Archive | Drilling for Oil

WWF Warns About Drilling Risk in Mediterranean

Biodiversity in the eastern Mediterranean Sea could take a deadly hit if drillers rush in on recently discovered gas-rich fields, the World Wildlife Fund warned Wednesday.

The international environmental organization warned that gas drilling in the area shared by Turkey, Israel and Egypt could ravage the sea’s ecosystem, which would take at least a millennium to regrow.

Gas drillers have been eager to capitalize on the recently discovered Leviathan gas field, a deepwater area off the Israeli coast that may hold as much as 16 trillion cubic feet of gas, AFP reports.

The West Nile Delta gas field, another potentially lucrative region for drillers, was discovered earlier this year. That field is located off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt.

But the eastern Mediterranean is home to rare species that are millennia old, including deep-sea sponges and cold water corals. Sergi Tudela, head of WWF’s Mediterranean Fisheries Program, says this makes them particularly vulnerable.

Tudela said that once the sea is tapped for gas, “it can take a millennium or more before the unique micro-ecosystem grows again, so the most fragile and valuable species and under-sea areas must be left untouched by gas development,” according to AFP.

WWF appealed to the European Union and a number of Mediterranean countries to prohibit deep-sea drilling and industrial development in the areas.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Drilling for Oil, Natural Gas0 Comments

ExxonMobil and Rosneft Strike $1B Oil Deal

ExxonMobil and Russian state oil company Rosneft have entered into an agreement regarding oil drilling in the Black Sea.

According to the deal signed in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 27, the U.S.-based ExxonMobil – the largest privately-owned oil company in the world – will invest $1 billion in Rosneft for a joint-operated oil exploration and production venture in the Tuapse Trough.

The agreement between Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon, came at the World Economic Forum just days after Rosneft announced an agreement with BP regarding an Arctic project.

Located in the Black Sea basin, the Tuapse Trough is an 11,200-square-kilometers deepwater offshore region.

“Cooperation with ExxonMobil once again underscores our commitment to the principles of transparency and vision of the Russian energy industry as a part of an integrated global marketplace,” said Sechin, as reported by the oil industry news website Rigzone.com.

“ExxonMobil technologies will effectively complement Rosneft’s experience and resources. Development of this area will become the springboard for full-scale Black Sea basin development, and this challenge will require coordinated efforts of many nations and companies in the region.”

EurActiv reports that the offshore venture will be split 50/50 at the exploration stage, and 66/33 in favor of Rosneft at the development stage.

The agreement makes Exxon the second major U.S. oil company to invest $1 billion in the Black Sea, where no major oil reserves have been discovered in the past century. Chevron financed a $1 billion exploration and development of the Val Shatskogo project in the same region, EurActiv reports.

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Oil Spill Dispersants Yield Mixed Results

Chemicals used in the Gulf of Mexico to stem the flow of oil were only partially effective, according to an in-depth study.

Marine chemists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said the dispersants were successful in keeping some of the crude from the blown BP oil well from reaching the surface, where it could do the most damage. However, chemicals did not break up the oil as quickly as scientists had expected.

The chemicals seemed to remain in the deep waters longer than anticipated, marine chemist Elizabeth Kujawinski said in the study. This raises troubling questions about long-term environmental exposure.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Panel Calls for Oil Spill Safety Regulations and Agency

A presidential panel investigating BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is calling for an overhaul of industry practices and the appointment of a new watchdog group in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the disaster.

The White House commission concluded its extensive six-month probe with a final report Tuesday, saying that the government needs to expand its regulatory system and instate an independent drilling safety oversight agency.

“None of the major aspects of offshore drilling safety — not the regulatory oversight, not the industry safety standards, not the spill response practices — kept pace with the push into deepwater,” said commission co-chair Bill Reilly, according to AFP.

“In effect, our nation was entirely unprepared for an inevitable disaster,” he said.

An April 20th explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig left 4.9 million barrels of crude spewing uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico. 11 rig workers died in the explosion, and the spill devastated marine wildlife, local tourism, and the commercial fishing and shrimping industries before the well was capped three months later.

Many of the seven-member panel’s recommendations will need to go through the Senate, where they are sure to face opposition from Republicans.

Both Republicans and oil companies have condemned the prospect of additional regulations, saying that they impede offshore exploration and end up costing Americans at the pump.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that following the spill the Interior Department implemented many of the reforms suggested by the panel, but that it “will use the commission’s report and the findings of other investigations to inform future actions to strengthen oversight.”

The panel is also pushing for a self-regulating agency to enforce protocol and oversee offshore drilling safety.

Although it did not call for a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic, the commission warned that the Interior should ensure that companies take precautionary measures in case a spill occurs there.

The panel does not have the power to enforce its recommendations, but the 400-page report could sway court proceedings and energy policy.

While the offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the government after the spill was lifted in October, no permits for exploratory drilling have been issued.

Posted in Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Trans Alaskan Pipeline Shuts Down After Spill

The Trans Alaskan Pipeline (TAPS), which accounts for 12 percent of U.S. oil production, was shut down Saturday due to a minor oil leak.

Pipeline operator Alyeska plans to bypass the leaking section of the 800-mile line by installing a stand-in expanse of pipe.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said Alyeska would not need its approval to repair and restart the pipeline.

TAPS was shut down after a small amount of oil seeped into the basement of a booster pump station. About 750 gallons had been collected from the spill as of Tuesday morning.

The incident edged up worldwide oil prices Tuesday, with benchmark light crude for February delivery gaining 2 percent to $91.03 per barrel in the U.S.

Officials expect a quick restart time, especially since they don’t need DOT’s regulatory approval.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokeswoman Katie Pesznecker told The Associated Press that there is a device known as a cleaning pig inside the pipeline.

She said that ice and wax is building in the line while it’s shut down. The pipeline operator is concerned that during a permanent restart when the oil begins moving again, the cleaning pig will push the ice and wax into the equipment and damage it.

Alyeska hopes to temporarily restart the flow of oil to keep the pipe warm and move the pig to an area where it could be sidelined and captured.

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Oil Still Devastates La. Marshes, Tour Finds

Officials say oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster still heavily pollutes the marshes along Louisiana’s coastlines.

State and parish officials gave the press a boat tour of the oil-fouled swamps of Barataria Bay, calling for a stronger cleanup effort from BP and the Obama administration.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser called the state of the marshes “the biggest cover-up in the history of America,” The Associated Press reported Friday.

Robert Barham, the secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and an outspoken critic of the cleanup effort, also participated in the tour.

AP writer Harry Weber reported that oil is pooling in some areas and boom barriers are often absent or overwhelmed by oil.

“Clearly there is oil here in the marsh but we are working as a team to find a best way to clean it up,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer, who accompanied the press and officials on the tour.

The rapidly eroding marshes along the coast play a key role in protecting Louisiana from hurricanes.

The oil also endangers vulnerable reeds and grasses that feed microscopic marine life, with consequences that will reverberate up the food chain.

The BP oil spill, set off by a blowout on a Macondo rig on Apr. 20, leaked an estimated 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Drilling for Oil, Ecosystems, Oceans & Coastlines, Oil & Petroleum, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands, Well Drilling0 Comments

Deepwater Horizon Spill Could Happen Again Without Reforms, Panel Says

A panel appointed to study the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico says the blowout was caused by a series of risky decisions intended to save time and money.

The seven-member commission also claims the incident could happen again without significant reforms.

A 48-page excerpt of the report was released Wednesday prior to the full document’s publication early next week.

“The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again,” the report said. “Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

BP’s Macondo well began uncontrollably gushing crude oil on April 20, setting off the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

The panel contends that BP, Transocean and Halliburton company personnel did not adequately consider the risks involved in a series of time-saving steps.

“The most significant failure at Macondo — and the clear root cause of the blowout — was a failure of industry management,” panel members concluded. “Better management of decision-making processes within BP and other companies, better communication within and between BP and its contractors and effective training of key engineering and rig personnel would have prevented the Macondo incident.”

Bob Graham, a former Florida senator, and William K. Reilly, a former EPA administrator, were appointed by President Barack Obama last May to lead the commission designed to identify the underlying causes of the blowout.

Posted in Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oceans & Coastlines, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Shell’s Arctic Clean Air Permits Revoked

Alaska Native and environmental groups have successfully thrown a wrench in Shell’s plans to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

An order by the Environmental Appeals Board remanded Shell Offshore Inc.’s clean air permits, which were granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told The Associated Press that the company cannot proceed with the proposed drilling plans in 2011 without the permits.

The review by the federal board found that the EPA’s estimation of the impact on Alaska Native communities was too limited. It also contended that the agency’s analysis of impact caused by nitrogen dioxide emissions from drill ships and support vessels was inadequate.

The appeal was filed by the Arctic Eskimo Whaling Commission, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice on behalf of other organizations.

Rebecca Noblin, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in Anchorage, said the ruling coincides with the groups’ assertion that the EPA “rushed” the drilling permits through the process. “It’s time for the administration to take a step back and rethink the foolhardy rush to drill in the fragile Arctic Ocean,” she told the Alaska Dispatch in an e-mailed statement.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Quality Standards & Emissions, Drilling for Oil, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Gulf Oil Rig Explosion Caused by Collapse of Defenses, Report Finds

The oil rig explosion that left millions of gallons of crude streaming into the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th occurred because all of the Deepwater Horizon’s defenses against a blowout failed, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Times collected interviews with 21 Horizon crew members, accounts of the 94 survivors who escaped the disaster, and documents describing the rig’s operations in order to perform a comprehensive investigation of the tragedy that spurred the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

The newspaper found that failure to prepare for the worst combined with the complexity of the Horizon’s defenses contributed to the disaster.

Much of the crew was unaware of the crisis for nine minutes as the drilling crew fought the blowout, the Times said.

Crew members were paralyzed by the complexity of the rig’s defenses and could not coordinate a response. One emergency system alone was controlled by 30 buttons, the paper noted.

While Transocean had provided the crew with a handbook detailing how to respond to a blowout, the emergency protocols called for rapid action while advising against overreaction.

Posted in Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Stephen Baldwin Sues Kevin Costner over BP Oil Machine

Stephen Baldwin is suing fellow actor Kevin Costner over their investments in a machine that BP used to separate oil from water.

Baldwin reportedly owned 10 percent of the Costner-backed company that made oil-separating centrifuges. A federal lawsuit filed in New Orleans, Louisiana Wednesday alleges that Costner and his business partners “schemed” to get Baldwin to sell back his shares of an $18 million deal for BP to purchase the devices in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Costner’s representatives declined to comment, AP reported.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Posted in Courts & Litigation, Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

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