Sunday, July 11, 2010

Drilling for Dollar$ Sunday: July 11 BP Oil Spill Update


If Windmapper has it right, southwesterly winds are likely to be pushing the offshore oil toward Pensacola Beach the first half of this week. Shown above, brisk breezes aimed straight from the leaking BP well site toward Pensacola Beach.

2. Blue Angels Show.

The annual Pensacola Beach Blue Angels air show went off yesterday without a hitch, despite the faint rumblings of small summer thunderstorms in the distance. It was just like old times. They didn't arrive in the Pensacola area until after the Blues had finished the show.

3. Crude Crowd Estimates.

The Island Authority's Executive Hypster, Buck Lee, claims a car count at the toll bridge exceeded last year's show by 842 vehicles. He assumes an average of three people per car, which would put the crowd somewhere north of 28,000. Certainly, traffic was backed up all morning long through Gulf Breeze and onto the 3-mile bridge.

Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier manager Sal Pinzone, however, filed a dissent with the Pensacola News Journal. His impression was attendance did not compare to that of last year:
Last year, you couldn't see the sand between people," Pinzone said. "This year there's plenty of room on the beach.
This sort of biffle happens every year. Tourist promoters want everyone to know what a swell job they're doing (as if they had something to do with attendance) and beach merchants like to mewl they didn't have enough customers (so you'll know they still have lots of stuff to sell you).

For one day, anyway, we're gratified that things returned to almost-normal.

4. Drilling for Dollar$.

Today's Sunday edition of the Pensacola News Journal gets out in front of almost all other Florida newspapers with a strong editorial supporting Governor Charlie Crist's call for a special legislative session. Crist wants the legislature to authorize a ballot measure this Fall asking if voters support a constitutional amendment to ban oil and gas drilling off the state's shores

"Let the People Vote", urges the PNJ's editorial board. The editorial's core point is that Crist is proposing that the people should decide on a constitutional prohibition against drilling rather than leave it in the hands of state legislators who have already shown their lust for drilling dollars clouds their judgment:
Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to call a special session of the Legislature to consider putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to let voters decide on the fate of drilling in Florida waters has put a lot of pro-drilling legislators — mostly Republicans — on the spot.

And they are dancing like the devil, trying to avoid mentioning what's obvious to everyone — and to avoid talking about why the "people" they usually speak so reverently of, the ones they say sh
ould be given the power that politicians have so arrogantly grabbed, shouldn't be allowed to decide this issue.
* * *
[W]hat the pro-drilling crowd in Tallahassee really wants to forget is that the legislation they were pushing could have put drilling rigs within three miles of Florida beaches. Wait — scratch that. They aren't trying to forget about that ... they are hoping Florida voters will forget about that.

The truth is they still want to approve drilling and keep the lobbyist gravy train gushing. There was so much oil money in Tallahassee this past year they should have installed safety belts to keep legislators from slipping from their chairs and washing out the front door of the Capitol.
* * *
The oil spill currently licking at Florida's shores comes from a well 54 miles off the shores of Louisiana. To imagine it happening right off the Florida coast is sickening.
* * *
In opposing Crist's call for an amendment, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, says that Crist is "putting politics over people." But it is Crist who is saying let's let the people decide ... it's Gaetz and
the pro-drilling crowd who are opposed to letting the people vote.
* * *
If legislators truly respect the people, they should trust them and let them vote.
That's a tough and compelling case. After all, if your neighbor had been caught red-handed trying to burn down your house -- as so many state legislators were caught on the verge of slipping into law a new statute to allow drilling within 3 miles of all of Florida's coastline -- would you lend him a book of matches and a torch just a few months later?

That's what Florida's "drill, baby, drill" politicians are hoping.

Surprisingly, few newspapers in the state other than the PNJ and the St. Petersburg Times ["Crist's Worthwhile Gamble on Drilling Ban"] have even addressed the question yet on their editorial pages. And what little they've written is about as dumb as it comes.
  • The Orlando Sentinel has one of its "quick hits" editorials that reads more like graffiti scrawled on a bathroom wall than a reasoned opinion;
  • The Suwanee Democrat, an inconsequential rag out of Live Oak, Florida, offers the obligatory view that "it's all a matter of science" but then hilariously proves the only thing it cares about is protecting a "$60 billion industry;" and
  • The Naples News mysteriously concludes in a namby-pamby editorial that "[A]ny final decision on a drilling ban * * ** rests with the people and their legislators." Which would be true, of course, but only if the special session legislature approves putting the measure on the ballot, as the governor wants.
The absolutely wretched quality of newspaper editorials like the last three, bulleted above, is enough to make us proud to be a Pensacola resident and a home subscriber to the News Journal.

5. The Doomsday Post of DougR.

Almost one month ago, someone posting on The Oil Drum under the screen name "DougR" wrote a lengthy message comment in which he advanced a doomsday scenario that soon whizzed around the Internet like a viral video.

The Oil Drum is an unusual web site. Apparently, it's peopled by investors, geologists, "peak oil" alarmists, consultants, and others who have sufficient connection with the oil industry to be familiar with the lingo, at least, and source reports. DougR himself, for example, is thought to be a journalist who has covered the oil industry for some years.

Essentially, DougR argued -- based on circumstantial evidence, a few congressional reports, hearings transcripts, and direct observation of BP's underwater cameras -- that the Deepwater Horizon well leak might be unstoppable because it is leaking in multiple places from the seafloor.

The evidence, he suggested, "all lead to one inescapable conclusion. The well pipes below the sea floor are broken and leaking." In which case, DougR postulated, the leaking oil cannot be stopped -- ever.

The particular way BP had been trying over the preceding weeks to staunch the leak with a temporary cap, DougR wrote, "only makes sense if they want to relieve pressure at the leak hidden down below the seabed." He pointed out that such a "down hole leak is one of the most dangerous and potentially damaging kind of leak there could be."
A down hole leak is dangerous and damaging for several reasons. There will be erosion throughout the entire beat up, beat on and beat down remainder of the "system" including that inaccessible leak. The same erosion I spoke about... is still present and has never stopped, cannot be stopped, is impossible to stop and will always be present in and acting on anything that is left which has crude oil "Product" rushing through it.
* * *
This down hole leak will undermine the foundation of the seabed in and around the well area. It also w
eakens the only thing holding up the massive Blow Out Preventer's immense bulk of 450 tons. In fact...we are beginning to the results of the well's total integrity beginning to fail due to the undermining being caused by the leaking well bore.
We bring all of this up now, even as BP is promoting its latest "cap swap," because DougR suggested last month that one sign doubters should look for to determine if he's right is whether the malfunctioning Blow Out Preventer (BOP) appears on camera to be tilting:
I am convinced the erosion and compromising of the entire system is accelerating and attacking more key structural areas of the well, the blow out preventer and surrounding strata holding it all up and together. This is evidenced by the tilt of the blow out preventer and the erosion which has exposed the well head connection.
Now, there were many replies to DougR's post. Several of them disagreed with his conclusions. Many of these had the same aura of plausible expertise as his own. See, for example, this rebuttal by Oil Drum regular "Gail the Actuary."

6. New Backup Plan.

We mention all of this because of something that caught our eye in the New Orleans Time-Picayune article about yesterday's uncoupling of the BOP and top hat in preparation for installing a new structure. Most other newspapers we've seen haven't reported it:
In order to get ready to install it, BP first had to correct a lean that had developed in the equipment at the top of the blown out well.

BP officials have said the flex joint at the top of the well's blowout preventer tilted when the riser pipe fell over when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in late April, killing 11 workers and unleashing the oil spill. But some engineers have said the well also could have developed a lean if the ground around it has been eroded by an underground oil leak, making the well less stable.

Wells said the flex joint was leaning by about 3 degrees, so BP used hydraulic jacks to straighten it and then supported the assembly with giant blocks. "We have that all perfectly aligned, so that's done," Wells said.
Now, we have no idea if a 3-degree "lean" really supports or refutes DougR's mid-June hypothesis. We also have no idea if BP officials are telling the truth about the degree of lean. They certainly have not earned anyone's trust.

Moreover, as Think Progress reported back on June 22, with a link to the supporting transcript (and an arresting graphic, left):
In a press teleconference Monday, National Incident Commander Thad Allen announced that the riser package is tilting “10 or 12 degrees off perpendicular,” twice the 5.5 degree tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The entire arrangement is kind of listed a little bit. I think it’s 10 or 12 degrees off perpendicular so it’s not quite straight up.
The fact that the BOP is leaning, in itself, doesn't refute DougR's claim -- whether it's 3 degrees or 13 degrees. But something Rear Adm. Thad Allen said the other day could be understood to add more grist to DougR's mill.

Speaking of the possibility that the relief wells might not succeed in finding their target -- a possibility we mentioned the other day -- he disclosed there is yet another "backup plan," according to the Associated Press:
[O]ne backup being considered is transferring the crude to non-producing underwater wells that are miles away. BP would run the flow through pipelines across the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man on the crisis.
Pipes across the seafloor, carrying crude that escapes. This, then, is the backup plan to the backup plan for the backup plan.

But from where would this 'piped' oil be coming? The well bore and casing? Or, the seafloor itself?

And how many more "backup" plans will it take before this accursed leak is stopped at last?

Dept. of Further Amplification
7-11 pm
An additional editorial we should have mentioned appeared two days ago in the Tampa Tribune , now a sister publication to the St. Petersburg Tribune. The first three sentences say it all:
Florida residents do not want near-shore drilling, but on this issue, their representatives can't be trusted.

The pro-oil lobby is strong in Tallahassee. The existing prohibition against drilling in Florida waters could easily be changed.
minor edit 7-11 pm

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