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Proposed deepwater well in North Sea would spill more oil with severe repercussions for wildlife; but some think North Sea is safer than Gulf. Oil sheen over Macondo not from rig or riser wreckage. New article in peer reviewed journal criticises FDA reports on seafood safety. Vessels of Opportunity owners can now sue BP but risk losing wages earned.
Gulf Coast Task Force releases its plan for public review. Halliburton suit against BP thrown out.

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Well I have to give old Tony just a smidgen of credit. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion and its fallout, he put on hold a deepwater drilling project near the Shetland islands that was viewed as risky. But now BP could be drilling in the North Uist area west of Shetland as early as January. The potential for this well, the first deepwater that BP has drilled in this area, would be a gusher of 75,000 barrels per day (the max estimated in the Gulf was 62,000). The area is also a sanctuary for seabirds and many marine mammals.
Internal company documents seen by The Independent show that the worst-case scenario for a spill from its North Uist exploratory well, to be sunk next year, would involve a leak of 75,000 barrels a day for 140 days – a total of 10.5 million barrels of oil, comfortably the world's biggest pollution disaster.
This would be more than double the amount of oil spilled from its Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico last year, which had a maximum leak rate of 62,000 barrels a day in an incident lasting 88 days.

The exploratory well is set to be drilled in January, if it receives a license from the Energy Sectretary, Chris Huhne. The area is north west of Shetland. (Be sure to click for the great graphic.) BP has 3 other wells in the general area, but all are less than 1500 feet. This well will be approximately 4,000 feet.

The difficulty of capping a gushing well at such depths, vividly illustrated by the three months it took for Deepwater Horizon to be staunched, is greatly concerning British environmentalists who point out that the waters which might be affected by a North Uist spill are among the most wildlife-rich in all the UK.

Seabirds including many rare species are found in enormous concentrations on Shetland, the nearest landmass to any spill, and in the surrounding waters, which also contain large numbers of whales, dolphins and seals, as well as substantial fish stocks.

A major destination for wildlife tourism, Shetland has already been badly affected by a previous oil spill, that of the tanker MV Braer, which ran aground on Shetland in January 1993. BP documents referring to the North Uist project themselves list more than 20 vulnerable Shetland nature sites, including eight Special Protection Areas, two Special Conservation Areas and 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, which involve the breeding grounds of otters and rare birds such as the great skua, the red-throated diver and Leach's petrel.

Just guess what the BP spokesman has to say...can you guess?

A spokesman for BP said that the company was legally obliged to model the worst-case scenario, "but the reality is, the chances of a spill are very unlikely". Since Deepwater Horizon, he added, BP had invested "a huge amount of time and resources strengthening procedures, investing in additional safety equipment and further improving our oil spill response capability".

In particular, a major new well-capping device, designed for use at depths of up to 10,000ft, has been constructed, tested and made available, and could quickly be deployed, and any leak from North Uist is likely to be at a much lower pressure than that in the Gulf.

"We are confident that the improvements that have been made provide the level of assurance necessary against the risks," the BP spokesman said.

And here we thought all their resources were going toward cover up and trying to elude responsibility.

BP has held a public consultation about the project, which ended last week. However, it was not widely advertised, had virtually no publicity, and a BP spokesman said there had been "no responses" from the public.

No publicity...with their tweet machine and You Tube channel...I thought they were the experts! Let's hope the British are a little smarter than us.


U.S. Wildcat Culture Risks Macondo Oil Spill Repeat, Graham Says Bob Graham, co chair of the Deepwater Horizon Commission, believes it it our "wildcat" culture that caused the disaster in the Gulf and he points to the North Sea as better regulated. Which makes it even more interesting to see if the above license is granted.

“U.S. oil and gas culture is the culture of the wildcat that’s been transferred offshore,” Bob Graham said today in an interview at an oil conference in Abu Dhabi. “The Gulf of Mexico had a culture of complacency. For every one fatality in the North Sea, there were four in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The North Sea is better regulated, said Graham, a former Democratic U.S. senator and Florida governor. The U.S. should follow the North Sea’s “safety case” approach, which asks operators to identify all the risks associated with drilling in a specific area, rather than the prescriptive approach taken in the U.S.

Norway has some of the best regulations after spills in the North Sea, including Ekofisk in 1977, according to Liane Smith, director at well integrity company Intetech Ltd. The Cullen report, produced after the 1988 explosion at the Piper Alpha platform in the U.K. North Sea in which 167 people died, strengthened the power of the U.K. Health and Safety Executive, a government body staffed from the oil and gas industry that is respected by local operators, Smith said.

“In the North Sea, anyone can stop an operation,” Smith said in an interview at the same conference. “You can’t have a situation where operators have to do things they don’t feel are safe. It costs money to stop but it’s worth it.”

Remember the oil sheen that was sighted over the area of the Macondo Well. After a few reports and a local newspaper collected samples that were identified as oil from the Macondo, the Coast Guard and BP sent cameras down to look at the capped well. They reported no seepage and posted video from the ROV cameras on the Restore the Gulf web site. Further testing of the oil confirmed that it definately was Macondo oil. The Coast Guard then ordered Transocean, who owned the Deepwater Horizon, to go down with ROV's and examine the wreckage and the riser. The Coast Guard now reports that Transocean did not find the source of the oil on its investigation of the wreckage and riser.
Transocean sent its own ROV to inspect the rig and the riser that had connected the rig to the well head from Oct. 4 to 5.

According to an e-mailed statement, the Coast Guard viewed the feed from the ROV and “agreed that nothing shown in the feed provided any indication that there was release of oil from the riser, the fuel tanks or any other debris at the wreckage site.”
“No discharge or leaking from the riser or the wreckage was observed,” the Coast Guard statement said. “The cause of the sheens remains under investigation.”

The footage is expected to be posted on the RestoreTheGulf web site later this month.

The possibility of leakage from the formation is maybe scarier than the actual well leaking. I could find no reports as to whether or not there was still fresh oil to be seen over the area. Any locals that may know more about this please keep us informed!

Today the Journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental Health Perspectives, published an article critical of the FDA standards used in testing Gulf seafood after the spill. The authors point out the problems with the standards used by the FDA regarding body weight of the consumer and average serving amount eaten by the consumer. These are points that have been raised before, but this is the first scientific paper published that criticises the FDA.
The FDA Gulf seafood risk assessment contains numerous assumptions that are inconsistent with FDA’s own prior practice and with risk assessment guidelines produced by other authoritative entities, including the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the World Health Organization (WHO), the US EPA, and the California EPA. Each of these assumptions would tend to result in an underestimate of risk for a significant fraction of the exposed population. The questionable assumptions include six main issues that are explained in greater detail in the following sections:

(1) high consumer bodyweight; (2) low estimates of seafood consumption; (3) short exposure duration; (4) failure to adjust for early life susceptibility to PAHs; (5) failure to include a cancer risk assessment for naphthalene; and (6) high cancer risk benchmark. Taken together, these flaws illustrate a failure to incorporate the substantial body of evidence on the increased vulnerability of sub-populations to contaminants, such as PAHs, in seafood.

To highlight the first few... the FDA assumed a body weight of 176 pounds. (Ignoring most women and children) They assumed a serving size of 13  grams per day, whereas surveys in Louisiana reported intakes as high as 55 to 65 grams per day. They did not consider the effect of these chemicals on the fetus if eaten by pregnant women.
A PDF of the article can be downloaded from the above website.

It did not take long for the FDA to recounter and call the report dangerous. A PDF of the FDA response can also be downloaded.

Public health authorities are responsible for protecting consumers from contaminated commercial and recreational seafood sources, and to that end advisories may be issued to protect consumers. The federal and state interagency risk assessment for seafood safety following the BP oil spill of 2010 was designed and agreed on by all participants to provide conservative criteria that protect the public. The alternative interpretation provided by Rotkin-Ellman et al. (2011) carries a risk of doing more harm than good.
Robert W. Dickey
FDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory

BP has contended that it has the right to deduct from any settlement, should a Vessels of Opportunity boatowner sue for any reason, wages that were already paid to that person. Excuse me, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around this. You are paid for work done...but you apply to the GCCF because your boat suffered damage, or you are losing business due to people not wanting don't get fairly compensated, so you file a suit against BP. BP says it will deduct from your settlement any WAGES YOU EARNED!
People who participated in BP's Vessels of Opportunity program can now pursue claims for damage to their boats and possibly other grievances, even if they settled claims for economic losses from the oil spill with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, according to a letter from BP. But, BP, leaseholder of the ill-fated Macondo well, also says in the letter that it reserves the right to deduct any wages that boat owners earned in the Vessels of Opportunity program from any ultimate settlements.

"The GCCF has overcompensated claimants who participated in the VoO (Vessels of Opportunity) program," the Sept. 21 letter from BP attorney Dan Cantor to GCCF deputy administrator Jackie Zins reads. "BP reserves...the right to account...for VoO compensation that should have been but was not offset from GCCF awards."

Steve Herman, co-lead plaintiffs attorney in the litigation over the April 2010 well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, said in an e-mail that VoO program participants have not been overcompensated, and called the letter "a classic bait and switch" by BP.

"They went out, risked their lives and exposed their boats to oil and dispersants to help BP clean up its mess," Herman said. "In addition, they -- like other fishermen who didn't participate in the VoO program -- suffered, and continue to suffer losses from not being able to shrimp and fish."

The question of whether or not boat owners should have their compensation from oil clean-up work deducted from any economic loss or damage settlements has been hotly contested. On one hand is the principle, reflected in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, that workers harmed by a spill have a duty to mitigate their economic injury, meaning that if someone can reduce their economic pain by finding other work, they should. On the other hand, deducting wages for oil clean-up work would mean that displaced fishermen helped BP clean up its mess for free, and that they would be treated the same as someone who took the summer off and didn't work at all.

BP thinks that the GCCF has "overcompensated" folks (WTF?) and would like to get that money back...but how can taking wages earned be legal?

Spokesman Scott Dean said the company's position is clear. "From the outset, BP has been committed to paying all legitimate claims. Legitimate claims do not include claims in excess of actual losses or claims seeking double recovery. Our counsel's letter, which responds to a question posed by several plaintiffs' lawyers, simply reiterates this basic position. If a claimant who received an overpayment from the GCCF subsequently makes a claim to BP for additional VoO compensation, BP is reserving the right to take into account and offset the GCCF's overpayment. This is the law, and it is fair and equitable," he said.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility said it will continue compensating claimants without deducting wages earned in the Vessels of Opportunity program. "We are not deducting it. BP is reserving their rights to deduct it when someone makes a property claim or a contract claim to them. What BP does is completely distinct from our program," Zins said. "This letter has no impact on our methodology."

As such, the parties seem to be on a collision course over the issue. But it could get resolved through six test cases of disputes arising from the Vessels of Opportunity program. Attorneys selected six participants in the Vessels of Opportunity program who represent the various issues at stake, and U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier has allowed for limited discovery and depositions and then mediation to find solutions to any problems with the program.

If that fails, plaintiffs in the consolidated litigation over the oil spill have filed a motion for summary judgment over the issue.

The report of the Task Force for Gulf Ecosystem Restoration has released its report for public review. The PDF is downloadable from this link. The Gulf Restoration Network invites you to visit their site and participate in sending suggestions to them.  


Halliburton tried to sue BP for fraud over data regarding the well formation that BP didn't disclose.
A Halliburton unit that provided cementing services for the project claimed BP hid information about an additional hydrocarbon zone in the well, a possibly dangerous condition, before and after the blowout. Halliburton said it didn’t learn of critical data about the zone until a July 7, 2011, deposition of a BP scientist.
“Halliburton possessed sufficient information either through its own investigation or with information produced by BP to assert its fraud claim by May 20, 2011,” Shushan said in a three page order. “There was undue delay on Halliburton’s part in asserting the fraud claim. There would be undue prejudice to BP if the amendment is allowed.”

Not fond of Halliburton...but this was the judge that ordered Tony's deposition taken off the web.

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:

10-09-11 02:07 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - The Tainted Pieces Are Coming Together - BP Catastrophe AUV #562 Lorinda Pike
10-07-11 06:20 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party: Trek to NASA Edition BlackSheep1
10-05-11 04:00 PM Gulf Watchers Wednesday - Waterkeeper report - Gulf still suffering - BP Catastrophe AUV #561 peraspera
10-02-11 02:33 PM Gulf Watchers Sunday - YOU Are Paying BP's Fines! - BP Catastrophe AUV #560 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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