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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 264

Thoughts: A few more oil spills can't hurt right... ?

The 20 April 2010 explosion on BP's offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the death of eleven people and is currently the biggest off-shore oil spill in U.S. history.

Is the oil really hurting anything?

See for yourself.

An explosion on the BP operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed eleven crew members on April 20, 2010, sparking the greatest environmental disaster in United States history. In combination with the Texas City Refinery Explosion and the Prudohoe Bay Oil Spill, this marks the third serious incident involving BP in the United States in the last five years. Current estimates put the amount of oil that was being discharged from the broken well at above 1,470,000 US gallons per day! There are over 400 different species of animals living in the area affected by the spill. 464 sea turtles and 60 dolphins have been found dead within the spill area (NOAA). BP is operating oil skimmers and other cleanup tools to try to remove oil from the water and Louisiana is building oil containment berms to halt the spread of oil. Experts are uncertain what effect, if any, these efforts will have. On July 15, 2010 BP sucesfully stopped the flow of oil from the wellhead itself. The build-up of pressure however has caused the seeping of oil through the bedrock into the gulf, continuing the flow of oil.

See we were all told deep sea drilling was safe, because the oil companies had systems to protect us; systems to keep our oceans safe, to keep their employees safe, to keep our aquatic life and the people who depend on them for their livelihood, safe!

There were many things that went wrong on April 20, but the biggest failure was that of the blind shear ram. To put it simply the blind shear ram is a last line of defense, which, when working properly, is set to slice the pipe and seal off the well, locks then move into place preventing the pistons from moving backwards, closing the well forever.

Disaster averted.

But as we all know, that didn’t happen.

Why not?

Because it seems that no one was really sure that it would ever work in the first place. The rams were a single point failure system, meaning that it took one small valve to clog for the whole system to be rendered ineffective. In fact a private and confidential study done by Transocean, the company that owned the rig, showed that these back up systems had a 45% failure rate.

Chew on that. The last line of defense to keep millions of gallons of crude oil from destroying our oceans only works 55% of the time…

Forget about repairing them even if the agency did find that there could be a possible issue. Stopping operations on a rig costs $700/minute.

None of this makes sense to me either.

The good news is most of the rigs in the ocean have two blind shear rams on board. A back up to the back up. But not the Deep Horizon.


Transocean, and the company renting it, BP, seem to disagree on the subject.Transocean claims that was BP’s decision. BP states it was a joint one. But that wouldn’t have had room for two anyways. A point that many experts disagree with.

And the federal agency that regulates the safety of these rigs, and the effectiveness of these back up systems, Minerals Management Service, really wasn’t doing a good job of holding BP or Transocean responsible.

BP applied for, and was issued, a permit to drill last year. Frank Patton, an engineer with the Minerals Management Service issued that permit. Without ever ensuring that the blind shear ram on the Deep Horizon was functioning. In fact Mr. Patton states that in all his years of training he was never told to actually check that.

Oh… my….

In memoriam

It is easy to get caught up in figuring out how to stop the spill, how to clean it up, how to mitigate this disaster that is so beyond our scope reasoning. And we should be doing that, because it is easier to sweep it away from our thoughts and let the people in the gulf worry about it.

And so it becomes easier yet to forget the first victims, the 11 men who died on April 20, 2010. Men who were supporting families some with children and wives, some with unborn children, men whose bodies will never be recovered, simply because they were doing what most of us do every day… working.

So who is to blame; BP, Transocean, or the governmental bodies we believe are keeping us safe?


1965: Sea Gem offshore oil rig disaster
In December 1965, while the BP oil rig Sea Gem was being moved, two of its legs collapsed and the rig capsised. Thirteen crew were killed. Sea Gem was the first British offshore oil rig.

1993–1995: Hazardous substance dumping

In September 1999, one of BP’s US subsidiaries, BP Exploration Alaska (BPXA), agreed to resolve charges related to the illegal dumping of hazardous wastes on the Alaska North Slope, for $22 million. The settlement included the maximum $500,000 criminal fine, $6.5 million in civil penalties, and BP’s establishment of a $15 million environmental management system at all of BP facilities in the US and Gulf of Mexico that are engaged in oil exploration, drilling or production. The charges stemmed from the 1993 to 1995 dumping of hazardous wastes on Endicott Island, Alaska by BP’s contractor Doyon Drilling. The firm illegally discharged waste oil, paint thinner and other toxic and hazardous substances by injecting them down the outer rim, or annuli, of the oil wells.

2005: Texas City Refinery explosion
In March 2005, BP's Texas City, Texas refinery, one of its largest refineries, exploded causing 15 deaths, injuring 180 people and forcing thousands of nearby residents to remain sheltered in their homes.[98] A large[clarification needed]column filled with hydrocarbon overflowed to form a vapour cloud, which ignited. The explosion caused all the casualties and substantial damage to the rest of the plant. The incident came as the culmination of a series of less serious accidents at the refinery, and the engineering problems were not addressed by the management. Maintenance and safety at the plant had been cut as a cost-saving measure, the responsibility ultimately resting with executives in London

2006–2007: Prudhoe Bay
In August 2006, BP shut down oil operations in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, due to corrosion in pipelines leading up to the Alaska Pipeline. The wells were leaking insulating agent called Arctic pack, consisting of crude oil and diesel fuel, between the wells and ice.[60] BP had spilled over one million litres of oil in Alaska's North Slope.[61] This corrosion is caused by sediment collecting in the bottom of the pipe, protecting corrosive bacteria from chemicals sent through the pipeline to fight these bacteria. There are estimates that about 5,000 barrels (790 m3) of oil were released from the pipeline.

2006–2008: Texas City refinery fatalities
From January 2006 to January 2008, three workers were killed at the company's Texas City, Texas refinery in three separate accidents. In July 2006 a worker was crushed between a pipe stack and mechanical lift, in June 2007, a worker was electrocuted, and in January 2008, a worker was killed by a 500-pound piece of metal that came loose under high pressure and hit him.

2007–2010 Refinery safety violations
Under scrutiny after the Texas City Refinery explosion, two BP-owned refineries in Texas City, Texas, and Toledo, Ohio, were responsible for 97 percent (829 of 851) of wilful safety violations by oil refiners between June 2007 and February 2010, as determined by inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labour at OSHA, said "The only thing you can conclude is that BP has a serious, systemic safety problem in their company.

2009: North Sea helicopter accident
On 1 April 2009, a Bond Offshore Helicopters Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma ferrying workers from BP's platform in the Miller oilfield in the North Sea off Scotland crashed in good weather killing all 16 on board.

2010: Texas City chemical leak

Two weeks prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion BP admitted that malfunctioning equipment lead to the release of over 530,000 lbs of chemicals into the air of Texas City and surrounding areas from April 6 to May 16. The leak included 17,000 pounds of benzene (a known carcinogen), 37,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides (which contribute to respiratory problems), and 186,000 pounds of carbon monoxide.

2010: Deepwater Horizon well explosion
The 20 April 2010 explosion on BP's offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the death of eleven people and is currently the biggest off-shore oil spill in U.S. history.

Here's four of the biggest marine spills in history.
Persian Gulf - January 23, 1991 - up to 1,500,000 tonnes
Gulf of Mexico - June 3, 1979 - 454,000 - 480,000 tonnes
Trinidad and Tobago - July 19, 1979 - 287,000 tonnes
Fergana Valley Uzbekistan - March 2, 1992 - 285,000 tonnes

How does the oil spill affect your health?
BP are using the dispersant Corexit. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of Corexit dispersants have been sprayed into the oil slick since April. It's banned in many countries including Great Britain. But it's approved by the EPA here in the U.S., despite the fact that it has been rated less effective and more toxic than many other EPA-approved dispersants.

Oil is semi-volatile, which means that it can evaporate into the air and create a heavy vapor that stays near the ground - in the human breathing zone. When winds whip up oily sea water, the spray contains tiny droplets - basically a fume - of oil, which are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs. People in the coastal community of Venice, Louisiana are suffering from nausea, vomiting, headaches, and difficulty breathing.people in the coastal community of Venice, Louisiana are suffering from nausea, vomiting, headaches, and difficulty breathing.

Oil contains petroleum hydrocarbons, which are toxic and irritating to the skin and airways. It also contains volatile chemicals, called VOCs, which can cause acute health effects such as headaches, dizziness and nausea. Over the long term, many of these chemicals have been linked to cancer. This oil spill doesn't just affect the community in Louisiana, but the entire world - marine and human life.

Challenges: Don't blow it - good planets are hard to find. ~Quoted in Time

Triumphs: Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. ~Henry David Thoreau

What I Ate Today:

Food fest 1: Buckwheat Pancakes with maple syrup and strawberries! Ingredients: buckwheat, maple syrup, water and strawberries :)

Food fest 2: A avocado.

Food fest 3: Strawberries and peanut butter (crushed peanuts).

Food fest 4: Brazil Nut Truffle Balls! Recipe: Apricots, brazil nuts, coconut, agave, vanilla bean mmm :)

Food fest 5: Spanish Rice and Beans! Recipe: rice, onion, garlic, celery, paprika, kidney beans, coriander (cilantro), olive oil.

Recipe: The recipes for Buckwheat Pancakes, Brazil Nut Truffle Balls and Spanish Rice and Beans are available on The Earth Diet website

Exercise: A one hour workout at Big Al's Family Fitness! Today I worked my back :) And a stretch session in the sauna :) I also did some dancing to my favourite music :)

101 days to go!!!

This blog thanks to my beautiful sister Nadine Gray.


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