Thursday, May 27, 2010

Timeline of Events in BP Oil Spill: Day by Day, April 20 to June 4

June 4

June 3: BP announced that is has established a $360 million escrow account to fund immediately the construction of six sections of Louisiana barrier islands approved by the U.S. government. BP has been directed to pay for the construction by the federal government. Since the environmental implications of the projects are not fully understood, BP assumes no liability for unexpected or unintended consequences of these projects.

BP has already provided $170 million to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to help with their response costs and help promote their tourism industries. The company has also paid approximately $43 million in compensation to people and companies affected by the spill.

In the first phase of the latest effort to contain the spill, robots cut a leaking pipe. BP then used giant shears manipulated by undersea robots to snip off the end of the pipe, after a diamond-edged saw failed to do the job.

A funnel-like cap has been placed on top, which if successful, would improve oil recovery and BP would hope to collect the oil on a surface ship above the well.

The US Coast Guard said the placement of the cap was a positive development, but that it would be "some time before we can confirm that this method will work and to what extent it will mitigate the release of oil into the environment".
June 2: BP announced that it supports the U.S. government’s decision to proceed with the construction of six sections of the Louisiana barrier islands proposal. The company will fund the estimated $360 million it will cost to construct the six sections.

BP will not manage or contract directly for the construction of the island sections, nor will the company assume any liability for unintended consequences of the project. The company plans to make payments in stages based on the project’s milestones.

May 31:  31 May 2010 BP announced that, after extensive consultation with National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen and other members of the Federal government, it plans to further enhance the lower marine riser package (“LMRP”) containment system currently scheduled to be deployed this week with further measures that are expected to keep additional oil out of the Gulf of Mexico.

The additional steps announced today will follow placement of the LMRP containment cap, which is expected this week. Preparations for these additional planned enhancements are already underway.

May 29:  At the direction of the President, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco will return to the Gulf region next week as they continue their work, aggressively responding to the BP oil spill. These officials' actions on scene will be coordinated by National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, who is leading the administration-wide response and directing all interagency activities.

Administrator Jackson will make her fourth trip to the Gulf Coast to inspect coastline protection and cleanup activities and meet with community members to discuss ongoing efforts to mitigate the oil's impacts on public health and the environment. A native of the Gulf region, Administrator Jackson will spend a total of six days on the ground, visiting Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to review plans for cleanup of oil-impacted wetlands and marshes, analyze scientific monitoring of dispersant use, and ensure that recovery and cleanup plans are proceeding quickly.

Secretary Salazar will make his eighth trip to the area to meet with top BP officials, federal personnel and government scientists in Houston to get a firsthand account of the on-scene direction and oversight of BP's efforts to cap the leaking well.  He will also participate in discussions with state, local and business leaders to discuss the ways the administration is supporting their communities during this catastrophe.

Administrator Lubchenco will make her third visit to the affected area to meet with top government and independent scientists and engineers who are working with BP and coordinating efforts across the federal government to ensure the best science is used to assess and mitigate the BP oil spill’s impacts to the environment.

May 29: BP started the "top kill" operations to stop the flow of oil from the MC252 well in the Gulf of Mexico at 1300 CDT on May 26, 2010.

The procedure was intended to stem the flow of oil and gas and ultimately kill the well by injecting heavy drilling fluids through the blow-out preventer on the seabed, down into the well.

Despite successfully pumping a total of over 30,000 barrels of heavy mud, in three attempts at rates of up to 80 barrels a minute, and deploying a wide range of different bridging materials, the operation did not overcome the flow from the well.

The Government, together with BP, have therefore decided to move to the next step in the subsea operations, the deployment of the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) Cap Containment System.
The operational plan first involves cutting and then removing the damaged riser from the top of the failed Blow-Out Preventer (BOP) to leave a cleanly-cut pipe at the top of the BOP’s LMRP. The cap is designed to be connected to a riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and placed over the LMRP with the intention of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well. The LMRP cap is already on site and it is currently anticipated that it will be connected in about four days.

This operation has not been previously carried out in 5,000 feet of water and the successful deployment of the containment system cannot be assured.

Drilling of the first relief well continues and is currently at 12,090 feet. Drilling of the second relief well is temporarily suspended and is expected to recommence shortly from 8,576 feet.

On Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. or immediately after the conclusion of the full Committee hearing in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a hearing entitled “Combating the BP Oil Spill.” This hearing will examine the ongoing response to the oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig site, which is now spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.

The Subcommittee will review the following time line prior to the hearing.

Timeline of events

On May 26, 2010, BP began its attempt a “top kill” to stop the flow of oil through the blowout preventer (BOP).1 In this procedure, heavy “kill mud” will be pumped down from the surface, through a manifold, and into the Deepwater Horizon BOP. If necessary, the manifold can also be used to pump the “junk shot” (e.g., pieces of tires, golf balls, and pieces of rope) to stop excessive leakage of mud through the top of the BOP, as opposed to down into the well to stop the flow of oil and gas. The junk shot tests and other preparations continue onshore.
Image source: BP/House Subcommittee

On April 20, 2010, at about 10 p.m., an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. There were 126 people on board at the time. Fifteen of those were injured and eleven died. The Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd., was under contract with BP to drill an exploratory well. BP was the lessee of the area in which the rig was operating. At the time of the explosion, BP and Transocean were in the process of temporarily closing the well, in anticipation of returning it to commercial production. Another company, Halliburton, had completed some cementing of casings in the well less than 24 hours prior to the accident. The Coast Guard responded to the explosion and fire.

The next day, on April 21, 2010, pursuant to the National Contingency Plan, the Administration named Rear Admiral Mary Landry as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator. A regional response team was established, including representatives of the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Commerce (DOC)/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as state and local representatives. The regional response team began developing plans, providing technical advice and access to resources and equipment from its member agencies, and overseeing BP’s response.

On April 22, 2010, a second explosion caused the Deepwater Horizon to sink into the Gulf of Mexico at 10:22 a.m., taking with it a riser pipe which remained attached to the blowout preventer. The riser pipe, which normally goes from the wellhead to the drilling ship, broke as the Deepwater Horizon sank.

On April 24, 2010, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) inspected the capsized rig on the sea floor and found two oil leaks from the well pipe along the sea floor (at a depth of approximately 5,000 feet). The initial estimate was that up to 1,000 barrels of oil a day could be leaking into the water. This estimate was later revised to be at least 5,000 barrels per day.

On April 27, 2010, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed an order establishing the next steps for a joint investigation, currently underway, into the causes of the explosion. The joint investigation will have the power to issue subpoenas, hold public hearings, call witnesses, and take other steps needed to determine the cause of the incident.

On April 29, 2010, Secretary Napolitano declared the incident to be a “spill of national significance,” enabling the appointment of a national incident commander to coordinate response resources at the national level.

On April 30, 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates mobilized the Louisiana National Guard to help in the ongoing efforts to assist local communities in the cleanup and removal of oil and to protect critical habitats from contamination.

On May 1, 2010, Secretary Napolitano named U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen the National Incident Commander for the Administration's continued, coordinated response.

On May 2, 2010, BP began drilling the first deep-water intercept relief well, which is located a half-mile from the Macondo well, at a depth of roughly 5,000 feet. This well will attempt to intercept the existing wellbore at approximately 16,000 feet below the sea floor. BP estimates this process will take at least 90 days.

On May 4, 2010, the Pentagon approved the federal mobilization of up to 17,500 National Guard troops to help various states with the oil spill (up to 6,000 by Louisiana, 3,000 by Alabama, 2,500 by Florida and 6,000 by Mississippi).

On May 5, BP announced that it had stopped the flow of oil from one of the three existing leak points on the damaged oil well and riser in the Gulf of Mexico, although this action did not change the overall rate of the leak. BP made plans to deploy the cofferdam, a 125-ton, 14’ x 24’ x 40’ structure to be set over the end of the riser.

On May 7, 2010, NOAA modified and expanded the boundaries of the closed fishing area to better reflect the current location of the oil spill. After having deployed test applications of subsea dispersants, EPA halted subsea dispersant operations, awaiting additional test results. Secretary Salazar announced that no applications for new drilling permits would go forward for any new offshore drilling activity until the Department of the Interior completes the safety review requested by President Obama.

On May 8, 2010, BP announced that while lowering the cofferdam over the riser, an excess of hydrate crystals formed inside the dome, preventing the dome from being successfully placed over the leaking riser. The dome remains on the sea floor while BP evaluates current conditions.

On May 11, 2010, Secretary Salazar announced that he would restructure the Minerals Management Service in order to establish a separate and independent safety and environmental enforcement entity. Secretary Salazar also announced that the Administration would seek additional resources for federal inspectors, request an independent, technical investigation of the causes of the Deepwater Horizon spill from the National Academy of Engineers, and request expanded authority to review explorations plans.

On May 12, 2010, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu traveled to Houston to participate in meetings with DOE and national lab staff, industry officials and other engineers and scientists involved in finding solutions to cap the flow of oil and contain the spill.

On May 14, 2010, President Obama announced that he had ordered Secretary Salazar to conduct a “top to bottom” review of the Minerals Management Service.

On May 15, 2010, Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Salazar sent a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward reiterating that as a responsible party for this event, BP is accountable to the American public for the full costs of the cleanup of the spill and all economic losses related to the spill.

On May 16, 2010, a riser insertion tube tool (RITT) was successfully tested and inserted into the leaking riser, capturing some oil and gas. BP estimates that it is currently capturing slightly more than 2,000 barrels per day, but that amount varies greatly day to day.

On May 17, 2010, a second drill rig, Transocean’s Development Driller II, began drilling a second relief well.

On May 19, 2010, Secretary Salazar signed a secretarial order leading to the fundamental restructuring of the Minerals Management Service and the division of its three missions into separate entities for leasing, safety and revenue collection, with independent missions to strengthen oversight of offshore energy operations.
In addition, Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey requested that BP immediately make publicly available its live video feed of leak points and undersea activities.

On May 20, 2010, Secretary Napolitano announced that Admiral Allen would remain as national incident commander for the Administration’s continued, coordinated response to the spill, even after stepping down from his post as Coast Guard Commandant.

In addition, Secretary Napolitano and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward stressing the agency’s expectation that BP conduct all actions in a transparent manner, with all data and information related to the spill readily available to the federal government and the public.

The EPA also issued a directive requiring BP to identify and use a less toxic and more effective dispersant from the list of EPA-authorized dispersants. The directive required BP to identify a less toxic alternative – to be used both on the surface and under the water at the source of the oil leak – within 24 hours, and to begin using the less toxic dispersant within 72 hours of submitting the alternative.

The Energy and Commerce Committee posted a live feed of the underwater leak at its source, which was made available by BP following Chairman Markey’s request.

On May 22, 2010, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, with former Florida Governor and former Senator Bob Graham, and former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly, serving as co-chairs. The commission is tasked with providing recommendations on how to prevent, and mitigate the impact of, any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

By May 23, 2010, more than 1.73 million feet of containment boom and 730,000 feet of sorbent boom had been deployed to contain the spill. Approximately 10.2 million gallons of an oil-water mix had been recovered. Approximately 785,000 gallons of total dispersant had been deployed, 685,000 on the surface and 100,000 underwater.

As of May 24, 2010, approximately 65.6 miles of Louisiana shoreline have been impacted by oil.
In addition, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke declared a fisheries disaster for commercial and recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, as a result of the ongoing impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NOAA has closed portions of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing based on the trajectory of the spill since May 2, 2010. The fisheries closure currently encompasses 19 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

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