euro keeps dropping like the Euro i am referring.......the Economy is about to tank again......big time.
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1622. xcool
yeah.. i'm check now..
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1621. JLPR
Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to mention that we are in an easterly QBO this season, which favors more Cape Verde storms, as in 2004, 2006, and 2009.


Exactly why I'm nervous XD in 04 Jeanne was still a TS but it crossed PR, last one to cross PR was Georges in 98.

And yep in 09 shear saved us, Erika and the A one, I forgot the name xD Would have gotten us if it weren't for the shear. :3
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
good early morning guys
Good morning to you as well
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to mention that we are in an easterly QBO this season, which favors more Cape Verde storms, as in 2004, 2006, and 2009.
Whats the QBO? not familiar with that acronym
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good early morning guys
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12509
Good just waiting on the euro
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Quoting JLPR:


I do hope that all storms track away from us, like in 05, have you seen the maps, we are in one of the few storm free spots. :D
But lets see, its definitely not looking good and since most of the hurricanes we get are Cape Verde storms I'm a little nervous. xD


Not to mention that we are in an easterly QBO this season, which favors more Cape Verde storms, as in 2004, 2006, and 2009.
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1613. xcool
btwntx08 good .just wait on big daddy ..ecwmf ...
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1611. JLPR
Quoting Relix:


Heh, I am also expecting it. In fact I am kinda half expecting a minor storm AND a Hurricane. It seems all odds are against us.


I do hope that all storms track away from us, like in 05, have you seen the maps, we are in one of the few storm free spots. :D
But lets see, its definitely not looking good and since most of the hurricanes we get are Cape Verde storms I'm a little nervous. xD
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Quoting btwntx08:
lol
Hey hows it going?
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1609. xcool

'Ladies and gentlemen, 4days to big day...
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1608. xcool
btwntx08 heyyy
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1606. xcool



developing again
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I have not been watching the live feed at all today......the white stuff that is on the surface is the Mud that was dumped on the broken pipe and has now opened cracks in the mud from the PSI pressure.......is that correct.
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1604. xcool
. TampaSpin na .lol
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1603. Relix
Quoting JLPR:
Ah don't worry FIU2010, I have actually thought that this year a hit here is possible, so don't worry about it. xD
Even though PR hasn't had a Hurricane in awhile, they are a normal part of our lives, since we live surrounded by water. lol


Heh, I am also expecting it. In fact I am kinda half expecting a minor storm AND a Hurricane. It seems all odds are against us.
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Quoting Patrap:


Booms covered with oil hang on the shrimp boat Mariah Jade in Breton Sound on May 6.


That picture tells the entire story as to what the GOM has become.....geesh!
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Quoting WaterWitch11:
something not right on the live feed, it seems worse like the pressure has become stronger


They might be testing the blowout preventer's ability to withstand the necessary pressure by pressurizing it. Don't panic just yet.
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Quoting xcool:



ding ding shear drop ...


You stole that off my website...LOL....yep it is dropping....droppen like real fast now.
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Lesson to be learned here: When you tell your workers to do something, and the workers say the machine can't handle it, TRUST THEM.
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something not right on the live feed, it seems worse like the pressure has become stronger
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Quoting FIU2010:
aqui en miami tambien anticipamos una temporada bastante mala para nosotros.
You should be. The ocean is at it's hottest ever for this time of year. And the failing el nino and the current Bermuda high suggest that storms won't curve out to sea.
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1594. Patrap
BP Worker takes 5th, making prosecution a possibility


By Erika Bolstad, Joseph Goodman and Marisa Taylor | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A top BP worker who was aboard the Deepwater Horizon in the hours leading up to the explosion declined to testify in front of a federal panel investigating the deadly oil rig blowout, telling the U.S Coast Guard he was invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

The move Wednesday by BP's Robert Kaluza raises the possibility of criminal liability in the April 20 explosion that killed 11 and five weeks later continues to spew hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

Wednesday's government hearing in Louisiana, however, failed to determine why — despite unusual pressure and fluid readings on the rig — a BP official decided on the day of the explosion to proceed with removing heavy drilling fluid from the well and replacing it with lighter-weight seawater that was unable to prevent gas from surging to the surface and exploding.

Employees and experts testified that in the hours before the explosion, they witnessed a power struggle over that decision — the kind of argument common among the different parties that lease and run complicated offshore drilling operations, but one that this time, had deadly consequences.

One employee who worked for the rig owner, Transocean, was so mad after the fight that he warned they'd be relying on the rig's blowout preventer if they proceeded the way BP wanted.

"He pretty much grumbled, 'Well, I guess that's what we have those pinchers for,'" the rig's chief mechanic, Doug Brown, said of Jimmy Harrell, the top Transocean official on the rig. "Pinchers" was likely Harrell's reference to the shear rams in the blowout preventers, the final means of stopping an explosion.

BP, though, had ultimate authority over drilling decisions, and Brown said in sworn testimony Wednesday that the BP official at the meeting stood up and said, "This is how it's going to be."

The BP official, a "company man" in industry parlance, would have been the top decision-maker on the rig, although his role may have been complicated by having a number of higher-ranking BP officials on hand to celebrate the Deepwater Horizon's safety record.

Investigators asked Brown whether he knew the name of the BP official who made the decision, but he couldn't recall it and didn't know whether it was Kaluza.

Kaluza's lawyers, Shaun Clarke and David Gerger, called him "a dedicated, hard-working, conscientious man" who's worked in oil fields around the country for 35 years. He "did no wrong on the Deepwater Horizon," they said in a statement.

A BP employee named Donald Vidrine, who's been identified as one of the company men, was on the original witness list for the multi-day hearings, but is no longer scheduled to testify due to an undisclosed medical condition. Harrell is on the witness list for Thursday.

BP wouldn't identify what role Kaluza and Vidrine had on the Deepwater Horizon. Company spokesman Graham MacEwen said that any decision about whether to testify to the joint Coast Guard and Minerals Management Service inquiry would be up to those employees and their lawyers.

The Justice Department hasn't confirmed a criminal investigation, but Congress has called for one, and federal investigators have asked the rig owner, Transocean, to safeguard potential evidence.

The company men have a key role on a drilling rig, said Carl Smith, a former U.S. Coast Guard captain and expert witness, who testified Wednesday.

"Their emphasis is they're trying to drill to make money for their company, so their primary interest is to make progress on the well," he said. "So, you're always going to have a conflict between the people who are representing the owner's of the rig and the people who are renting it because the people who are renting it want to go faster and drill, and the people who are operating the rig want to maintain the integrity of the rig, which is a natural conflict."

It's also clear that BP was in charge, said Houston attorney Kurt Arnold, who represents 15 Deepwater Horizon workers, and the family of one who died.

"Whether or not to move this equipment to X,Y,Z place is a lower-level crane operator decision that Transocean makes, but what to do in the actual drilling process comes down to the client." Arnold said. "The client always is informed, the client has final say. BP was the client. BP had the rights to drill. They hired these other companies."

Wednesday's hearing continued to provide more detail about what happened in the hours leading up to the explosion, but little explanation for why BP ignored so many warnings and went forward with the controversial decision to remove drilling mud when it did.

On the morning of the explosion, crews had finished injecting cement into the well to strengthen the sides and protect the pipe. At about 5 p.m., pressure tests that revealed something was wrong with the newly cemented well.

It passed one set of so-called positive pressure tests in which fluids were injected into the well to increase pressure to monitor whether the well remained stable. However, it failed a negative pressure test, in which fluid inside the well is reduced to see whether gas leaks into the well through the cement or casing.

Despite the pressure problems, BP decided at about 8 p.m. to resume extracting mud, but the pressure in part of the well spiked, gas escaped and the rig exploded. The decision to proceed regardless may have been a "fundamental mistake," BP's own internal investigators told House of Representatives investigators this week. Crews noticed unusual pressure and fluid readings that should have alerted them not to remove the mud from the well, BP acknowledged.

"That's something you learn at well-control school," Smith told the panel on Wednesday in Louisiana. "If you're circulating fluid, you need to monitor how much is going in and how much is coming out. If you got more fluid out than in, it's an indicator that something's going on."

Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar repeatedly told the House Natural Resources Committee that the many of the problems within MMS were those of the "previous administration's" term.

Committee members asked few questions about the cause of the accident, however, or about what oversight role the now-reorganized agency had in ensuring that such blowouts don't occur. When asked about inspectors and tests done aboard the Deepwater Horizon, the head of the MMS, Elizabeth Birnbaum, declined to comment, saying the Interior Department's investigation is ongoing.

(Bolstad and Taylor reported from Washington. Goodman, of the Miami Herald, reported from Kenner, La. Mark Washburn of The Charlotte Observer in Charlotte and Lauren French in Washington contributed to this article.)

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/26/94884/bp-could-be-held-criminally-liable.html#ixzz0p6RhQ947
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
1593. xcool
25min
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WaterWitch11:
this not sleeping thing is becoming routine and bothersome...................


Get used to it, if the 2010 season is as active as everyone believes it will be, then there will be a lot of late nights
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7874
this not sleeping thing is becoming routine and bothersome...................
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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