Tag Archive: Deepwater Horizon oil spill


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Phys.org

Study: Dispersants did not help oil degrade in BP spill

November 9, 2015 by By Seth Borenstein
Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, studies the oil plumes generated by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout. Credit: Todd Dickey/University of Georgia

The chemical sprayed on the 2010 BP oil spill may not have helped crucial petroleum-munching microbes get rid of the slick, a new study suggests.

And that leads to more questions about where much of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill went. If the new results are true, up to half the oil can’t be accounted for, said the author of a new study on the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

After the 172 million gallon (650 million liter) spill, the chemical dispersant Corexit 9500 was applied by airplane on the slick to help it go away and help natural microbes in the water eat the oil faster. The oil appeared to dissipate, but scientists and government officials didn’t really monitor the microbes and chemicals, said University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye.

So Joye and colleagues recreated the application in a lab, with the dispersant, BP oil and water from the gulf, and found that it didn’t help the microbes at all and even hurt one key oil-munching bug, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The dispersants did a great job in that they got the oil off the surface,” Joye said. “What you see is the dispersants didn’t ramp up biodegradation.”

In fact, she found the oil with no dispersant “degraded a heckuva lot faster than the oil with dispersants,” Joye said.

 

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Dispersants Did Not Help In BP Spill, Half Of Oil Not Accounted For: Study

bp_wave_001By Joe Wright

The fallout continues from the Deepwater Horizon explosion that directly killed 11 workers and ravaged the food chain and the environment more than 5 years ago.

Since then we have seen little accountability, despite a nominal fine against BP for its role in unleashing 4 million barrels of oil (approx. 200 million gallons). In fact, the EPA lifted a ban which subsequently resulted in BP being awarded $40 Billion in new contracts, essentially erasing all that was “lost” by BP from their criminality.

Running in tandem with BP’s negligence was the use of Corexit 9500 oil dispersant (owned by Nalco, a Goldman Sachs subsidiary) as a supposed means to drastically minimize the impact. Contrary to that assertion, evidence continues to mount that it did the exact opposite.

Early on, reports began to surface of health anomalies that many believed were attributable to the spraying of the chemical dispersant. Corexit was not only sprayed over the water, but over houses as well. One family documented how all of them became sickened, and afterward tested very high for chemical poisoning. A crew of activists called Project Gulf Impact were on the scene to expose what was taking place, and similarly reported sickness to their own crew, as well as suppression of their media coverage.

 

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Oil firm agrees to abide by EPA monitoring arrangements for five years, allowing it to bid for drilling contracts in Gulf of Mexico
BP

BP is still awaiting a US court ruling about whether it was grossly negligent over the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

BP is closer to restoring its operations and reputation in the US after agreeing a deal with environmental protection authorities that it will enable the oil firm to bid for new drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico.

The British-based group had started legal proceedings against the US environmental protection agency (EPA) which had banned BP from new contracts on the grounds that it had failed to correct problems properly since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

BP said it had now dropped its law suit after resolving outstanding problems with the EPA but the firm will have to abide by monitoring arrangements with the agency for the next five years.

“After a lengthy negotiation, BP is pleased to have reached this resolution, which we believe to be fair and reasonable,” said John Mingé, head of BP America. “Today’s agreement will allow America’s largest energy investor to compete again for federal contracts and leases.”

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March 18, 2014

Huffpost Business

Government Declares BP a ‘Responsible’ Contractor: Workers and Taxpayers Beware

A scant five days before the Department of Interior opens a new round of bids for oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA has blinked, pronouncing BP, the incorrigible corporate scofflaw of the new millennium, once again fit to do business with the government.

To get right to the point, the federal government’s decision that BP has somehow paid its debt and should once again be eligible for federal contracts is a disgrace. Not only does it let BP off the hook, it sends an unmistakable signal to the rest of the energy industry: That no matter how much harm you do, no matter how horrid your safety record, the feds will cut you some slack.

Back in 2012, the agency’s intrepid staff had finally gotten permission to pull the trigger on the company, de-barring it from holding any new U.S. contracts on the grounds that it was not running its business in a “responsible” way. Undoubtedly under pressure by the Cameron government and the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, BP’s most loyal customer, the EPA settled its debarment suit for a sweet little consent decree that will try to improve the company’s sense of ethics by having “independent” auditors come visit once a year.

To review the grim record: BP, now the third-largest energy company in the world, is the first among the roster of companies that have caused the most memorable industrial fiascos in the post-modern age.

  • Its best-known disaster, the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig moored in the Gulf of Mexico that BP had hired to develop its lease of the Macondo well, killed 11 and deposited 205 million gallons of crude oil along the southern coast of the United States — the worst environmental disaster in American history.
  • In a troubling precursor, another explosion killed 15 and injured 180 at the company’s Texas City refinery in July 2005. This incident happened even after the plant manager there had gone on bended knee to John Manzoni, BP’s second in command worldwide, to plead for money to address severe maintenance problems that jeopardized safety at that plant after a consultant surveying refinery workers reported that many thought they ran a real risk of being killed at work. Those fears were warranted, it turned out.
  • Also in 2005, 200,000 gallons of oil spilled from a BP pipeline on Alaska’s North Slope.

 

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Study links BP oil spill to dolphin deaths

US government scientists have for the first time found direct evidence of toxic exposure in the Gulf of Mexico

A dolphin is seen swimming through an oil sheen from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

A dolphin is seen swimming through an oil sheen from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off East Grand Terre Island, where the Gulf of Mexico meets Barataria Bay, on the Louisiana coast, July 31, 2010. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

US government scientists have for the first time connected the BP oil disaster to dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, in a study finding direct evidence of toxic exposure.

The study, led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found lung disease, hormonal abnormalities and other health effects among dolphins in an area heavily oiled during the BP spill.

A dead bottlenose dolphin that was found on Ono Island

An Institute for Marine Mammal Studies veterinary technician examines a dead bottlenose dolphin that was found on Ono Island. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

The diseases found in the dolphins at Barataria Bay in Louisiana – though rare – were consistent with exposure to oil, the scientists said.

“Many disease conditions observed in Barataria Bay dolphins are uncommon but consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity,” the scientists said.

Half of the dolphins were given a guarded prognosis, and 17% were expected to die of the disease, the researchers found.

“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals – and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities,” Lori Schwake, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

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LiveScience

BP Oil Spill May Have Contributed to Dolphin Deaths, Study Finds

 

The 2010 BP oil spill contributed to an unusually high death rate for dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study suggests.

Between January and April 2011, 186 dead bottlenose dolphins washed ashore between Louisiana and western Florida. Most alarmingly, nearly half of these casualties were calves, which is more than double the usual proportion of young to old dolphins found dead. Scientists now blame both natural factors and human catastrophe for the unusual die-off.

“Unfortunately, it was a ‘perfect storm’ that led to the dolphin deaths,” study researcher Graham Worthy, a biologist at the University of Central Florida, said in a statement. “The oil spill and cold water of 2010 had already put significant stress on their food resources. … It appears the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from snowmelt water that pushed through Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound in 2011 was the final blow.” [Gulf Oil Spill: Animals at Risk]

Cold water and spilled oil

The winter of 2010 was a cold one, the researchers reported July 18 in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. Oil began spilling into the Gulf in April 2011, after the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded following a blowout.

The unusually harsh winter of 2010 already dealt wildlife a disadvantage, Worthy and his colleagues wrote. Finfish, marine birds, sea turtles and manatees had been hit hard, with about 6 percent of the U.S. population of manatees lost to cold weather.

Just before the baby dolphins began washing ashore in January 2011, meltwater from an unusually heavy Mobile Bay watershed snowfall hit the Gulf. A comparison of dolphin stranding sites and water conditions revealed that the discovery of the carcasses followed temperature dips from meltwater by two to three weeks, indicating that the dolphins were stressed, died, washed ashore and were eventually found and recorded.

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BP Tries to Overturn Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

Is Anyone Surprised?

By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

BP’s massive 2010 Gulf oil spill virtually destroyed the Gulf of Mexico economy. Fisheries, tourist-related enterprises, and the businesses dependent on them went belly-up in the hundreds of thousands. Yet as business owners quickly found, the only way they could get compensation for losing their livelihood was to sue BP in federal court. In 2012, the oil company finally agreed to a settlement reimbursing business owners who could demonstrate a loss of income during or after the spill. Federal District Court Judge Carl Barbier, who oversees the settlement, appointed Louisiana attorney Patrick Juneau to evaluate and process all spill-related claims. Thus far Juneau’s office has received a total of 186,000 claims.

Now, after paying nearly $4 billion on 48,487 eligible claims, BP is back in court trying to wriggle out of the deal. As of February 2013, this and other criminal and civil settlements and payments to a trust fund had cost the company $42.2 billion. Because there is no cap on the 2012 settlement they signed, the oil company is seriously concerned that covering all 186,000 claims could cut into their profits. They assert that many of the claims are exaggerated or relate to circumstances other than the spill. They give as an example businesses hundreds of miles from the coast that have been reimbursed. They also question companies using 2010 as the base year for their losses if their 2010 income was significantly higher than prior years.

Although Judge Barbier disagrees with their reasoning, he has appointed former FBI director Louis Freeh to investigate Juneau’s office to determine whether there have been any ethical breeches or misconduct in processing the claims. This follows the recent resignation of one of Juneau’s staff attorneys over allegations of “impropriety”.

Meanwhile BP is appealing Barbier’s ruling in the US Fifth Court of Appeals. In preliminary hearings, the Fifth Circuit judges are questioning whether BP has a legal right to challenge the terms of the settlement they agreed to. They point out it did not require businesses to establish causation – owners merely had to show a revenue loss. Moreover the settlement specifically states that losses needed to be calculated in such a way to maximize reimbursement. The judges also question whether the appellate court even has jurisdiction to alter the terms of the settlement. There is no provision in US law for a court to overturn a settlement, which is like a binding contract, once both parties have signed it.

Intimidation Tactics

BP has asked the appellate court to suspend payouts pending the outcome of Freeh’s investigation. They have also sent claimants warning letters that they may have to give some of the money back. The attorneys for the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, James Roy and Stephen Herman, have responded to BP with a “strongly worded” letter reminding them that no legal process exists to alter the amount of an award after it has been paid. They also accuse BP of violating the settlement agreement by discouraging claimants from pursuing claims.

In a press statement, Herman admitted the BP letter didn’t surprise him, given that the oil company was suspended from doing business with the US government after pleading guilty to lying to the federal government about the spill.”

 

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Dave Hodges
Activist Post

It’s been labeled the worst environmental disaster in world history, and rightfully so, because the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is like the nightmarish gift that keeps on giving. BP and the United States government would have the public believe that all is well in the Gulf. Nothing could be further from the truth. The crisis is not only ongoing; its effects are worsening

The April 20, 2010 the Deep Water Horizon Explosion will  be back in the news again. The explosion of this oil rig represents the biggest false flag event in history; the devastation of this false flag event is still being felt and the worst is yet to come. You may have heard about the explosions near the New Madrid Fault and the thousands of generators being shipped to Louisiana by FEMA. Soon all readers of this series will connect the BP oil spill to these recent current events.

Over 34 months later, the oil spill has destroyed the welfare, livelihoods, health and futures of tens of millions of Gulf Coast residents, not to mention the destruction of the fragile ecology in the Gulf of Mexico.

Originally, BP was ordered to initiate $20 billion in restitution to the Gulf Coast victims. In retrospect, BP has never made full restitution to the victims. The overall physical health of the region has been decimated and the mainstream media and government officials reaching as high as President Obama have been complicit in covering up the geological and medical magnitude of the event. Even to this day, BP is still covertly carpet bombing Corexit in the Gulf and the much of the environmental catastrophe remains untouched by the BP cleanup crews.
This new series will expose the fact that BP, Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, Transocean and David Rockefeller’s and the Queen of England’s New York City for Profit members had foreknowledge and hedged their stock market bets in anticipation of the event. In other words, I will present incontrovertible evidence that this event was planned in order to achieve multiple goals in order to further agenda of certain special interests. Further, this series will also expose the fact that the evidence complied from the Executive Filings of President Obama indicates that it is likely that he had foreknowledge of the impending catastrophe in the Gulf. Additionally, this series will demonstrate that the events in the Gulf are part of a regional depopulation scheme. Readers will also learn that the ongoing nature of this false flag event will contribute to the total transition of the American economy to a cap-and-trade system which has been championed by Obama and Valerie Jarrett, from several years ago, which culminated in Obama, a supposed outsider, capturing the Presidency with very little political experience.

Starting at the beginning, it was clear that BP was going to be used as the symbolic fall guy in order to usher a new set of dynamics to the Gulf. However, the powers that be provided BP with a “soft landing” with regard to the potential punitive actions brought against BP.

Every story has a beginning, so let’s review how, what will prove to be the biggest false flag event in the history of our country, unfolded.

Destitution Rather Than Restitution

You remember Ken Feinberg, don’t you? This is the same Ken Feinberg who was in charge of denying medical coverage to 9/11 first responders, which resulted in the premature deaths of many of 9/11′s first responders because of the lack of sufficient medical treatment from claims denied by him. As you read the following paragraphs, you will be shocked as to how history has been allowed to repeat itself.

BP has shamelessly used the event to falsely promote its generosity toward the residents of the Gulf by providing full restitution for tiny minority of residents, thus restoring its public image in the mind of the average American couch potato who believes everything they see on television.

Following the Gulf oil spill, there was a collective mainstream media frenzy which focused on how well BP was responding to the crisis. This was accompanied by BP’s incessant public service announcements in which the oil giant would feature one of their “average” employees professing to being a “local” in which they vowed, on behalf of BP, “to not leave until we make it right.”

All Is Well, Go Back To Sleep American Sheep

Is all well in the Gulf today? After 34 months, did BP make it right? There are two answers to this question, no and hell no! According to BP’s YouTube channel, BP has made complete restitution to the victims of the oil spill and all is indeed well and the American public should be willing to move on to other issues and forget about the Gulf.

BP’s YouTube video channel does make a compelling case that the Gulf is well on its way to a full recovery. Bryan and Brooke Zar, the owners of Restaurant des Families located in Crown Point Louisiana, claim that BP restored their restaurant to a level of profitability just in time for the 2011 spring break vacation period and that “the beaches are again clean”.

An example of BP’s YouTube channel propaganda featured Rick Scali as he describes his return to profitability as his vacation rental home business in Destin, Florida had fallen upon tough times as a result of the oil spill. Scali claims that BP made his rental business whole when he showed BP the rental cancellation slips and was promptly paid for his losses by BP and today all, is again, well. There you have it, all is well on the Gulf Coast Front, or that is what BP, the mainstream media and the government would have the public believe.

The Coverup

Despite the voluminous coverage of the oil spill by the mainstream media, the range of coverage was actually quite narrow. The Coast Guard promptly established no fly zones over much of the impacted beach areas and the oil spill area itself. Reporters were restricted to what they could cover in the beach areas and were threatened with arrest if they strayed into “forbidden zones.” This prompted an on-air emotional tirade regarding the undue restrictions on media’s coverage by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Nor was there any meaningful coverage of Halliburton applying the highly controversial dispersants of Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527. However, there was plenty of media coverage of President Obama walking the beaches and eating the local shrimp in a thinly veiled effort on the part of the government and BP in promoting the notion that all is well.

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Science of the BP Oil Spill

NationalWildlifeNationalWildlife

Uploaded on Jun 1, 2010

http://www.nwf.org/oilspill – National Wildlife Federation’s Senior Scientist Doug Inkley discusses the concerns scientists have about the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

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DeSmogBlog

By Farron Cousins

An estimated 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to displace the 206 million gallons of oil that spewed from a broken wellhead on the Gulf floor.

Oil Spill Eater International (OSEI), through the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference group, issued a press release this week saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effectively blocked or otherwise delayed scientific advancement in the cleanup of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster by refusing to acknowledge the toxicity of the oil dispersant Corexit.

According to OSEI, the EPA is guilty of violations to the Clean Water Act because they knowingly used the toxic dispersant instead of opting for cleaner, less toxic methods of oil spill cleanup.

OSEI is actually not off base with their accusations. Reports from late 2012 revealed that using oil dispersants like Corexit make oil spills less visible, but when combined with the oil, create a mixture that is 52 times more toxic than the oil itself. The studies revealed that even in small amounts, the combination of oil and Corexit reduced the number of egg hatchings in small marine invertebrates by 50 percent. These are small creatures like krill, shrimp and other crustaceans that form the bottom of the oceanic food pyramid.

Those results were just from small doses of the mixture. And as I wrote in 2011, the amount of Corexit dumped into the Gulf was anything but “small”:

An estimated 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to displace the 206 million gallons of oil that spewed from a broken wellhead on the Gulf floor. And while the dispersant itself was ruled to be less toxic than the oil, the study suggests that the combination mixture of crude oil and dispersant poses a significantly greater threat to both the environment and marine life than either substance on its own. The EPA says that studies have been done on some of the 57 chemical agents found in dispersants, but they also acknowledge that no long-term studies have been conducted on the exposure to these chemicals in quantities as large as were poured into the Gulf.

As for the EPA’s role and knowledge of the dangers of Corexit, that was also known as far back as 2011:

 

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Kimberly Blair
USA Today

© Bruce Graner, Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal
Dolphins frolic in the wake of a cruise boat just offshore from Fort Pickens State Park in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola Beach, Fla.

An unusually high number of dolphin deaths that began three years ago in the northern Gulf of Mexico is continuing though the number of deaths in Florida peaked in 2011.

From February 2010 to Sunday, the bodies of 830 marine mammals, nearly all bottlenose dolphins and a few whales, have been found along the coast from Louisiana to Apalachicola, Fla., according to figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Of those, almost 150 dolphins found dead on beaches or in marshes were premature, stillborn or neonatal bottlenose.

In the seven years before 2010, the northern Gulf each year saw an average 63 bottlenose dolphin strandings, incidents where injured or sick marine mammals come ashore.

That the number of dolphin deaths continues to be higher than before 2010 worries Teri Rowles, who heads NOAA’s investigation team.

“This is the longest unusual mortality event nationally,” she said of the dolphin deaths.

The dolphin deaths began their climb before the Deepwater Horizon disaster April 20, 2010, but the oil spill is being considered as a cause. Bacteria and biotoxins, such as red tide, also are being investigated as factors contributing to the deaths.

Scientists don’t know the full scope of the die-off because they rely on field reports of deaths. Not all dead dolphins wash up on populated beaches and waterways where they can be recovered, so many deaths may be going uncounted.

Bacteria culprit

In fall 2011, NOAA scientists confirmed that brucella bacteria killed five dolphins found off of the coast of Louisiana.

And as of Dec. 9, some 13 out of 56 stranded dolphins tested positive or suspected positive for brucella.

Many of the dolphins found dead are too decomposed to test for the bacteria, Rowles said.

Scientists are looking deeply into whether brucella, a common bacteria also found in livestock, has become more lethal in dolphins in the northern Gulf.

Brucella in marine mammals was first recognized in the 1990s and seems to be endemic in many marine mammal populations globally, according to NOAA scientists. But the significance of the bacteria that causes miscarriages, brain infections, pneumonia, and skin and bone infections, is still unknown.

 

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BP settles criminal charges for $4 billion in spill; supervisors indicted on manslaughter

Steven Mufson
The Washington Post
bp oil spill

© Reuters

BP has agreed to a plead guilty to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, and will pay $4 billion over five years in a settlement with the Justice Department over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the company and Justice Department announced Thursday.

In addition, the London-based oil giant will pay $525 million over three years to settle claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said the company concealed information from investors.

“This marks both the single largest criminal fine – more than $1.25 billion – and the single largest total criminal resolution… in the history of the United States,” Attorney General Eric Holder said during a news conference in New Orleans. “I hope this sends a clear message to those who would engage in this wanton misconduct that there will be a penalty paid.”

Holder also announced a separate 23-count criminal indictment – including charges of seaman’s and involuntary manslaughter – against the two top-ranking BP supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig where a blowout occurred April 20, 2010, sinking the rig and killing 11 workers.

Holder also announced an indictment against David Rainey, a BP vice president, for hiding information from Congress and lying to law enforcement officials about the rate at which oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Make no mistake: While the company is guilty, individuals committed these crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, head of the criminal division. Of the two rig supervisors, Breuer said: “In the face of glaring red flags indicating that the well was not secure, both men allegedly failed to take appropriate action to prevent the blowout.”

BP said it would increase its existing $38.1 billion charge against earnings for the spill by $3.85 billion.

The criminal settlement does not cover federal civil claims, including Clean Water Act claims, federal and state claims of damages to natural resources or private civil claims. Settling those would probably cost BP billions of dollars more, and the company said it is “prepared to vigorously defend itself against remaining civil claims.”

But the settlement resolves a variety of criminal charges. BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships’ officers relating to the loss of 11 lives on the drilling rig that caught fire and sank; one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act; one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and one felony count of obstruction of Congress. BP said that the last of those is related to misreporting to a member of Congress the rate at which oil was gushing into the gulf.

The settlement is subject to U.S. federal court approval.

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region,” Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said in a statement before Holder’s announcement. “From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

“We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders,” Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s chairman, said in the statement. “It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”

The criminal plea could complicate BP’s efforts to contain the cost of civil claims, but the company said 13 of the 14 criminal charges “are based on the negligent misinterpretation of the negative pressure test conducted on board the Deepwater Horizon.” BP said that it “acknowledged this misinterpretation more than two years ago” and insisted that the agreement today “is consistent with BP’s position in the ongoing civil litigation that this was an accident resulting from multiple causes, involving multiple parties, as found by other official investigations.”

“It’s obviously not cheap. A $4 billion settlement is pricey for anyone, even a company this size,” said Pavel Molchanov, an oil analyst at the investment firm Raymond James. But, he said, “it’s a positive step” from an investor’s point of view. “By eliminating the criminal overhang, the inference is that BP can afford to be more aggressive in dealing with the civil claims,” he said. “They no longer have to fear the criminal stick.”

At 3 pm, BP shares were up about 0.2 percent to $40.37.

BP said that the $4 billion settlement with the Justice Department includes $1.256 billion in criminal fines, $2.394 billion to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and $350 million to be paid to the National Academy of Sciences.

“The fines and penalties that the Justice Department has demanded BP pay are appropriate for such a massive disaster,” Rep. Edward J. Markey, the senior Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “People died, BP lied to Congress, and millions of barrels of oil poured into the Gulf. This steep cost to BP will provide the Gulf coast some of the funds needed to restore the region, and will hopefully deliver some comfort and closure to the families and businesses affected by the spill.”

It was unclear how BP’s plea would affect its ability to bid on contracts to supply fuel to the U.S. military. BP has been a major supplier of fuel to the Pentagon in the past. But analysts expect that it will not impair the company’s ability to lease areas of the Gulf of Mexico or explore for oil and gas there. The company said that it “has not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with this plea agreement. BP will continue to work cooperatively with the debarment authority.”

Under the terms of the plea agreement, BP has also agreed to to further “enhance” the safety of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. These steps relate to BP’s risk management, including third-party auditing and verification, training, and well control equipment and processes such as blowout preventers and cementing. In addition, BP has agreed to several initiatives with academia and regulators to develop new technologies related to deepwater drilling safety.

The agreement also provides for the appointment of two monitors, both with terms of four years. A process safety monitor will review, evaluate and provide recommendations for the improvement of BP’s process safety and risk management procedures concerning deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. An ethics monitor will review and provide recommendations for the improvement of BP’s code of conduct and its enforcement, the company said.

So far BP has spent $14 billion responding to and cleaning up the spill. It has also paid out $9 billion mostly to individuals and businesses. Additional private civil claims are being pursued in a separate lawsuit in a New Orleans federal court, where a settlement that BP estimates will cost $7.8 billion is being finalized.

The BP settlement with the Justice Department is not expected to cover other companies involved in the April 20, 2010 accident, including rig owner and operator TransOcean and cement contractor Halliburton.

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

Environmental

NASA Radar Penetrates Thick, Thin of Gulf Oil Spill

by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL)


NASA UAVSAR image of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, collected June 23, 2010. The oil appears much darker than the surrounding seawater in the greyscale image. This is because the oil smoothes the sea surface and reduces its electrical conductivity, causing less radar energy to bounce back to the UAVSAR antenna. Additional processing of the data by the UAVSAR team produced the two inset color images, which reveal the variability of the oil spill’s characteristics, from thicker, concentrated emulsions (shown in reds and yellows) to minimal oil contamination (shown in greens and blues). Dark blues correspond to areas of clear seawater bordering the oil slick. Images credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have developed a method to use a specialized NASA 3-D imaging radar to characterize the oil in oil spills, such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The research can be used to improve response operations during future marine oil spills.

Caltech graduate student Brent Minchew and JPL researchers Cathleen Jones and Ben Holt analyzed NASA radar imagery collected over the main slick of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on June 22 and June 23, 2010. The data were acquired by the JPL-developed Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) during the first of its three deployments over the spill area between June 2010 and July 2012.

The UAVSAR was carried in a pod mounted beneath a NASA C-20A piloted aircraft, a version of the Gulfstream III business jet, based at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. The researchers demonstrated, for the first time, that a radar system like UAVSAR can be used to characterize the oil within a slick, distinguishing very thin films like oil sheen from more damaging thick oil emulsions.

“Our research demonstrates the tremendous potential of UAVSAR to automate the classification of oil in a slick and mitigate the effects of future oil spill tragedies,” said Jones. “Such information can help spill incidence response commanders direct cleanup operations, such as the mechanical recovery of oil, to the areas of thick oil that would have the most damaging environmental impacts.”

Current visual oil classification techniques are qualitative, and depend upon the skill of the people doing the assessment and the availability of skilled observers during an emergency. Remote sensing allows larger areas to be covered in a consistent manner in a shorter amount of time. Radar can be used at night or in other low-light or poor weather conditions when visual surveys can’t be conducted.

Radar had previously been used to detect the extent of oil slicks, but not to characterize the oil within them. It had generally been assumed that radar had little to no use for this purpose. The team demonstrated that UAVSAR could be used to identify areas where thick oil had mixed with the surface seawater to form emulsions, which are mixtures of oil and seawater.

Identifying the type of oil in a spill is vital for assessing its potential harm and targeting response efforts.

For example, thin oil consists of sheens that measure from less than 0.0002 inches (0.005 millimeters) to about 0.002 inches (0.05 millimeters) thick. Sheens generally form when little oil is released, as in the initial stages of a spill, or from lightweight, volatile components of spill material. Because sheens contain little oil volume, they weather and evaporate quickly, and are of minor concern from an environmental standpoint.

Oil emulsions, on the other hand, are 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) thick, contain more oil, and persist on the ocean surface for much longer, thereby potentially having a greater environmental impact in the open sea and along the shoreline.

“Knowing the type of oil tells us a lot about the thickness of the oil in that area,” said Jones.

The researchers acquired data in June 2010 along more than 3,400 miles (5,500 kilometers) of flight lines over an area of more than 46,330 square miles (120,000 square kilometers), primarily along the Gulf Coast. They found that at the time the slick was imaged by UAVSAR, much of the surface layer of the Deepwater Horizon spill’s main slick consisted of thick oil emulsions.

UAVSAR characterizes an oil spill by detecting variations in the roughness of its surface and, for thick slicks, changes in the electrical conductivity of its surface layer.

Just as an airport runway looks smooth compared to surrounding fields, UAVSAR “sees” an oil spill at sea as a smoother (radar-dark) area against the rougher (radar-bright) ocean surface because most of the radar energy that hits the smoother surface is deflected away from the radar antenna.

UAVSAR’s high sensitivity and other capabilities enabled the team to separate thick and thin oil for the first time using a radar system.

“We knew we were going to detect the extent of the spill,” said Holt. “But we had this great new instrument, so we wanted to see how it would work in this extreme situation, and it turned out to be really unique and valuable, beyond all previous radar results for spills.”

“We studied an unprecedented event using data collected by a sophisticated instrument and were able to show that there was a lot more information contained in the data than was apparent when we began,” said Minchew. “This is a good example of how the tools of science could be used to help mitigate disasters in real time.”

UAVSAR is returning to the Gulf of Mexico area this month and will image the area around the Deepwater Horizon site to look for leaks. In the future, UAVSAR data may be combined with imaging spectroscopic data from JPL’s Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) instrument to further improve the ability to characterize oil spills under a broader range of environmental conditions.

In addition to characterizing the oil slick, UAVSAR imaged most of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coastline, extending from the Florida Keys to Corpus Christi, Texas, with extensive inland coverage of the southern Louisiana wetlands around Barataria Bay, the terrestrial ecosystem that ultimately sustained the greatest oiling from the massive spill.

Researchers tracked the movement of the oil into coastal waterways and marshlands, monitored impact and recovery of oil-affected wetlands, and assessed how UAVSAR can support emergency responders in future disasters.

UAVSAR is also used to detect detailed Earth movements related to earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers, as well as for soil moisture and forestry biomass studies. For more on UAVSAR, see here.

Results of this study are published this month in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers journal Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

 

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Related Links
Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR)
Earth Observation News – Suppiliers, Technology and Application

Economic News

BP selling Gulf of Mexico oilfields for $7.9 Billion

Associated Press

BP PLC is asking for up to $7.9 billion for some of its oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico as it continues to sell assets after the 2010 oil spill, according to Bloomberg News.

According to the report Tuesday, which cited two people with knowledge of the matter, BP could clear up to $5 billion to $6 billion after the buyer pays taxes.

BP declined to comment on financial terms of a sale but said that it intends to remain the largest oil and natural gas producer in the Gulf.

“No one should confuse our effort to sell these older, non-strategic assets, which we announced months ago, with our ongoing commitment to the Gulf of Mexico,” said spokesman Brett Clanton. He said BP still plans to invest at least $4 billion per year over the next decade in the Gulf.

The company has six rigs in the Gulf now and plans to have eight by the end of the year, an all-time high.

Shares of BP rose 18 cents to $42.27 in afternoon trading.

London-based BP hopes to sell $38 billion worth of assets by the end of 2013 to help pay the costs of cleaning up the Gulf oil spill.

On Monday, BP announced it agreed to sell a refinery in Carson, Calif., and pipelines and Arco-branded gasoline stations to Tesoro Corp. for $2.5 billion. BP also said it was selling two gas-processing plants in Texas. Those sales had been expected for a long time.

The Tesoro deal brought BP’s asset sales to $26.5 billion since the April 2010 Gulf oil spill.

BP leased the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded while drilling a well off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and triggering a largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. More than 1 million damage claims have been filed with a court-supervised settlement program. BP expects to complete payments into a planned $20 billion trust by the end of the year.

BP said this spring that it had marked for sale its interests in Gulf fields known as Marlin, Horn Mountain, Holstein, Ram Powell and Diana Hoover. Bloomberg said the fields hold proven reserves of 120 million barrels of oil and produced 58,000 barrels per day in the first quarter. It said potential bidders could include Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp.

CEO Robert Dudley said last month that the company’s Gulf strategy would focus on four major fields: Thunder Horse, Na Kika, Atlantis and Mad Dog.

In July, BP reported a second-quarter loss of $1.4 billion on lower oil prices, falling production and write-downs of assets including shale-gas holdings in the U.S. The loss was larger than analysts expected and a reversal from profit of $5.7 billion a year earlier.

BP oil spill partially to blame for high dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico

PhysOrg

© Steve Shippee, UCF
For the past two years, scientists have been trying to figure out why there were a high number of dolphin deaths, part of what’s called an “unusual mortality event” along the northern Gulf of Mexico. What they found was a perfect storm.

The largest oil spill on open water to date and other environmental factors led to the historically high number of dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, concludes a two-year scientific study released today. A team of biologists from several Gulf of Mexico institutions and the University of Central Florida in Orlando published their findings in the journal PLoS ONE. For the past two years, scientists have been trying to figure out why there were a high number of dolphin deaths, part of what’s called an “unusual mortality event” along the northern Gulf of Mexico. Most troubling to scientists was the exceptionally high number of young dolphins that made up close to half of the 186 dolphins that washed ashore from Louisiana to western Florida from January to April 2010.

The number of “perinatal” (near birth) dolphins stranded during this four-month period was six times higher than the average number of perinatal strandings in the region since 2003 and nearly double the historical percentage of all strandings. “Unfortunately it was a ‘perfect storm’ that led to the dolphin deaths,” said Graham Worthy, a UCF provosts distinguished professor of biology and co-author of the study. “The oil spill and cold winter of 2010 had already put significant stress on their food resources, resulting in poor body condition and depressed immune response. It appears the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from snowmelt water that pushed through Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound in 2011 was the final blow.”

The cold winter of 2010 was followed by the historic BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2011, which dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, likely disrupting the food chain. This was in the middle of the dolphins’ breeding season. A sudden entry of high volumes of cold freshwater from Mobile Bay in 2011 imposed additional stress on the ecosystem and specifically on dolphins that were already in poor body condition.

“When we put the pieces together, it appears that the dolphins were likely weakened by depleted food resources, bacteria, or other factors as a result of the 2010 cold winter or oil spill, which made them susceptible to assault by the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from land in 2011 and resulted in distinct patterns in when and where they washed ashore,” said Ruth Carmichael, a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, an assistant professor of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama and the lead author of the study. The majority of perinatal strandings were centered on the Mississippi-Alabama coast, adjacent to Mobile Bay, the 4th largest freshwater drainage in the U.S.

The onshore movement of surface currents during the same period resulted in animals washing ashore along the stretch of coastline where freshwater discharge was most intense. Others who contributed to the study include: William M. Graham and Stephan Howden from the University of Southern Mississippi, Stennis Space Center and Allen Aven from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the University of South Alabama. Worthy is the Hubbs Professor of Marine Mammalogy. He received his PhD in 1986 from the University of Guelph in Canada and then completed post-doctoral training at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he studied elephant seals, bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. He spent 11 years as a faculty member in the Department of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston and served as the State Coordinator for the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Worthy and his team at UCF have been studying dolphin populations in the Pensacola and Choctawhatchee bays for years.

Journal reference: PLoS ONE search and more info website Provided by University of Central Florida search and more info website

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-high-dolphin-deaths-gulf-mexico.html#jCp

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