Oil Platform Fire Sends Shockwaves Through Gulf On Heels of Record BP Fines

November 20, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Toxic Spills

An oil platform explosion and fire today near the site of the nation’s greatest offshore oil spill in history—BP’s Deepwater Horizon—sent shivers up the spines of many Gulf residents as the U.S. Coast Guard reported that 11 crewmembers were flown to area hospitals and two crewmembers were still missing as of Friday evening. News reports said four workers were critically injured with burns.

A Coast Guard spokesman said the oil and gas platform was 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, LA, and was owned by Black Elk Energy, a fast-growing oil and gas drilling operation based in Houston. News reports stated the oil platform was not actively producing oil and that a welder involved in a maintenance operation may have caused the accident. Although there were reports of an oil sheen near the platform, there were no reports of a major oil leak.

NRDC President Frances Beinecke, a member of the presidential national oil commission that investigated the BP oil disaster, issued this statement:

“Though the BP criminal case is settled, today’s accident makes clear that the hazards of oil and gas drilling are not in America’s rear view.  It is a sad reminder that offshore drilling is an inherently dangerous business. Workers and communities are put in harm’s way every day and will continue to be as long as we prioritize this risky energy development. Our leaders must keep that squarely in mind when considering where and how to allow further drilling along our coasts and in our communities.”

The Black Elk Energy accident came the day after the U.S. Justice Department announced a criminal settlement with BP involving a record-setting $4.5 billion in fines, indicting three company officials on criminal charges. Civil penalties against BP are still pending.

Many people in the Gulf are still recovering from the BP oil disaster that residents say continues to impact their fisheries and beaches more than two years later. Grand Isle mayor David Camardelle, whose community has been one of the hardest hit by the oil disaster, said he was saddened to learn of the latest offshore oil rig fire and injuries to workers. “It’s a tragic accident and my sympathies go out to the families of the workers who were impacted. But thankfully it appears this is not another BP disaster.”

Tar balls found on Grand Isle, LA, this month            Photo: Mac MacKenzie

Camardelle said his community still has oil and tar balls on its beaches after storms, especially after Hurricane Isaac hit their area last August. And he said many fishermen are suffering from reduced catches and have not been adequately compensated by BP for their losses. “We feel like we’re forgotten sometimes,” he said. “We can put robots on Mars, but we can’t tell how much BP oil is still out in the Gulf. Something’s wrong with that.”

Kindra Arnesen, wife of a fisherman in Buras, LA, said she too was saddened by the accident, which she says hits close to home since so many of her friends and neighbors work in the oil industry. “My heart goes out to those families,” she said. “This may have been a fluke accident, but it makes me wonder, what really has changed in the oil industry since the BP explosion? We’re still using the same blowout preventers, so it seems like we should be doing something better.”

That point was made in a blog this summer by NRDC’s David Pettit, part of a coalition of conservation groups that filed a lawsuit to push for greater drilling safety in the Gulf. He reminded people that many questions raised by the presidential commission still remain unanswered:

Their investigation uncovered serious flaws in oil industry and regulatory practices.  These accidents-waiting-to-happen remain unaddressed, with the Gulf’s battered ecosystems and vital billion-dollar tourism and fisheries hanging in the balance. If drilling is to continue, more must be done to improve drilling safety and safeguard our natural resources.  The largest oil spill in America’s history should have been a wakeup call.  If we refuse to learn from that mistake, it will become a recurring nightmare instead.

That’s a nightmare no one wants to live through again.

Article source: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/rkistner/an_explosion_and_fire_on.html

Texas Petroleum Investment Company Fined for Violating the Clean Water Act (LA, TX)

August 11, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

Texas Petroleum Investment Company Fined for Violating the Clean Water Act (LA, TX)

(DALLAS – August 11, 2011) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined the Texas Petroleum Company of Houston, Texas, $163,487 for violating federal Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations outlined under the Clean Water Act.

A federal inspection of oil production facilities in Terrebonne, Plaquemines, Lafourche, St. Charles and Iberia parishes in Louisiana revealed the company had failed to prepare and implement SPCC plans as required by federal regulations. Today’s announcement also settles Clean Water Act violations for discharges of oil into wetland areas and unnamed canals in Terrebonne, Plaquemines and Iberia parishes.

SPCC regulations require onshore oil production or bulk storage facilities to provide oil spill prevention, preparedness and responses to prevent oil discharges. The SPCC program helps protect our nation’s water quality. A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water.

Additional information on SPCC regulations is available at: http://www.epa.gov/oilspill

More about activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

EPA audio file is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/podcast/aug2011.html


Article source: http://www.manufacturing.net/News/Feeds/2011/08/mnet-mnet-industry-focus-environmental-texas-petroleum-investment-company-fined-for-viola/

Gulf of Mexico oil spill continues to foul 168 miles of Louisiana coastline

December 30, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Toxic Spills

Published: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 7:30 PM Updated: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 8:10 PM

Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune


By

Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune

Louisiana’s coastline continues to be smeared with significant amounts of oil and oiled material from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, with cleanup teams struggling to remove as much as possible of the toxic material by the time migratory birds arrive at the end of February, said the program manager of the Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Teams, which are working for BP and the federal government.

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BP cleanup worker Toney Edison was photographed Dec. 16 holding chunks of tar that were found buried underneath a layer of sand on East Grand Terre Island.

There are 113 miles of Louisiana coastline under active cleanup, with another 55 miles awaiting approval to start the cleanup process, according to SCAT statistics. Teams have finished cleaning almost 72 miles to levels where oil is no longer observable or where no further treatment is necessary.

But that’s not the whole story for the state’s coastline. According to SCAT statistics, there’s another 2,846 miles of beach and wetland areas where oil was once found but is no longer observable or is not treatable.

Gary Hayward, the Newfields Environmental Planning and Compliance contractor who oversees the SCAT program, said that large area will be placed into a new “monitor and maintenance” category, once Louisiana state and local officials agree to the procedures to be used for that category.

“With rare exceptions, most of the marshes still have a bathtub ring that we have all collectively decided we aren’t going to clean any more than we already have because we’d be doing more harm to the marshes than the oil is going to be doing to them,” Hayward said.

The cleanup protocols for each state have been approved by state and local governments, federal agencies and BP, he said.

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Patrick Semansky, The Associated PressWorkers were photographed Dec. 16 digging up sand impacted by the BP oil spill on East Grand Terre Island.

Louisiana’s senior coastal official says the state is monitoring the cleanup, and remains concerned with end-of-year conclusions that the cleanup is almost complete.

“The reality is we still have hundreds of miles of oiled shoreline today,” said Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “We still have oilings on a regular basis in areas of Jefferson and Plaquemines Parish, and there’s still a lot of oil buried back in the marshes where it was carried during high water events.

“The threat is absolutely still there and the oil is absolutely still there,” he said.

‘We know we’re not done’

Hayward does not disagree.

“We know we’re not done. We’re still working,” he said. “We have some challenges ahead of us, including winter weather that will slow us down a bit. But we’ve made a lot of progress.”

At the height of the oil recovery and cleanup effort over the summer, the response program included 48,200 workers and 9,700 vessels. As of Dec. 23, there were still 6,170 workers and 260 vessels, although not all of those are participating in the cleanup.

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Patrick Semansky, The Associated PressWorkers were photographed Dec. 16 looking into a hole dug by an auger, left, while searching for buried layers of tar from the BP oil spill on East Grand Terre Island.

Hayward said that the aim is for the cleanup to evolve into a long-term monitoring program for both beaches and marshes by the end of April all along the coast, but that could depend on shoreline re-evaluations scheduled for April and May.

“We’ll be assisted by very low tides in April and May, where we can really see how things have worked out in the winter,” he said.

Hurricane Alex

The biggest remaining problem in Louisiana, Hayward said, is a large area of marsh along the shores of Bay Jimmy in northernmost Barataria Bay, west of Port Sulphur, that was fouled when storm surge from Hurricane Alex in late June pushed oil into the bay system, even though Alex went ashore near the Mexico-Texas border.

“There was enough high water in the tide surge and enough oil on top of the water that it came down on the marsh surface and flattened the grass along a 40- or 50-foot swath along the marsh front,” he said. “And when it did that, it pushed the grass over and left an oily mat on the surface. That has since dried and has become a very crusty surface, underneath which there is still gooey oil.”

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Cleanup contractors have tried several methods over the past few months to remove that oil.

“We tried burning and that didn’t work,” Hayward said. “We tried various methods of cutting the marsh and raking the black tarry mat up, and met with some success. We’ve tried four different ways to cut the marsh and let the young sprouts come through.

“But oddly, what we saw was that even though that marsh was quite heavily impacted, before the growing season stopped, the marsh sprouts were coming up through that stuff,” he said. “So we feel pretty confident that even though it looks like hell, that area will recover in the spring when things start to green up again.”

February target date

The target date of February is aimed at removing the threat of oil from areas along Louisiana’s shoreline by the time migratory birds return to roost or rest on their way from Central and South America in the spring, Hayward said. The hope is also to assure clean beaches in advance of the tourist season on Grand Isle, Elmer’s Island and Fourchon Beach.

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Times-Picayune Staff
DAVID GRUNFELD / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, left, who hasn’t had much sleep in the past week, listens to BP 1st Global Properties Director Dave Kinnaird while he addresses the shrimpers and residents of Plaquemine Parish who gather to volunteer and learn how to use booms during a training session at old Boothville/Venice School in Boothville, LA., Friday April 30, 2010. According to the U. S. Coast Guard, oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil platform that exploded and sank over a week ago has reached Louisiana land in the Mississippi Delta Friday.

The 3,086 miles of targeted coastline in Louisiana, which makes up the SCAT western district, dwarfs the 1,598 miles of mostly beaches targeted for clean-up in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, which comprise the eastern district. Hayward said cleanup efforts also are aimed at February completion in those states.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get it done because of the loss of the last tourist season, and they want to get open for the winter months and they want to get open for spring breakers,” he said.

Unlike Louisiana’s rough texture beaches, a mix of sand, Mississippi River sediment and organic material, beaches to the east, especially along the Florida Panhandle, are a sugary, powdery white sand that’s more difficult to separate from the weathered remains from the BP spill.

“It’s really not oil. It’s not sticky, it’s not tacky, it’s basically a very crumbly, weathered oil residue,” Hayward said. “You can pick it up in your fingers and crumble it and it will just disintegrate.”

Mats of weathered oil

However, the cleanup plan is still struggling with tar balls and other material washing ashore from mats of weathered oil that are located in the surf zone just off several key beach areas, including Pensacola, Fla.; Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge at Gulf Shores, Ala.; and the barrier islands off Mississippi’s coast. Officials are concerned submerged tar mats may also be the source of tar balls that continue to be spotted along Grand Isle, Elmer’s Island and Fourchon Beach.

“People are concerned about the chunk of oil that they can’t find counted” in the federal description of how much oil remains in the Gulf of Mexico, Hayward said, and the tar mats explain a small part of the missing oil.

“These tar mats can be three or four or five yards wide and a couple hundred meters long, and they’re discontinuous,” he said. “They’re being found in 2 or 3 feet of water, just below the low-tide line.”

“These are areas where tar balls keep washing ashore,” Hayward said. “The shallow water (where the tar mats are believed to be located) precludes a lot of vessel activity. It’s a very turbulent area.”

Mark Schleifstein can be reached at mschleifstein@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3327.

Article source: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/12/gulf_of_mexico_oil_spill_conti.html