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Posts Tagged ‘BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission

13,0000 gallons spilled by Shell on Sunday. In the Gulf of Mexico, spills remain an all too common occurence.

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Transocean Deepwater Nautilus Drilling Platform

"Equipment failure" at the Transocean Deepwater Nautilus Drilling Platform, operating for Shell Oil in the Gulf of Mexico 20 miles from the site of the Transocean/BP Macondo well blowout, spilled over 13,000 gallons of oil and drilling fluid into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday December 18, 2011

On Sunday December 18, 2011 there has been a reported release of 13,000 gallons of oil and drilling fluids into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, some mere 20 miles from the site of the BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Once again the drill rig is a Transocean Deepwater series rig, similar to the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform that was lost following loss of control of the wellhead.

While the driller, Transocean, is the same, the company they work for is different. In this case it isn’t BP, but rather Shell Oil, a company who extolled its safety programs and harshly criticized BP’s plans in the waves of criticism and finger pointing following the disaster at the Macondo well which spilled millions of gallons of oil and resulted in the loss of human lives.

Shell, which has been promoting its ability to operate safely, is the same company who is getting incrementally closer to achieving all the required permits for it to drill in the Arctic under conditions that some are too hazardous for any company to risk, given the sensitivity of the arctic environment and the questionable ability to address accidents including oil spills which could result from the drilling activity.

The fact that spill free drilling operations are not, in any real world conditions, possible continues to prove itself.

12/20/11 UPDATE: Shell reports that the fluid loss was synthetic drilling fluids, which they say are biodegradable. The fact that accidents, even in areas near the BP Macondo well spill which have heightened scrutiny, continue to occur, and the releases of materials are not gallons but tens of thousands of gallons, remains alarming.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

 

 


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Sadly “the secret to pollution is dilution” is still a valid cleanup method for oil spills caused by Shell

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Oil extraction isn’t a flawless technology, and there continue to be too many reminders of this fact. Not always as dramatic as the loss of the Transocean Horizon Oil Platform and subsequent major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which BP continues to pay billions to clean up, there are other engineering systems which fail and cause a release of petroleum into the ocean.

Shell Oil's Gannet Alpha Platform in the North Sea, co-owned by Exxon, has been leaking oil for days

Shell Oil's Gannet Platform in the North Sea, co-owned by Exxon, has been leaking oil for days. The solution proposed by Shell to mitigate the spill is to sit back and let "wave action" do the cleanup for them. The leading-edge cleanup technique of letting nature fix it for Shell comes at the same time Shell presses forward to drill in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic - an area that the U.S. Coast Guard believes would be extremely difficult to access much less clean up in the case of a spill.

On Friday 8/12/2011 Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced that an oil spill has occurred at its Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea. Shell’s Gannet Alpha platform is about 112 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland, and has resulted in a sheen of oil on the water’s surface about 20 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. While the volume of the release wasn’t immediately available, Shell now, based on the size of the sheen seen on the surface, that the spill is around 120 barrels of oil.

This is yet another incident in a series of problems with Shell’s offshore facilities in the U.K. The Daily Telegraph Newspaper reported that the leak at the Gannet Alpha platform is but one in a series of spills: “All four platforms serving Shell’s Brent field have been shut for maintenance after a piece of the Bravo platform fell into the sea in January. Shell said yesterday it had re-opened its Brent Alpha and Bravo platforms after a seven-month closure. It is expected Brent Delta will resume in the near future and Brent Charlie, which has experienced gas leaks, to restart next year.” Gannet field is co-owned by Exxon and Shell, with Shell serving as the platform operator.

The frequency of releases into the ocean by oil and gas exploration and production is alarming in and of itself, but possibly more disturbing is the mitigation to address such spills. While Shell reported to have cleanup and dispersant capabilities on scene, “Our current expectation for the North Sea oil leak is that it will be naturally dispersed through wave action.”

While we do have examples where just leaving the oil alone is the best solution available (think of the harm caused by well meaning cleanup crews to steam-cleaned the shoreline in Alaska following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which effectively sterilized the shoreline killing everything, not just the organisms fated to die from the oil alone) it is still disturbing to  think that “wave action” is a preferred cleanup technology given that Shell, which often touts a stellar environmental record and superior engineering capabilities, is in the process of securing permits to drill in the icy waters of Alaska – an area where there is considerable consensus by experts that there is no reliable technology that will allow cleanups in the icy conditions that comprise a large amount of the year.

Since no engineering solution for exploring and producing oil and gas at sea is foolproof, with an ongoing series of leaks from platforms, pipelines and other components of the oil and gas exploration, production and transportation system, one wonders why we allow any company, including Shell which touts its engineering expertise and conservative engineering practices but who still experiences oil spills at sea, to drill in the Arctic.  Are we are simply accepting that we are likely writing off the biology of that area at some point down the road when the prevention measures fail and the cleanup technology fails as well?

When oil spill mitigation still includes “the secret to pollution is dilution” one must wonder what the Obama Administration is thinking as it gets incrementally closer to granting Shell the permits it needs to drill in the Arctic when drilling in non-icy waters already has proven to be difficult and fraught with complications.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

President names remaining five members to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission

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Released today 6/14/10 at 5:45 by the White House:

President Obama Announces Members of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission

 WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to complete the membership of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling:

  • Frances G. Beinecke, Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
  • Donald Boesch, Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
  • Terry D. Garcia, Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
  • Cherry A. Murray, Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
  • Frances Ulmer, Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

 The bipartisan Commission, established through an Executive Order, is tasked with providing recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling. The Council is co-chaired by former two-term Florida Governor and former U.S. Senator Bob Graham and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William K. Reilly 

 President Obama said, “These individuals bring tremendous expertise and experience to the critical work of this commission. I am grateful they have agreed to serve as we work to determine the causes of this catastrophe and implement the safety and environmental protections we need to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.”

 

President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key administration posts:

Frances G. Beinecke, Appointee for Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Frances Beinecke is currently the President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a non-profit corporation that works to advance environmental policy in the United States and across the world. Ms. Beinecke has worked at NRDC for 35 years, serving as executive director, associate director and deputy executive director. From 1974 through 1983, Ms. Beinecke worked as a coastal resource specialist in NRDC’s water and coastal programs, fighting to protect marine ecosystems from the impact of offshore oil and gas development and advocating for sound coastal land use. Ms. Beinecke currently serves on the Board of the World Resources Institute and the steering committees of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and the Energy Futures Coalition. She was a member of the Yale Corporation and currently serves on the advisory boards of the Yale School of Management and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science. She is the co-author of the book, Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change. Ms. Beinecke received a B.S. from Yale University and a M.F.S. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

 

Donald Boesch, Appointee for Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Donald “Don” Boesch is the President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, where he is also a Professor of Marine Science and Vice Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability for the University System of Maryland.  Dr. Boesch assumed the position of President in 1990.  From 1980 to 1990, he served as the first Executive Director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and worked as a Professor of Marine Science at Louisiana State University.  Dr. Boesch is a biological oceanographer who has conducted research on coastal ecosystems along the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Australia and the East China Sea.  A native of Louisiana, he has assessed the long-term environmental effects of offshore oil and gas development and multiple environmental problems of the Gulf Coast.  A pioneer in the study of the environmental effects of offshore energy development, Dr. Boesch edited the seminal 1987 work, Long-Term Environmental Effects of Offshore Oil and Gas Development. He has served as science advisor to many state and federal agencies and regional, national and international programs.  Dr. Boesch is also Chair of the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council and a member of the National Academies Committee on America’s Climate Choices.  He holds a B.S. from Tulane University and a Ph.D. from the College of William & Mary.  Dr. Boesch was also a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Terry D. Garcia, Appointee for Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Terry D. Garcia is currently Executive Vice President for Mission Programs for the National Geographic Society.  He is responsible for the Society’s core mission programs, including programs that support and manage more than 400 scientific field research, conservation and exploration projects annually.  Prior to joining the Society in 1999, Mr. Garcia was Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  In this role, he directed and coordinated U.S. coastal, ocean and atmospheric programs, including recovery of endangered species, habitat conservation planning, Clean Water Act implementation, development of the national marine sanctuary system and commercial satellite licensing.  From 1994 to 1996, he was General Counsel at NOAA and led the implementation of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Plan for Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska.  Before entering government service, Mr. Garcia was a partner in the law firms of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and Hughes Hubbard & Reed.  Mr. Garcia has served on various boards and commissions, including the Institute for Exploration/Mystic Aquarium, the Amazonian Center for Environmental Education and Research, the U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life and the Harte Research Institute of Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University.  He is also a trustee emeritus of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.  Mr. Garcia has also served on panels convened by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration. He holds a B.A. from American University and a J.D. from The George Washington University.

Cherry A. Murray, Appointee for Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Dr. Cherry Murray was appointed the Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences in July 2009, and is currently the Past President of the American Physical Society. Dr. Murray’s expertise is in condensed matter and materials physics, phase transitions, light scattering and surface physics, including the study of soft condensed matter and complex fluids, as well as the management of science and technology. Previously, Dr. Murray was Principle Associate Director (2007-2009) and Deputy Director (2004-2007) for Science and Technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dr. Murray joined Bell Laboratories in 1978 as a Staff Scientist, marking the beginning of a career that culminated in her position as Senior Vice President for Physical Sciences and Wireless Research at Lucent Technologies (2001-2004). Dr. Murray was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1999, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and to the National Academy of Engineering in 2002. She has served on more than 80 national and international scientific advisory committees, governing boards, and National Research Council (NRC) panels, including chairing the Division of Engineering and Physical Science of the NRC, and serving on the visiting committee for Harvard’s Department of Physics from 1993 to 2004. In 2002, Discover Magazine named Dr. Murray one of the “50 Most Important Women in Science.” Dr. Murray holds a Bachelor of Science (1973) and a Ph.D. (1978), both in Physics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Frances Ulmer, Appointee for Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Fran Ulmer is Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), Alaska’s largest public university. In addition to serving as UAA’s Chancellor, Ms. Ulmer is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Arctic Climate Change and holds Board positions with the Alaska Nature Conservancy, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Prior to her appointment as Chancellor in 2007, Ms. Ulmer was a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA. During her more than 30 years of working in public service on the local, state, and national levels, Ms. Ulmer has helped to shape both public and environmental policy. As a state legislator, Ms. Ulmer served as a member on the Special Committee on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Claims Settlement. In addition, she was the first Chair of the Alaska Coastal Policy Council, was a member of Governor Tony Knowles’ Alaska Highway Natural Gas Policy Council and served for more than 10 years on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. Ms. Ulmer served as an elected official for 18 years as the mayor of Juneau, as a state representative and as Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. Ms. Ulmer served as Director of Policy Development for the State of Alaska, managing diverse programs, including coastal management, intergovernmental coordination, and public participation initiatives. At the national level, Ms. Ulmer served as a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s State and Local Advisory Committee, the Federal Elections Commission’s State Advisory Committee and co-chaired the National Academies of Science’s Committee on State Voter Registration Databases. Ms. Ulmer earned a J.D. cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and has been a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government.