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BP has been granted an oil exploration permit for the waters off the coast of Southern Australia,according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The company plans to begin seismic surveys next summer with an eye to drilling in 2013 or 2014.

The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, said yesterday that the government would impose particularly stringent conditions on BP because of last year's spill.

Although the permit gives BP the right to explore and develop any commercial oil or gas fields it finds, drilling and seismic surveys would require further environmental approval.

''This is the start of a long, extensive, drawn-out and exhaustive process,'' Mr Ferguson said. ''BP's exploration activities, and indeed those of all operators in Australia waters, will be undertaken in accordance with our stringent environmental and safety standards.''

Can they seriously believe this:

To satisfy the government, BP said it would focus on proving that it would not disrupt whales in a nearby marine sanctuary and that it could work alongside the fishing industry.

Australia had its own version of the Deepwater Horizon in 2009. The Montara oil spill occurred in the Timor Sea in the waters off Western Australia.

A wellhead platform exploded and leaked, what the government now estimates to be 2000 barrels per day from August 21 to November 3 when it was successfully plugged. The capping assembly was put in place in January 2010. The rig was owned by Seadrill (Norwegian-Bermudan)and operated by PTTEPAA, a subsidiary of the Thai national gas and oil company. The cement job, thought to be faulty, was done by none other than, you guessed it, Houston based Halliburton.

Three days after the well was plugged a Commission of Inquiry was established to look into the causes and effects of the spill. The Commission report was supposed to be released in April 2010, but was delayed until June 18, 2010.

The Minister for Energy and Resources, Martin Ferguson, has been sitting on the Montara Commission of Inquiry report since June 18, 2010 and refusing to release it publicly. Since the spill in August 2009 Martin Ferguson has signed 120 new gas and oil exploration licenses but has still not imposed any regulations on deep sea oil drilling

Indonesian fishermen and seaweed farmers have tried to get compensation from PTTEAA but have been denied due to lack of verifiable "scientific proof"

Thought things were bad here? Apparently the Commission of Inquiry called for better standards of practice, but these measures have not yet been put in place.

Mr Ferguson said oil exploration had to be encouraged to deal with the nation's $16 billion trade deficit in petroleum products. Due to dwindling reserves, the deficit is expected to widen to as much as $30 billion by 2015.

''Our energy security will be greatly enhanced by opening up new geological frontiers and reducing our dependence on imports,'' he said.

Sounds oh so familiar, doesn't it.
::::

The rich get richer.

Yasuragi gave excellent coverage of a BP-Russian oil deal in yesterday's AUV. The deal with Russia's state controlled company Rosneft gives BP access to areas of the Artic once reserved for Russian oil groups only.
The deal was announced on Friday and by Monday morning shares were up by 1.5 percent. Rosneft's shares were up 3.5 percent in Moscow.

::::

Alaska Pipeline back up and running. More good news for BP and big oil

The company that runs the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, which has been struggling for the last week with a leak at the Prudhoe Bay intake station, said operations would resume by late Sunday or early Monday.

Workers were able to finish the 157 foot bypass line that will allow the oil to go around the leak at the pumping station.

The system, which normally carries nearly 12 percent of the nation’s domestically produced oil, was forced to stop flowing last Saturday when workers discovered oil leaking from a cement-encased pipe.
Oil producers on the North Slope — primarily BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil — were forced to reduce output to 5 percent of normal levels.

::::

Michael Bromwich, director of the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,Regulation and Enforcement,spoke last week to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy-research group.
It sounds like he is trying to please both sides, emphasizing the safeguards that already have been put in place, while assuring oil companies that the pace of issuing new permits will pick up soon.

Bromwich said afterward that the oil and gas industry was frustrated because new safety regulations were slowing down approvals for new activity in the Gulf of Mexico. He said his staff was talking to industry officials to explain the new rules and answer their questions. He said everyone he'd spoken with told him that the new rules made sense.

Bromwich said he'd be "stunned if we waited until the third or fourth quarter" before issuing new deepwater drilling permits. He predicted that the pace would pick up but that it wouldn't match the "very rapid processing of permits" that industry groups would like to see restored.

Many companies, trade groups and members of Congress have complained since last year, when the agency announced its new safety rules, that they don't know what's next for the permitting process.

"The implication is that we have other regulatory requirements up our sleeves that we have not yet unveiled," Bromwich said. "This is simply not the case. Barring significant, unanticipated revelations from investigations into the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that remain in process, I do not anticipate further emergency rule-makings. Period."

While he did indicate that modifications will be needed as technology develops to drill in even deeper waters or in formations with greater pressures, he did concede that budget considerations in Congress might delay some necessary changes being made.

Bromwich's new agency replaces the old Minerals Management Service, which was charged with promoting offshore oil and gas development, maximizing revenues from the same,while enforcing safety regulations. Clearly conflicting tasks.

Bromwich contends that environmental analysis will play a greater role in the new agency, but must be done in a "timely manner".
That says to me that he doesn't consider that as important as getting those permits out.
As far as safety and inspections,

The agency has instituted a new policy that requires employees in district offices to report any potential conflicts of interest. They must ask to be recused from inspecting facilities owned by companies they once worked for. They also must report any attempts at inappropriate influence or pressure.

The rules could be difficult for district offices in the Gulf where offshore oil companies are the main employers, Bromwich acknowledged. However, he said he'd stick to the need for a clear boundary between regulators and the companies they oversee.

Bromwich says he is recruiting industry experts to train the inspectors. Also, he wants to make sure that containment resources are immediately available in case of another blowout. Of course the funding for all this is dependent on the new Congress.
(h/t yasuragi)
::::

Many of us watched (on the Marine Traffic website) when after the plugging of the Macondo well all the players we had come to know sailed off to Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
That is because the dry dock station C-Port 3 became the largest decontamination station designed to clean the oil from ships before they could return to normal service. The deoiling of vessels and equipment
required the development of new operational procedures and safety policies by BP, the Coast Guard and Edison Choest Offshore.

"What’s really been a testament to the success of this thing is none of these guys had any experience in this when they came here," said Monte Orr, a self-described safety monitor/ supervisor/ contractor who played an instrumental role in the process.

"In decon, they had no idea [what they were doing]. We trained them and taught them how to do it safely, and we’ve not had any OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reportable accidents on this job since its beginning in June. That’s a feat. That’s something that I certainly hang my hat on and I’m proud to be able to say it."

Throughout the seven-month clean up, C-Port 3 officials said minor caustic chemical burns were the only blips on their safety record and there were no lost-time or recordable accidents.

When Port Fourchon was selected as a vessel decontamination location a few weeks after the extent of the spill became known, officials with BP PLC, in an effort to gain maritime expertise, partnered with Edison Chouest Offshore.

There were as many as 15 decontamination stations set up across the Gulf Coast, but Port Fourchon was the largest and set up to handle the largest vessels.

Crews working from the C-Port decontamination site were tasked with cleaning the large vessels  between 80 and 420 feet long  so that they may be returned to the seas and resume work. Beneath the decks of the barges and tugboats are the tanks that held the MC252 oil retrieved from the Gulf of Mexico that were plagued by oil residue and in some cases hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas created when microbes ingest oil.

Only one cleaning agent was allowed, a citrus based hydrocarbon cleaner similar to Fast Orange hand cleaner. Its insolubility caused it to sit on top of the water and be skimmed off.

"As the [PES-51] would dissolve the oil, we would let it sit there for a couple of minutes and then we would pressure wash it at high pressure, scrub it and let the runoff run into the water and catch it with absorbent pads and booms," Barrios said.

Each vessel that underwent cleaning was surrounded by boom at a 25-foot radius, Barrios said.

"We have done approximately 240 vessels here in Port Fourchon," Barrios said. "Quantity wise, that’s not the most compared to the other decon sites. There is a couple of other sites, but a lot of the other sites did small vessels, the VOO vessels, which a lot of them vessels didn’t see any oil.

"It took anywhere from 4-7 days to do a 300-foot offshore supply vessel that was sitting in the oil for 3 or 4 months, having oil circulating through its coolant systems and taking oil onto the back deck. There was some pretty nasty stuff that came through here.
"

But the big skimmers were the worst:

The nastiest vessels, Barrios and Hancock agreed, were the "Big Gulps." Designed by an Amelia man for the clean-up response, the vessels resembled a "lawn mower," with a dam skimming the oil into tanks and pushing water underneath as it traveled in reverse, its speed determined by the amount of oil in a particular area.

The introductory Big Gulp skimmed 310,000 gallons in its first day, 98 percent of which was pure oil, Barrios said, and seven more were fabricated in its likeness. All eight, four offshore and four near shore, were decontaminated at Port Fourchon and took longer than a month to clean.

"They had a line break on a six-inch pump while it was pumping and oil went all over the deck of the boat," the Chouest dispatcher said. "And these barges didn’t just come off the shipyard. They weren’t freshly painted. These barges had a good amount of scale. They pretty much took them out of the graveyard it seems like.

"What ended up happening is that oil got on the deck and that scale acted like a sponge. The only way to get that cleaned, we beat it. We beat it with hammers and chipped the oil away

What happens to the facility and the workers now that decontamination is almost over?

The process has since slowed, with the equipment being deconned two weeks ago and the decontamination at C-Port 3 completed at the start of the New Year.

"In the period of time, with the man-hours we have invested in this project, nobody else has done with what we’ve done," Barrios said.

"The end result was where we’re at today, finishing a project and UAC (United Area Command) said we achieved a world class safety record," Hancock added.

"This is supplemental income for a lot of people and a lot of companies," Barrios [site manager for Edison Choest] said. "There is still work out there and our companies are positioning themselves to get a hold of some of that work so we can keep our people around, keep them employed and keep their families fed.

(h/t yasuragi)

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:



1-16-11 07:17:36Gulf Watchers - Arctic Blast: BP's Deal With Russia - BP Catastrophe AUV #457Yasuragi
1-14-11 18:26:07Gulf Watchers Block Party - A Spontaneous SearchYasuragi
1-14-11 08:07:57Gulf Watchers Friday - And Now, Infinite Litigation - BP Catastrophe AUV #456Lorinda Pike
1-12-11 07:13:34Gulf Watchers Wed. - Media Ignores Deepwater Horizon Commission Report - BP Catastrophe AUV #455peraspera

The last Mothership has links to reference material.

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

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.

Originally posted to shanesnana on Mon Jan 17, 2011 at 02:26 PM PST.

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