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29 May 2010

Oil Spill May 29 Update: More Bad News

It's been a month and nine days since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon driling rig. The oil is still leaking just as much as ever. This is truly as bad as can be. It could not be worse. BP has tried numerous things to get the flow of oil stopped. So far none has worked. President Obama has lost his patience, reportedly grumbling to aides in a meeting that BP should, "Plug the damn hole!" Even BP CEO Tony Hayward expressed his frustration, saying that he wants to "...stop the damn leak!"

Don't we all. Damn!

HERE a basic timeline CNN put together for the day of the disaster.

For the past two days C-SPAN has been broadcasting a hearing headed up by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and held in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner. A board with numerous MMS and Coast Guard investigators have been grilling a number of BP, Transocean and other contract employees who were on the rig that day. Some of the testimony has been contentious, and a lot of it has been confusing, with technical terms and oilfield jargon that even I'm not familiar with.

Mark Hafle, a Senior Drilling Engineer for BP squirmed uncomfortably under a barrage of tough questions from MMS, the Coast Guard, and an attorney for Transocean. He appeared evasive, combative and nervous, deftly dodging questions like an experienced lawyer and refusing to be pinned down on technical issues. Obviously, BP is on the defensive right now. They're trying to point the fingers of blame at Transocean.

It's becoming clear that this well gave Transocean some "trouble." BP is trying to downplay and minimize this trouble, calling it routine and nothing out of the ordinary, and going so far as to deny that they'd even heard about some of it. I think it was Ronald Reagan who gave us the term, "plausible deniability." But we shall see. Everything on a drilling rig gets documented. And BP made a big deal about their new computer system whereby they could monitor (and control) just about every aspect of the well in real time from their headquarters in Houston, Texas.

The public is becoming increasingly angry and impatient over this situation, especially with BP. They want something done, dammit! President Obama announced that the government was "taking over" this operation. Oh, that's rich. Like our government knows anything about drilling for oil. They're going to have to call an expert, somebody like, oh, BP?

It is silly to think that BP has not tapped every resource they possibly can, including asking other oil companies that do deepwater exploration (e.g. Shell) for help. Some people scoff at this idea, saying that the other oil companies wouldn't help BP on a bet. I disagree. This is such an awful mess, that I would think every oil company is offering suggestions as to how to stop this well from flowing.

The latest procedure attempt, the so-called "top kill" did not work, BP admits. The awful truth is that we may have to wait until the new rig on location drills into the well that is leaking and plugs it that way. Nobody is giving a timeline for that, but you can be sure that they're feverishly working that angle.

Meanwhile, the disaster just keeps getting worse and worse. The amount of oil that has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico has surpassed that of the infamous Exxon Valdez. It continues fairly unabated. Of course, we're not really sure exactly how much oil has leaked out so far, because it is now believed that the early estimates were tremendously (and maybe intentionally) low.

The beaches all along the gulf coast have been fortuitiously spared...so far. Some tar balls have washed ashore, but no black goop. Depending on the wind, the smell of petroleum can be detected on land - or people say.

So things have not changed. This is both good and bad for us here in Pensacola, Florida.

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