Spring, 2010 will be remembered not only because we witnessed a lifetime, environmental tragedy unfolding in what appeared to be slow motion in the Gulf of Mexico but we were also forced to witness a level of denial, misrepresentation, self protection and poorly represented science, while a major environmental resource, held in a public trust, was allowed to fall apart before our eyes.
May 1, 2010: Following these sketches you will find our rationale and after that you will find relevant links and continuing updates from the Gulf.
Safe Harbor has developed these innovative, alternative response concepts, following a phone discussion with an engineer from the Gulf of Mexico, who was seeking new ideas for dealing with the overwhelming oil spill. These concepts were developed over a long weekend by an adhoc group, put together by Safe Harbor. Our concept addressed the request for “Alternate Response Technology” but what we really did was to look at all available, existing materials and technologies and just reconfigure them. These concepts reduce worker exposure to carcinogenic raw oil, reduce effort significantly and provide more effective collection. These conceptual sketches were executed by LEED Certified, Sustainable Architect Joy Cuming of Aline Architecture in Orleans, MA.
For some perspective, about 300 miles of coastline may be directly impacted. The Gulf coastline north of the spill area, stretches more than 800 miles. If the prevailing, seasonal southerly winds continue, much of this coast may be at risk. If southwest winds blow, Florida’s 300 mile Gulf Coast will additionally be at risk and IF the wind should blow from the north..the Gulf Coast of Florida may be spared but the Gulf Stream, which loops near the spill, will be impacted and transport oil first to the reefs of the Florida Keys, and then to Miami beaches, followed by the Outer Banks and on into the North Atlantic Ocean and the east coast. Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas may eventually find this oil in their coastal ecosystems and on beaches.
Most likely, with 3 different leaks now reported and a long term scenario looming, all of these things may happen. Downplaying these possibilities sort of ignores the truth of possibly a quarter million gallons, or more, being added to the equation each day.
Rationale: In the current scenario, recovery and mitigation require long term, sustainable concepts for collection. Using sustainable and passive principles, we reviewed existing technology, in place materials and available vessels. Our concept considers a reconfiguration of existing elements, which could contribute to increased remediation and reduced effort. This concept would also minimize exposure of emergency workers to carcinogens in recovered oil.
With this concept, floating oil would be delivered, by natural forces, to the collection areas, instead of collection systems chasing oil. Collection booms would be used to direct the floating oil instead of trying to encircle it. This would reduce effort and materials. Conceptual configuration can be left in place for prevailing winds and reconfigured in response to changing winds.
System # 1. Locally available barges from the Gulf Coast would be retrofitted with existing technology oil collection systems, powered by wind energy with a back up generator. Barges (see detail sketches) can operate with a high degree of automation. Collection booms (see concept sketch) can be reconfigured, utilizing wind pressure to drive surface oil to collection system passively. Pairs of barges would be anchored at the head of the crescent shaped containment booms. Collected, reclaimed oil would be stored in tanks and pumped into service tankers for further separation and industrial use ashore.
System # 2. Locally available barges from the Gulf Coast would be fitted with wind generators. Sustainable energy would power circulation and dispersal systems for cultures of patented bioremediation bacteria. The barges would be anchored in place, with dispersal hoses between them. The bacteria would be maintained at maximum, reproductive temperature by circulation through passive solar, dark painted deck tank. Dispersal system would consist of measured release openings, along lengths of surface floating hoses, balanced by controlled intake of oil/water medium, powered by a circulation pump. This same system could be utilized, by adding 24/7 day lighting, to reintroduce indigenous phytoplankton.
May 3 updates:
As of May 3rd, these materials were received by the White House Department of Energy, BP Horizon Response Center and other entities involved in the spill response. Our concepts are now public domain. The heart of our system is based on “not chasing the oil with collection systems but using natural forces to guide the floating oil to fixed collection systems.
BP, through their Horizon “Call Center”, instructed Safe Harbor on May 3rd, to send in a proposal for funding consideration..Strange as it seems, the alternative response technology they are seeking, when it actually exists, as in our innovative concept, must be sold and we are finding nowhere to give it away..
By afternoon on May 3rd, they are now directing all input towards BP’s emergency web site ….www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com Many of these sites are one way informational web sites.
All communications have now been bundled through call centers and handled by emergency response consultants.The leadership has been reconfigured, with the Coast Guard seemingly on the point, and renamed “Unified Incident Command” or Unified Command”. “Vessels of Opportunity” are currently being solicited and about 200 have signed up as of May 3rd. Also as of May 3rd, about 50 miles of containment booms have been deployed, with 130 more miles in reserve. Much of the boom line is within the estuary areas, which are connected to the Gulf.
May 6 updates:
Coast Guard contacted us, suggesting our concept was under consideration and being forwarded to Horizon response center at unified command. The amount of oil collected to this point may be equivalent to between one and two day’s discharge.
Update: May 06, 2010|By Richard Fausset and Jill Leovy, Los Angeles Times, and Jim Tankersley, Tribune Washington Bureau
Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times
BP officials Tuesday told congressional representatives that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could grow at a rate more than 10 times current estimates in a worst-case scenario greatly enlarging the potential scope of the disaster.
Most of the handful of congressional Democrats and Republicans who met with representatives from BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill walked away unimpressed.
A source who attended the meeting said that the companies’ representatives had a “deer in headlights” look and that the tenor of the conversation was that the firms “are attempting to solve a problem which they have never had to solve before at this depth at this scope of disaster. They essentially said as much.”
More than 400 species of wildlife, including whales and dolphins, face a dire threat from the spill, along with Louisiana’s barrier islands and marshlands. In the national refuges most at risk, about 34,000 birds have been counted, including gulls, pelicans, roseate spoonbills, egrets, shore birds, terns and blue herons.
To address potential wildlife impacts, BP has contracted with Tri-State Bird and Rescue. If oiled or injured wildlife is spotted, people are urged not to attempt to help the animals but to report them to (800) 557-1401.
May 8th update:
Check this satellite generated link for excellent integrated, animated trajectory prediction between the spill shield and the Gulf Stream Loop Current.
May 10 Update:
At the site of the ruptured well a mile underwater, a remote-controlled submarine shot chemicals into the maw of the massive leak to dilute the flow, further evidence that BP expects the gusher to keep erupting into the Gulf for weeks or more.
Crews using the deep-sea robot attempted to thin the oil â€” which is rushing up from the seabed at a pace of about 210,000 gallons per day after getting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, BP PLC officials said.
Two previous tests were done to determine the potential impact on the environment, and the third round of spraying was to last into early Tuesday.
The EPA said the effects of the chemicals were still widely unknown.
May 12 Update:
The committee said that there were at least “four significant problems with the blowout preventer” used on the Deepwater Horizondrill rig.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said that a 2001 report by Transocean, which made the device, indicated there can be as many as 260 failure possibilities in the equipment. The device is supposed to be the final safeguard against a well blowout by clamping down and sealing a gushing oil well.
About 325,000 gallons of dispersant have been used, although scientists warn it may kill marine life
A relief well is being drilled but could take many weeks
A huge steel funnel suffered a build-up of ice-like crystals and had to be put aside
They’re going to take a bunch of debris, shredded up tyres, golf balls and things like that, and under very high pressure shoot it into the preventer itself and see if they can clog it up and stop the leak,” he told CBS television.However, experts have warned that any further damage to the blowout preventer – a huge valve system meant to turn the oil off – could see it shooting out at 12 times the current rate.
May 14 Update:
The ambitious Republican governors of Mississippi and Louisiana are a study in contrasts as an oil spill threatens coastal economies still reeling from Hurricane Katrina.
Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, a well-connected former Washington lobbyist, has calmly said the oil slick looming offshore is just a sheen in most places and there’s no reason for people to panic.
Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, meanwhile, has questioned oil giant BP PLC’s response capability and the federal government’s plans to clean up crude spewing from a well blown out by an offshore oil rig explosion April 20. He activated the Louisiana National Guard and called on coastal parish leaders to draw up their own response plans after saying he couldn’t get answers from BP or the Coast Guard.
BP and government officials have pegged the leak resulting from the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster at 5,000 barrels a day, or about 200,000 gallons. But a scientist who analyzed the video of the gushing pipe said Thursday the oil flow appeared to be much greater.
Soon after the explosion three weeks ago, the government said oil and gas were flowing from the seabed at a rate of 210,000 gallons or 5,000 barrels a day. Now, after viewing the video, some scientists calculate it at 2 million gallons a day or even higher.National Public Radio reported yesterday that there could be 10 times as much oil coming out as the previous estimate of 5,000 barrels per day. Which raises some big questions about whether BP is being honest about the size of the spill.
May 17 Update:
The spill shield is entering the Gulf Stream Loop. Official responses have barely confirmed this but check the 4 models yourselfhttp://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100505/NEWS/5050317
ï»¿From the New York Times on line:
Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.
There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water, said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.
The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.
Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 (Italics by Safe Harbor) percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. If you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months, she said Saturday. That is alarming.
The plumes were discovered by scientists from several universities working aboard the research vessel Pelican, which sailed from Cocodrie, La., on May 3 and has gathered extensive samples and information about the disaster in the gulf.
May 18 Update:
In Gulf Spill, BP Using Dispersants Banned in U.K.
by Marian Wang, ProPublica – May 18, 2010 2:24 pm EDT
The two types of dispersants BP is spraying in the Gulf are banned for use on oil spills in the U.K. As EPA-approved products, BP has been using them in greater quantities than dispersants have ever been used in the history of US oil spills.
BP is using two products from a line of dispersants called Corexit, which EPA data appears to show is more toxic and less effective on South Louisiana crude than other available dispersants, according to Greenwire.
We learned about the U.K. ban from a mention on the New York Times’ website. (The reference was cut from later versions of the article, so we can’t link to the Times, but we found the piece elsewhere.) The Times flagged a letter Rep. Edward Markey, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, sent to the EPA yesterday. The letter pointed out that both the Corexit products currently being used in the Gulf were removed from a list of approved treatments for oil spills in the UK more than a decade ago.
Gordon Peabody of Safe Harbor and Congressman Markey were interviewed live, along with a Florida island Mayor, on the Emily Rooney Show regarding the spill. Click on the link below. The interview begins with Congressman Markey, goes to the Mayor and then to Gordon about 1/4 of the way through the download. The second half of her show has a different topic.
Title: The Emily Rooney Show 5/17/10
May 24 Update: The honeymoon is over
CBS has video of journalists being threatened with arrest:
May 25 Update:
The link below shows an illustrated video concept, from an experienced oil worker, who simply wants his idea considered. This man’s experiences are very familiar to Safe Harbor.
In the relative silence of many politicians, for reasons yet to be determined, Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal has emerged into a position of leadership. Our country’s natural resources are held in a public trust. We are all stakeholders. When we watch an ever growing, toxic blanket being allowed to take 20,000 square miles of our fisheries and potentially hundreds of miles of coastal ecosystems, off line, we are bearing witness to a violation of that public trust which our elected officials are not protecting.
Our comments on the coastal bird rescue plan:
Species don’t exist individually but within systems.
The ability of sustainable natural resource systems to adapt to an event of this magnitude are marginal. When a system is overwhelmed by stress and cannot adapt, it reaches a tipping point. The system will collapse and reconfigure, perhaps unpredictably. The individual species can no longer be supported.
We need to consider the unthinkable, that bird, fish and animal populations previously supported by the system may be lost. Even if we could handle say, 34,000 phone calls and rescue 34,000 birds, there would be no supportive resource system to return them to and translocating that many individuals somewhere else would stress other resource systems.
Our recent concerns focused on the increasing probability of interactions between the spill shield and the Gulf Stream Loop that runs through the Gulf of Mexico. The spill shield and a developing Gulf Stream Loop eddy current were already in proximity and the spill contimnues spreading. We expect predictability to diminish with growth of the spill. http://ocg6.marine.usf.edu/~liu/oil_spill_ensemble_forecast.html
May 25 Update: The Gulf Stream Loop Current, which did pick up a tendril of oil, periodically reconfigures itself into an isolated loop. This has just happened, which means the cut off loop may have a lower probability of transmitting oil to the Gulf Stream. An updated, May 25th image is shown directly below and an earlier image is below that.
Note the counter clockwise eddy at the head of the loop current. This eddy can pick up oil.
Image below shows collection system being towed by two, boom dragging tugboats. Suppose we revise this image: leave the booms connected to the collector; elongate the booms; lose the 2 tugboats; anchor the booms in a crescent, facing the wind; anchor the collector at the head of the booms. The 2 tugboats can now work where they are more needed.
Above DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Prentice Danner, U.S. Coast Guard/Released).