Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fingers Crossed: BP Shuts Down Flow Of Oil From Deepwater Horizon Disaster

For the first time in nearly 3 months, the flow of new oil from the damaged Deepwater Horizon well has stopped as a new cap on the well appears to have worked.

Now, we've got to deal with anywhere from 90 million to 180 million gallons of oil that already leaked into the Gulf and has caused tremendous damage to the ecosystem.

With all this, you've still got stupid quips by BP executives:
“I am very excited that there’s no oil in the Gulf of Mexico,” Kent Wells, a senior vice president for BP, said about the flow during a teleconference on Thursday, “but we just started the test and I don’t want to create a false sense of excitement.”

Oil stopped flowing at 2:25 p.m. local time, Mr. Wells said, when engineers closed the choke line, the final seal of the well. Engineers and scientists will now examine the results of the tests every six hours to determine the pressure levels.

The view one mile beneath the gulf on BP’s continuous live video feed was conspicuously calm, devoid of the clouds of crude oil that had been billowing since the disaster first occurred in April. Despite the long-anticipated moment, officials involved in the spill effort, including President Obama, were quick to downplay the development as a temporary measure.

“I think it is a positive sign, we’re still in the testing phase and I’ll have more to say about it tomorrow,” President Obama said in response to a shouted question at the conclusion of a news conference devoted entirely to the passage of the financial regulatory bill.

"We’re encouraged by this development, but this isn’t over," Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who is overseeing the federal response to the spill, said in a statement on Thursday. "It remains likely that we will return to the containment process using this new stacking cap connected to the risers to attempt to collect up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day until the relief well is completed."
Really? There's no oil in the Gulf? Maybe there's no new oil gushing into the Gulf, but we've got the millions of gallons that already despoiled the Gulf as a result of a combination of factors, including technological failures and greed.

The main lesson here is that the oil companies simply do not have a plan to deal with major spills such as this, and lack the capabilities to do so under the harsh conditions that they now drill deepwater wells.

Here's a history of attempts to stop the oil spill.

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