So, What has Big Oil and Obama Learned? Apparently, Not Much

No worries about that safety thing, we're gettin' to it

In an article by AP, which spoke with oil industry experts and took a look at the Mineral Management Service, the Bureau of Ocean Management Service, not much has changed and with the drilling moratorium set to expire on November 30th, one might be inclined to question – what was the point of the moratorium in the first place, beyond a press story to give the American public the idea the government was actually doing something about all this?

Cited in the article:

A big problem within the MMS was that this government agency, responsible for policing the wells and handing out oil leases, also collected revenue from these same oil leases which created a conflict of interest. Whereas the Obama administration stated they were removing this conflict by dividing these two responsibilities, this is only half right. The new Bureau of Ocean Management Services is still managing leases along the Outer Continental Shelf and the new bureau responsible for environmental safety will still answer to the same official.

Big Oil is building a new system to contain a blow-out, one which won’t be tested and ready until February of 2012, if all goes according to schedule and if, the pressure from government and media doesn’t dissipate enough for them to put it on the back burner.

A new commitment from Big Oil to a complete culture of safety from top to bottom, pervading the entire industry.

And from Thad Allen, he recommends that in the case of another full blowout, a third-party from the oil and gas industry who does not have a stake in the profits from said industry be responsible for containment and cleanup of the blown out well. This would require a change in the law, but congress has not acted.

Cynicism aside, like with many tragedies the clamor is loud, deafening in its demands for change but as the noise begins to quiet events have a way of drifting slowly back to a pre-tragedy state of affairs. We’ve watched this happen time and time again. Take the levee system around New Orleans as an example, Hurricane Betsy hits in 65 and everyone knows they need to get the levees fixed but little happens and so we get their failure after Katrina. Even now, the levee system in California is falling apart, but there is little push to do anything about it beyond the occasional warning in the newspapers.

In the article, Elgie Holstein, a former Energy Department official comments: “I won’t be satisfied until the government demonstrates a continued willingness, not just a brief willingness, to be a tough cop on the beat, and the industry delivers on its promises that something like the BP blowout will never happen again.”


Read the article:

Big Oil ignoring crucial lessons from Gulf of Mexico disaster, experts tell AP

Have a nice day.

Fortifying the Wall – BP Accused of, and the NOAA Withholds…Information

Taking a break...busy days, busy days...

You really didn’t think they’d just give up without a fight.

Transocean, the owners of the Deepwater Horizon is reportedly at odds with British Petroleum, accusing the company of not turning over evidence for Transocean’s own investigation of the oil rig’s explosion, while the NOAA, despite congressional demand is refusing to release their data and methodology for the much maligned government study that produced the 74 % of the oil “gone” numbers. As public doubts about what is right and what is wrong, what is factual and what is fraud continue to churn in the Gulf of Mexico’s waters, it would seem that what residents of the Gulf Coast need is factual reassurance from two of the main players in the oil spill and it’s cleanup. They want to understand what happened and what is happening, but if these stories are any indication the government and corporate officials involved have set their own timetable and with the media spotlight back on and bright, this timetable appears to be one of delay.

Transocean Accuses British Petroleum of Withholding Key Evidence:

The British periodical, Daily Mail recently reported that BP declared itself innocent of gross negligence after an internal inquiry by British Petroleum into the actions of  British Petroleum, proved to British Petroleum they were not at fault in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. If the company is found guilty of gross negligence by someone who disagrees with their verdict, the fine per barrel of oil released into the Gulf would quadruple, and the company plans to use their findings to defend themselves in upcoming hearings led by the US Government.

Transocean, the actual owner of the rig is also attempting their own investigation, but feels this process is being hampered by BP’s refusal to release critical evidence.

From the AP:

In a sternly worded letter to BP’s attorneys, Transocean said the oil giant has in its sole possession information key to identifying the cause “of the tragic loss of eleven lives and the pollution in the Gulf of Mexico,” and that the company’s refusal to turn over the documents has hampered Transocean’s investigation and hindered what it has been able to tell families of the deceased and state and federal investigators about the accident.

“This is troubling, both in light of BP’s frequently stated public commitment to openness and a fair investigation, and because it appears that BP is withholding evidence in an attempt to prevent any entity other than BP from investigating the cause of the April 20 incident and the resulting spill,” the letter said.

In a briefing before British Petroleum’s shareholders last June, former BP CEO Tony Hayward told of how he felt it was important for the company to share the “initial perspectives from our internal investigations” with the government for the reasons of “transparency and in helping the industry learn the lessons from BP’s experience as quickly as possible,” but it would appear this urgency to help others in the oil industry learn stops at the government’s door, and does not extend itself to the public or to their corporate partners, especially when guilt or innocence is being decided.

British Petroleum, of course, disagrees with Transocean’s assessment.

BP spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford called Transocean’s letter “misleading and misguided…We have been at the forefront of cooperating with various investigations commissioned by the U. S. government and others into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” Ashford said. “Our commitment to cooperate with these investigations has been and remains unequivocal and steadfast.”

Even in the face of such firmly put words, Transocean maintains their allegation, also reporting in their letter, BP has rebuffed at least seven of its requests for information. And while BP has turned over some documents, it has not provided Transocean with any information since June 21, and has not even acknowledged the company’s requests since August 3.

Substantial charges these are, but like much of everything that transpires in the Gulf of Mexico, it would appear for the time being BP expects us to take them at their word.

NOAA Refuses to Release Data and Methodology of Study:

During a recess hearing of his Energy and Environment Subcommittee, Rep Ed Markey questioned if the government’s facts and figures on oil remaining in the Gulf might be creating a false impression of the Gulf’s recovery, “People want to believe that everything is OK and I think this report and the way it is being discussed is giving many people a false sense of confidence regarding the state of the Gulf,” he said.

He went on to issue a demand that the NOAA release their numbers.

The NOAA refused.

During a Wednesday telephone briefing on the spill for congressional staffers, NOAA scientists said the data might not be available for two months and this time frame was echoed in the hearing by the NOAA’s senior scientist Bill Lehr who also added, “Some of our academic friends have asked for this…I would suggest that patience in this case is a virtue.” The reasons the NOAA gives for this delay is the information is still being compiled, analyzed and peer reviewed.

This would appear a kinder, gentler way of saying the report isn’t ready.

Rep Markey too, was unimpressed, saying the report “shouldn’t have been released,” back on August 4th, “First you gave the answer, and now you are going to be showing your work. … and that’s the opposite of the way in which a study of that magnitude would be released.”

The White House, as Mother Jones suggests, was more interested in PR and a New York Times headline than they were in backing up their facts.

Two articles, two stories, two issues…BP and the NOAA; what they both have in common is time.

British Petroleum states they have always been cooperative with investigations and disputes Transocean’s allegations of withholding evidence, but if Transcocean’s allegations are correct, odds are at some point down the road, BP will have little choice but to release any evidence that could point to fault in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. By refusing to do so now, they are buying themselves time, and the NOAA is doing the same. They can stand by their oil spill numbers for at least another two months and should their methodology and data prove to be false or misleading, they too at least will have benefited from the passage of time.

And right now, time is very important.

Right now, big media is back on the hunt.

With the studies done by the University of Georgia, the University of South Florida and now a new report set to be released next week by Dr. Camilli and his team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, not only are the government’s numbers on the oil spill being called into question, but new evidence of a vast oil plume’s existence directly related to dispersed oil from BP’s Macondo well is making headlines. Initially both BP and the NOAA denied the existence of such plumes, but both have been forced to admit they do in fact exist.

And all the coverage of these studies has made the recent spotlight much brighter.

People are again paying attention, so the last thing BP needs right now would be to release any possible evidence that pointed to their guilt in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon while the NOAA, they would hate to have their data and methodology called into question by peer scientists, not now, not while things are getting hot again.

The official story they have both been perpetuating is beginning to smolder, why light more matches?

It is in their interest to wait it out, wait for people’s attention to wane, then perhaps on some slow news Friday, couple of months down the road…Halloween weekend would be good…let the information come out while everybody is busy making plans with their kids or friends, when they don’t have time to spend on any new headlines any new information could create. It would be a good plan, one that’s been used by governments and corporations for years and if the facts are not in their favor, it could be the only plan left. The American people are a passionate people, but also a people easily distracted and big media is not much better.

At the hearing, Rep Markey said, “The longer the time that elapses, the lower the political pressure and the public attention will be there to make sure the resources are brought to the problem,” he said of the government’s study, “If you’re wrong, the consequences are great.”


For now, time is still on their side.

Dams don’t fall easy.

Read the articles:

BP accused of withholding ‘critical’ spill data

Gulf Oil Spill: Full NOAA Report on Amount of Oil in Gulf Won’t Be Released for Months

Have a nice day.

Did the Status Kill Work? Dissenting from the Company Storyline…shared opinions

And when I admitted I actually don't know what I'm talking about? The Press? They just blew up!

Well, well, well…it appears all is not well in Macondo-ville after all…

According to most mainstream media outlets the Static Kill worked out just fine, in fact, they are now even debating the actual need for completing the relief wells.

Cue Thad Allen, circa August 3rd when talking about any possibility of not completing the relief wells to finally seal the Macondo:

“There should be no ambiguity about that,” Allen said. “I’m the national incident commander and this is how this will be handled.”

Hmm…and now?

According to AP:

National Incident Commander Thad Allen said the final “kill” of the well should be done early next week, if it’s done at all. The federal government and BP have recently raised the possibility that they won’t need to perform the operation at all, since the well was plugged last month with mud and cement pumped in through the top.

Except, according to several sources…the static kill didn’t work, this well has not been plugged:

From Washington’s Blog:

The bottom kill – the procedure which all oil industry experts agree has the best chance of killing the leak – hasn’t yet been performed. The underwater cameras still show methane and oil leaking into the Gulf…relief wells are the best hope for permanently capping the well. But it is possible that BP has messed up the well so badly that the relief wells will fail.

From Robert Cavner, oil industry expert:

In actuality, this “static kill” did nothing that BP and Allen said it would do.  Certainly the well is not dead or “static”.  It hasn’t accelerated the relief well, but it has obscured the well’s pressures, making it more difficult to kill.  Hence, these new tests to figure out what’s going on.  BP and the government don’t really have a clue where the 2,300 barrels of mud and 500 barrels of cement went.  They originally claimed it all went down the casing and out to the reservoir.  I would set the probability of that actually having happened at zero.

From Fishgrease, another oil industry expert:

So now they got themselves a good old problem. We can’t see it, of course, and we’ll never get any pressure readings that will tell us exactly what sort of pressure drop caused those chokes to freeze. But let me tell you something that is true as death… it’s a LOT more hydrocarbon pressure then can be explained by anything residual in the BOP. The annulus is open to the reservoir and always has been.

So, some simple questions about this whole mess, also from Robert Cavner:

Since announcing success (sort of) of the static kill, mainstream media attention has dropped to virtually zero, though the well is obviously far from static, judging from the huge clouds in the water around the wellhead and manifold, as well as numerous ROVs surrounding the wellhead, providing no feeds to the public. The media has payed virtually no attention to these feeds and has asked no questions of Adm Allen or BP. BP has stopped briefing the public daily.

The problem is that there are lots of questions that remain unanswered. Here’s what I want to know:

Is the well dead?

What is the pressure on the well? Now?

If the well is open to the surface, what is the pressure?

How do you know all the cement went down the casing?

Why is the flex joint flange leaking?

Why are the ROV feeds no longer provided in a decipherable resolution?

Why are some ROV feeds not being provided?

Why are clouds of debris continuing to obscure the view several days after the well was supposedly static?

Until these questions are answered by BP, we have no real information to tell us that the well is dead, or even safe. As long as they continue to stonewall critical data, I’ll only continue to believe that the well is not “static” or safe.

To be fair to the other side, however, perhaps we can let Thad Allen, Mr. National Incident Commander explain:

“Sure, there’s a very low probability that we might have actually sealed the annulus with the cement that came down the pipe casing and came back up around it.  What we want to do is understand whether or not there’s what we call free communication.  In other words whether there, the hydrocarbons in the reservoir can actually come up through the annulus outside the casing, if that’s the case when we go in and we drill in we put the mud and cement we’re just going to drive that down and seal the well.   OK?   If there’s cement there and there’s no communication that means we have what we call stagnate oil trapped around that casing up to the well head.  If you go in and you start pumping mud and cement in there the chances are you could raise the pressure and push that up into the blow out preventer.  And that’s a very low possibility, low probability event but we want to, we want to test the pressure in the blow out preventer and see if we actually have pressure coming up that would indicate that we have free communication with the reservoir.  If not that would change our tactics and how we do the final kill.”

What the hell does that even mean? I don’t know about anyone else reading this, but I’ve had the misfortune of trying to BS my way through a presentation when I really didn’t understand the subject matter and yeah, it sounded something like that quote above; its good to know he’s “in charge.” So, the Macondo well, I won’t claim to have a complete understanding of what is happening inside; I’m a social worker for christ sakes, not an engineer, but I am also a person that can follow a line of logic, and I don’t just blindly accept hand-fed information from mainstream media outlets.

That being said…

Something appears wrong here.

Things don’t seem to be what we’re being told.

People following this story have seen obfuscation tactics before from the Coast Guard and British Petroleum. People also are not strangers to complicity from the mainstream press and like Robert Cavner, unfortunately I am left with no choice but to be suspicious of what’s really happening with the “status kill.” I say unfortunately, because I too am no stranger to blissful ignorance and I had hoped that in regards to the well being sealed, this would be a state I could finally enter into, but alas, no such luck…for the following reasons:

1. If there is no open channel between the reservoir and the blowout preventer, why are oil and gas still leaking? If I fill a bottle with thick crude, then pour in a layer of mud and finally fill it with cement to the surface, even if I turn that bottle upside down, no oil will leak out of the top of my bottle. Even if there is some residual oil remaining on top of the cement, how much are we supposed to believe is there? And why does it have so much pressure behind it it is being forced out the top of the blow-out preventer? The seafloor should have a pressure reading of 2200 psi, but the pressure reading they did release, confirmed by BP Vice-President Kent Wells, is 4200 psi. This shouldn’t be possible unless pressure continues from the reservoir and pressure from the reservoir shouldn’t continue unless the well has not been adequately sealed by the “static kill.”

2. BP and the Coast Guard won’t release any new pressure readings or other data. They don’t release much information at all. By keeping people in the dark, especially engineers in the dark about data, images, nobody outside their locus of informational control can get a complete grip on the problem, nor say for sure a problem exists. In that regard, most of the public will dismiss outside speculations when people who are not BP and the Coast Guard say all is well. BP has the facts and can dictate the reality. Whether that reality is true or not is a whole different problem. Also, by maintaining control over data, if there is a problem BP and the Coast Guard chooses when anyone else knows. This buys them time to fix the problem if they can, or cover it up if they can’t.

Editor’s note: Cavner writes Adm. Allen pledged to get BP to release the current pressure data 3 days ago.  The next day, when asked about it, he said it was released, but “nobody can find it.”

3. Mainstream press hesitancy to report opposing viewpoints: the mainstream press get their stories from access. If they don’t have access, they can’t get stories. If they can’t get stories they don’t have a job. So if the implication is that mainstream press will get cut off unless they maintain the company line, they will be skeptical of outside information, and much less likely to report it. An example would be the case of the Rolling Stone reporter who wrote about General McChrystal, resulting in the General being relived of duty. When that same reporter tried to cover Afghanistan, the Pentagon refused permission for him to embed with their troops, thus, cutting him off. So to not believe opposing viewpoints, just because they are not in the mainstream press is often not the best way to be informed.

4. British Petroleum and the Coast Guard benefit from a confused public. When they constantly change their story things get confusing. This renewed debate over the relief wells runs at direct odds with what they’ve maintained for months is the final solution to sealing this well for good. Also, when their statements are so nonsensical/muddled even engineers can’t grasp them in their entirety, this in turn confuses the public and a confused public quickly becomes a frustrated and/or bored public which causes them to stop paying attention. This definitely serves the interests of BP.

5. It seems they continue to find reason to stop drilling the relief wells. It almost appears they’re stalling and I’d like to know why. If this is being done in the hopes that BP can use them to extract the oil at some later date instead of sealing off the well for good, just freaking admit it already. Really, your hubris won’t surprise anyone anymore and it’s hard to believe that public impressions of your company can sink any lower, but then again…(I’m waiting for this argument: we have to get that oil, it’s the only way to pay for reparations and fixing the Gulf).

6. And finally, because the entire BP oil spill story has been one clusterfuck of denials, half-truths and misinformation for three months, why the hell should I be giving Thad Allen and BP the benefit of the doubt now?

Read the articles:

BP Gulf Oil Spill Static Kill Has Failed And Created Mess That Will Make Well Harder To Seal

Will BP Skip the Relief Well, Declare Mission Accomplished, and Abandon Ship Without Permanently Killing the Oil Leak?

Adm. Allen Confused – So, Now, Everybody Else is, Too

Have a nice day.

Your government does not have your best interest at heart in the Gulf…surprised?

In BP We Trust

From the St. Petersburg Times, via Mother Jones:

A month after the Deepwater Horizon disaster began, scientists from the University of South Florida made a startling announcement. They had found signs that the oil spewing from the well had formed a 6-mile-wide plume snaking along in the deepest recesses of the gulf. The reaction that USF announcement received from the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agencies that sponsored their research:

Shut up.

“I got lambasted by the Coast Guard and NOAA when we said there was undersea oil,” USF marine sciences dean William Hogarth said. Some officials even told him to retract USF’s public announcement, he said, comparing it to being “beat up” by federal officials.

Continue reading:

USF says government tried to squelch their oil plume findings

And…though blogs and independent sources of news have been reporting on this for a number of days, it finally makes it to AP…congratulations, boys!

There’s another extremely important piece out today, wherein the Associated Press documents how oil is already finding its way into the food web. Scientists are finding traces of oil in crab larvae: The government said last week that three-quarters of the spilled oil has been removed or naturally dissipated from the water. But the crab larvae discovery was an ominous sign that crude had already infiltrated the Gulf’s vast food web — and could affect it for years to come.

“It would suggest the oil has reached a position where it can start moving up the food chain instead of just hanging in the water,” said Bob Thomas, a biologist at Loyola University in New Orleans. “Something likely will eat those oiled larvae … and then that animal will be eaten by something bigger and so on.” This, of course, does not help efforts to convince the public that seafood from the region is safe. Not does it help in promoting the idea that the oil is less of a threat because we can’t see it, as the government and BP have been busy doing for the past week.

Continue reading:

Blue crabs provide evidence of oil tainting Gulf food web

I feel warm inside knowing everybody is playing it straight in the Gulf of Mexico. The FDA, the EPA, the NOAA…all best of friends and working hand-in-hand with British Petroleum to make sure everything is handled – correctly, safely and with no misinformation, for the good of the Gulf and the people who live there.

Have a nice day.