Includes thoughts and comments about energy needs, resources, conservation and their relationship to politics at home and around the world.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

BP Platform Explosion

The explosion aboard the BP platform, its distruction and leakage of oil into Gulf of Mexico waters off Louisiana leaves many unanswered questions---what caused the explosion, why didn't auto-shutoff valves work to close off oil flow from the well(s), was sabotage involved and if so, who were the perpetrators?---are just a few.

As one with more than 30 years experience in the oil industry, I have great difficulty believing the event was accidental. There have been minor accidents including small fires on platforms in the Gulf in the past, but to my knowledge never an explosion and its aftermath like that of the BP unit off Louisiana. There are a reported 3,400 active wells and platforms in the Gulf which underscores the likelihood of such an event being more than a simple accident.

The Aftermath

Many in the news media have likened the BP event to the Exxon Valdez accident. The main similarity is the potential damage to the environment and fishing industries. Another similarity is the time taken by the Coast Guard to get oil booms into place to help contain the spills. It took days in the Valdez case and many critical hours in the BP spill. We know what caused the Exxon Valdez event but other than the explosion and fire, we still lack detailed information on the BP spill. Having recently travelled the Prince William Sound area, I can attest to the fact that except for some oil staining of rocks along the shoreline, the environment is back to normal. Fishing is back up to normal except for herring which are one of the primary food sources for larger fish in the area. I was told that herring are back up some distance away from the Sound but are being eaten by larger fish before they can reach the Sound. Bird, seal and whale populations are back up as well.

BP Spill Damage

So long as the oil can be kept out of the bayous, damage to shrimp and close in fisheries could be relatively light compared to Valdez. Fisheries out further into the area of the spill have likely suffered more severely and the timing of their recovery will depend on how soon the spill itself can be stopped and other measures now being used can get rid of the oil. Containment and absorption booms now being deployed out from the beaches along the Gulf Coast with the West Coast of Florida and the Keys likely to follow, should minimize beach damage should the spill move with the Gulfstream. Meanwhile, the silo-like device BP is moving into place to "cap" the well stem should stop the flow into the water of the Gulf once it is solidly in place.


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