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Topics: BP to resume Gulf drilling by midsummer. Gulf oil spill will loom large over Offshore Technology Conference. BP profits up on asset sales, higher oil prices. Attorneys in oil spill litigation now debate how trial should proceed. Greenpeace lawsuit accuses chemical companies of spying on it.

You are in the current Gulf Watchers BP Catastrophe - AUV #511. ROV #510 is here.

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They're baaaa-aack....

As if the Gulf Coast didn't have enough problems already, BP has confirmed that it will be drilling in the Gulf after the mid-2011.

Chief Financial Officer Byron Grote told analysts that BP expected to be "back and actively drilling [in the Gulf] during the second half of the year." Fergus MacLeod, BP's head of investor relations, said BP's return was subject to regulatory approvals and would only happen if the company meets or exceeds new safety standards, such as tough requirements on oil-spill-response capabilities and equipment like blowout preventers.

A resumption of drilling operations in the Gulf would mark a big symbolic success for BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley and his efforts to rebuild a company still badly tarnished by last year's oil spill. BP is the largest producer in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, and it still owns more acreage there than any other company. But output from its Gulf fields has fallen sharply in the aftermath of the spill, one of America's worst environmental disasters.

The bitching and moaning continues from BP and other drilling entities, as they complain they lost so much money because of the deepwater drilling moratorium - mainly in the cost of keeping rigs on standby waiting for the moratorium to be lifted.
Resuming operations in the Gulf has been difficult for all oil companies, not just BP. The new U.S. regulator, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, BOEMRE, has imposed tough new safety and environmental standards on all operators, which now have to demonstrate how they would contain a subsea blowout.

Since February, BOEMRE has issued permits for the drilling of only ten wells. But allowing BP, which still faces a range of criminal and civil investigations over the Gulf spill, to resume drilling there could prove controversial. The company says it has asked regulators for permission to drill 10 development wells that were underway when the moratorium was imposed.

The asset sales, and the resulting contraction in output, have left BP a much smaller, and leaner, company. But BP officials say it will now be much more focused on high-growth opportunities, and since the oil spill it has won big contracts in India, China and Australia. However, its reinvention hasn't all gone smoothly: a landmark Arctic exploration deal with Russian state-owned oil company OAO Rosneft was blocked by BP's existing partners in Russia, the AAR consortium, who won a court injunction freezing the agreement.

BP still operatestwenty-seven rigs around the world, most of which never stopped drilling. So, ignore the whining. They are greedy rat bastards...

Because they didn't lose a damn thing...They made money.

BP profits up on asset sales, higher oil prices.

BP's net income was $7.2 billion for the quarter ending March 2011, compared with a paltry $6.2 billion for the same quarter last year. Revenue was up 18 percent to $88.3 billion after the company sold more than $24 billion in assets to pay for the Gulf spill.

All the gory details are here, if you for some reason feel the need to read it...

Rep. Ed Markey, (D-Mass.), wisely observed that serious profits, after the horror of the blowout, is a good reason to repeal tax breaks for oil producers.

“When BP makes billions in profits, even after the year they just had, you know it’s time to cap the gusher of tax breaks that have been subsidizing the biggest oil companies for decades,” Markey said in a statement. “Oil companies may have stopped the BP oil spill, but they want to keep the flow of taxpayer dollars going, even as they make billions in profits from those same taxpayers at the pump.”

More than 70,000 members of the energy industry will meet in Houston next week for the Offshore Technology Conference, where Macondo 252 is expected to be a major topic of business and conversation.

Gulf oil spill will loom large over Offshore Technology Conference.

The inability of the shear rams to slice through canted drillpipe to stop the gusher has prompted "innovations" to take care of that nasty problem. T-3 Energy Services trumpets "Shear Innovation" on billboards, and has even gone so far as to include special cigar cutters in their press kits. Seriously. Please click on the link. Can it cut something other than cigars? Maybe egos?

Saeid Rahimian, president of Robbins Myers’ fluid management group, which oversees the T-3 business, told us previously the company was approaching the shear ram design challenge from scratch. Monday at OTC will be the big reveal.

Other product pitches include improvements to remotely controlled submarines that were the workhorses of the Macondo well control efforts last year, subsea monitoring and pressure measurement equipment and improvements in filtering systems for water that comes out production wells.

But the Macondo disaster isn’t the only incident being used by OTC exhibitors.

CorDEX Instruments is rolling out a new tool for detecting pipeline corrosion by reminding us of other recent energy-related accidents of a more terrestrial nature.

“The launch [of the product] comes as pressure mounts for better pipeline maintenance following tragic incidents including an explosion in San Bruno, California,” the CorDEX press release reads. “A federal investigation recently cast blame on defective welds in the 60 year old pipeline and poor testing and record keeping.”

This dog-and-pony show should be interesting. We at Gulf Watchers will try to keep up with any "innovations" destined to change life as we know it...

Attorneys in oil spill litigation now debate how trial should proceed.

With more than 100,000 complaints filed in the case of the BP gusher, attorneys are trying to decide exactly what will be included in the trial. The proposals, which will be discussed in this morning's monthly status conference before U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, are a hodgepodge, with little clear focus.

The plaintiffs, the state of Alabama, and in a strange twist -- Transocean -- want a quick and far-reaching trial of liability issues for all parties encompassing everything from the blowout to efforts to stop the oil, to how much oil was spilled and economic losses. Their vision would include consideration of punitive damages.

BP wants to focus narrowly on the events leading up the blowout and sinking of the rig and leave out what happened after the gusher began. It envisions an extended trial in multiple phases with several-month breaks in between. It would not address questions of punitive or compensatory damages, efforts to control the well after the blowout, or how much oil was actually spilled.

Other parties are somewhere in between. The U.S. government's ideas are similar to the plaintiffs' and Transocean's, but it wants to take a rest between the events leading to the blowout and what happened afterward to keep up with document demands. Louisiana wants to keep its options open. Halliburton likes some of what BP has to say, but rejects the idea of focusing on the "initiation" of the flow of oil, and says that no economic loss claims should be part of the initial proceeding. Anadarko and Moex, the minor partners in the well, generally agree with BP. Cameron put forth a philosophical treatise on what legal issues are to be tried and how, and said that it wants to be tried under Louisiana law pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act before a jury.

Transocean is attempting to use an archaic ruling to limit its liability.
In theory, the trial date is for an obscure maritime law proceeding brought by Transocean called the Limitation of Shipowner's Liability Act. Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, initially invoked the 1851 statute to try to limit its financial exposure to the $27 million value of the sunken rig. According to a Transocean statement when the case was filed last May in Houston, the case is supposed to deal only with matters of injury, death and property damage from the explosion.
BP and other defendants note that the court is already going at full-tilt taking as many as three depositions every day to get to the bottom of the events leading to the blowout and shoehorning more issues into the trial would require even more depositions by more people. BP says the plaintiffs' plan is "unworkable," as well as "contrary to governing law, and inherently unmanageable and unfair." The company said the litigation involves "the most complex admiralty proceedings in history" and the plaintiffs assertion that all liability issues involving at least 18 categories of plaintiffs against at least 21 defendants in a three-month trial on limited depositions is "unrealistic fantasy." A later filing called the plaintiffs' trial plan is a "case management quagmire and a legal morass."
Quagmire. Morass. Okay... good descriptive words. But get closer to the truth, please. Call it an eternal sucking black hole of legal maneuvering destined to continue until the Sun goes nova. That would about do it, I think...

Greenpeace lawsuit accuses chemical companies of spying on it.

A federal judge will decide whether to allow a lawsuit to move forward alleging two major chemical companies, Dow and Sasol North America, used a private security firm to spy on environmental groups in Louisiana and Washington, D.C.

The suit, filed by Greenpeace, alleges that the two chemical companies, along with PR firms Dezenhall Resources and Ketchum, worked with a now defunct security firm consisting of former Secret Service agents to collect material about the environmental group, including digging up documents from garbage and recycling bins and planting a volunteer in Greenpeace's Washington, D.C., office.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that the companies were involved in racketeering to discourage or disrupt the environmental group's work.

Most of the activity occurred between 1998 and 2000, but wasn't discovered until a 2008 article by the magazine Mother Jones, according to the suit.

The defendants in the lawsuit, filed in November, have asked U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer to either throw out the suit or issue a summary judgment in favor of the companies. The Washington, D.C., federal judge has not said when she'll rule on the motions.

Why Did Texas City Plants Lose Power?

Refinery and power company officials are trying to piece together why several Texas City plants lost power, causing shelter-in-place warnings, Tuesday school closings and emissions from plant flares that lit the skies over the coastal town.

The brief power outages, which occurred in two clusters starting around 9:30 p.m. Monday and 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, prompted BP, Valero and Marathon Oil to shut down their refining operations. Dow Chemical also shut down equipment at its Texas City chemical plant, which makes components used in consumer and industrial products.

Flare towers designed to burn off emissions glowed late Monday and in the predawn darkness Tuesday at BP's sprawling refinery and chemical complex. A fire broke out in one unit shortly after the facility lost power, but it was quickly put out with no injuries.

Dow Chemical said it had no emissions following its shut-down and did not need to flare. Valero said it only flared early Tuesday morning.

Linde to Add Hundreds of Jobs in Pennsylvania, but at what price? More jobs = good. But more gaz de schiste and more fracking? Shale gas+fracking = not good...

Linde Construction Corp. is looking to hire hundreds of workers over the next few years to keep pace with its growing presence in the natural gas industry, said spokesman Kevin Lynn.

The utility pipeline and construction company has contracts for five years of work in Bradford, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties and is looking for heavy equipment operators, welders, pipe benders, skilled laborers and management positions, said Vice President Bob McGraw.

"Since Jan. 1, we've hired 73 new people with five more going through orientation this week and another nine scheduled for next week, but it isn't enough," McGraw said.

Linde Construction has seen tremendous growth since it began to develop opportunities in the Marcellus Shale region in July 2009, Lynn said. Its workers lay pipeline to transport natural gas harvested from wells, construct drilling pads, complete horizontal directional drilling and repave regional roads.

PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!
Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
4-27-11 06:01 AM Gulf Watchers Wednesday - Science the loser in the Gulf - BP Catastrophe AUV #510 peraspera
4-25-11 05:40 PM Gulf Watchers Monday -Safer Dispersant and Help from Talk Radio - BP Catastrophe AUV #509 shanesnana
4-24-11 12:02 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Deficiencies and Omissions = Death - BP Catastrophe AUV #508 Lorinda Pike
4-22-11 06:49 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party: Burning Edition BlackSheep1
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

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