Thursday, April 12, 2012

BP Redux?

Shell Oil; The best afloat in today's Gulf!                 (c) Telegraph

Click here for related story [The Telegraph]

We learn today that Royal Dutch Shell [just Shell in the US] discovered an "oil sheen" in the central Gulf of Mexico near one of its platforms.  The Canadian Press reports that the sheen extends for ten miles, so chances are, it's definitely a leak, and someone has some 'splainin to do."

Shell has advised that there is "no current indication" that the sheen originates from either of its wells in the Gulf.  Meanwhile, investors took a dim view of the situation and sold heavily, forcing the price of Shell down by four per cent.  [BP took a ricochet drop of 1.5%.]

These pipes are safe.  Ask a Nigerian farmer
(c) InFocus
Now Shell could probably dodge this bullet were it not for other spills it's had of late.

The Associated Press reports that the number of its operational oil spills doubled last year -- to 63.

Hmm, that's a lot.

Shell advises that a lot of those spills came from pipeline thefts in Nigeria, but it spilled only 5,300 tons of oil last year, as opposed to 14,000 tons two years ago. 

So, they seemed to be making progress, or at least they were until this ten mile slick appeared in the Gulf.  Chances are, ten miles of oil slick amounts to more than 5,000 tons of oil -- which is a lot in one spill.

115 miles of floating oil near Nigeria
Envisat ASAR image analyzed by SkyTruth
The problem lies in that the 14,000 tons spilled in 2011 created another sheen off the coast of Nigeria, which Shell announced was probably the worst in a a decade and impacted nearly 360 square miles of ocean.

So, about roughly 40,000 barrels of crude oil created that sheen.  That made Shell a bit nervous since its other spills in 2008 in Nigeria's Bodo region of the Delta were estimated to take roughly 30 years to clean up.

On the positive side, Shell spilled only 320 barrels of contaminated fluids in the Gulf of Mexico before it closed down its deep drilling rig there.

Deepwater Horizon (c) Wikipedia
In our very own Gulf, we recall BP's minor spill in 2010 from the Deepwater Horizon was limited to less than five million barrels, with an 80 square mile "kill zone" around the well.  And, only about 500 miles of Louisiana shore line and wetlands were affected.
BP alleviated much of the tar problem by pumping thousands of gallons of chemicals into the Gulf to dissipate the oil plumes that were ten miles long and three miles wide that snaked for several miles below the surface.

According to NOAA, roughly half the oil spilled by the Deepwater Horizon remains in the water in a dispersed form, or rests on the Gulf floor.  The bacteria which was touted as being capable of breaking down the oil turned out to be effective only on natural gas, leaving the oil fairly intact.

Although declared "safe" by BP and the federal government, the Gulf remains polluted and continues to spew out the dead dolphins, fish, and waterfowl.

So, we look forward to Shell's oil spill.  Can it compete with BP's spill? And can it cause the amount of devastation as the BP Spill?

We "Little People" are anxious to know!