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Gulf Watchers Diary Schedule
Monday - evening drive time
Wednesday - morning
Friday - morning
Friday Block Party - evening
Sunday - morning

Part one of the digest of diaries is here and part two is here.

Please be kind to kossacks with bandwidth issues. Please do not post images or videos. Again, many thanks for this.

And for a wealth of information relevant to our work here at Gulf Watchers, please read Meteor Blades' Green Diary Rescue, published on Saturday afternoons at 3PM Pacific time.

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday - the first of three - that would make it much easier for oil companies to drill offshore. The bill would force the government to issue three new permits in the Gulf by June, 2012, and one off the coast of Virginia by June, 2017.

The sales were put on hold after the Macondo blowout, ostensibly to determine the causes for the gusher, and to assess environmental damage.

The White House has said the measure - if it makes it through the Senate - would be subject to a veto by the President, because it "would hastily open up new areas to drilling".

The House passed the first measure 266-149.

BP says deepwater drilling is "indispensable"...

At the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston this week, officials from BP say that deepwater drilling (danger to human life and the environment be damned) is "indispensable" to future world energy demands.

Lamar McKay, the chief executive of BP's Gulf Coast restoration organization, ( Gulf Coast Restoration? Really? ) told the OTC that deep waters could be the future of energy.

"(T)he deep water is indispensable to the world's energy future," he said. "Indeed, we estimate that the percentage of world oil production coming from the deep water will rise to around 10 percent by 2020."

Oil demand, he added, should increase from 85 million barrels per day to more than 102 million bpd by 2030 despite the overall transition to a low-carbon economy.

No comment from BP on the $25 million they have been ordered to pay for a 2006 spill in Alaska, where the greedy bastards are chomping at the bit to start an even more dangerous and costly project. Of course, $25 million is pocket change... could probably be found under the sofa cushions in the executive lounge.

"This penalty should serve as a wake-up call to all pipeline operators that they will be held accountable for the safety of their operations and their compliance with the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the pipeline safety laws," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. "Companies like BP Alaska must understand that they can no longer afford to ignore, neglect or postpone the proper monitoring and maintenance of their pipelines. This agreement will help prevent future environmental disasters and protect the fragile ecosystem of Alaska's North Slope."

I'll believe that when I see it. After the GOP finishes eviscerating the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the pipeline safety laws, the only thing in good shape will be the corporate bank accounts, and the bank accounts of their bought-off Congressional minions.

And if we didn't have enough problems with the stuff we can see, Big Oil plans to gear up the stuff we can't see...

Tiny ideas go to work for Big Oil.

Jim Tour of Rice University is working on using nanobots to get hard-to-reach oil out of the ground.

Tour and his students are working on ways to put nanoparticles — those atom-sized clusters of carbon that can be manipulated into machines or materials — to work in the oil field.

With funding through The Advanced Energy Consortium, Tour and his team have been looking at ways to help companies better understand what’s left behind in their oil and gas formations so they can improve their resource recovery rates.

By attaching certain chemical tracers to nanoparticles that are injected into formations and then later recovered, companies may someday get a better idea of the temperature, pressure and existence of hydrocarbons that remain.

Why does this frighten me?

Being from Mississippi, I'm not sure how I feel about this... but I'm willing to listen. By the time you get past the shoreline, the Gulf doesn't have boundaries, so what's good for the Louisiana coast is good for the Mississippi coast... and Alabama, and Florida, too.

Louisiana seeks large share of oil spill liability money.

Louisiana officials claim that the state incurred the most damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster and subsequent spill, so they should receive the lion's share of the money.

Garret Graves, who leads the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, told state lawmakers Wednesday that the state opposes such funds going to the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, given that 60-90 percent of the oil spills impacts have occurred on coastal Louisiana.

“This would be the federal government literally profiting from the injury that was experienced in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast,” Graves said.

Rep. Joe Harrison, a Republican from Houma, agreed.

“We incurred the majority of the damage by far,” he said. “And that’s why I would hope that, and I know that our Congressional delegation and also the governor and the executive committees that are involved would present the type of information that supports our position to get the largest portion of that potential fine to assist us in what I think is going to be something we’re going to deal with for years to come.”

Graves said there is also precedent for an alternative - directly negotiating a settlement between local authorities and responsible parties, with up to 80% of the fines to be spent on coastal restoration, including fisheries. He is asking federal officials to begin the process for such a settlement, which he says would be far better for the state than anything that Congress would do.

“One of the challenges in going through Congress is that Sen. Landrieu, Sen. Vitter, our House delegation will have to negotiate with the delegations from those other states,” Graves said. “Texas has a large delegation. Florida has a large delegation.”

He said a Congressional solution would also require a budget offset from the diversion to the states, which he said would be very difficult in this budget climate.

Negotiating with the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and responsible parties directly “would be a better venue for Louisiana to negotiate based on true impacts and merit, versus based upon political considerations and who has a larger delegation.”

Even though the Deepwater Horizon disaster was just that - a disaster - watching the ROVs work under extreme conditions a mile beneath the ocean's surface was, at least to me, totally fascinating. The operators of said little robots were skilled (even when frustrated by the difficulty of tasks that would be simple topside - like putting a socket on a bolt) and their expertise was often evident during the months we watched.

Now the companies that manufacture and operate these machines are planning to advance the technology.

John Edward Davis of Oceaneering International discussed the lack of equipment standards industry-wide for ROV intervention panels or other tools that are used to operate subsea equipment. This was an issue in the Macondo incident. The right-size tool to try to activate sheer rams on the blowout preventer were not readily available from rigs and vessels nearby, leading to nearly a day’s delay before those operations could start.

Mark Johnson of Deepwater Research Inc. said there’s also a need to start developing ROVs and self-guided subsea equipment that can stay on the job for up to a year. This isn’t just for emergencies but for complex operations and regular maintenance and inspection.

Getting ROVs to handle such demands wouldn’t necessarily require redesigning equipment, but rather taking existing designs and tweaking their capabilities to run first for one month, then 6 months and then one year continuously. Creating a set of standard certifications that all industry ROVs and their component would use would be key, Johnson said.

As if the fishermen on the Louisiana coast didn't have enough problems already, the influx of fresh water from the Mississippi River floods will probably decimate the oyster beds that haven't come close to recovering from the BP spill and Gov. Bobby Jindall's misguided efforts to keep oil out of the marshes.

Rising big river poses threat to La. oyster trade.

Just a year after the BP oil spill crippled Louisiana's oyster industry, the fishermen face a new problem. Freshwater is set to be diverted from the mighty Mississippi River into the salty waters where the shellfish grow, potentially killing them.

To protect people, homes and businesses along the big river, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to open at least one spillway, sending water out of the river. The tactic may ease the pressure on levees, but it will almost certainly kill the shellfish, too.

Fourth-generation oysterman Shane Bagala spent months skimming oil to make money. Earlier this week, though, he embarked on his first oyster run, returning with a healthy catch. But he became worried when he heard the corps was considering opening a spillway.

"I'm very concerned because I'm just getting back to work now for the first time since the oil spill. Now it looks like something else might be threatening us," said Bagala, who has fished for oysters for 22 years.

The corps plans on Monday to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway, built about 30 miles northwest New Orleans in response to the great flood of 1927. The spillway diverts river water to brackish Lake Pontchartrain, and from there east into the fertile fishing and oyster grounds of Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound, and ultimately the Gulf.

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:

5-04-11 06:00 AM Gulf Watchers Wednesday - Potential Arctic blowout = 58 million gal. spill - BP Catastrophe AUV #513 peraspera
5-01-11 12:28 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - Oil Biz Trade Show Touts "Safety" - BP Catastrophe AUV #512 Lorinda Pike
4-29-11 06:54 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party: It's Only Rock 'n Roll... Lorinda Pike
4-29-11 08:19 AM Gulf Watchers Friday - They're Baaaa-aak - BP Catastrophe AUV #511 Lorinda Pike
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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