The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Oil Spill Response Gains Momentum

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 19, 2010

The response to the Gulf oil spill gained momentum yesterday both in coastal states and in Washington.

In a Senate hearing, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar warned that raising the trust fund's liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion would prevent smaller and mid-sized energy companies from operating offshore, while Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued for a bill that would lift the cap entirely.

In the White House, President Obama pushed for quick action on a trust fund bill, saying:

"I am disappointed that an effort to ensure that oil companies pay fully for disasters they cause has stalled in the United States Senate on a partisan basis."

BP has stated repeatedly that it will pay all legitimate claims.

In the Gulf, the Joint Unified Command reported that a "tendril of light oil" is approaching the Loop Current. In a report issued last night, the command wrote:

"In the time it would take for oil to travel to the vicinity of the Loop Current, any oil would be highly weathered and the natural processes of evaporation and dispersion would reduce the oil volume significantly. The oil would also be significantly diminished by ongoing dispersant application."

The size of the response has increased yet again. Yesterday it included:

  • More than 20,000 people responding as part of the Unified Command, plus volunteers
  • More than 950 vessels
  • Seventeen staging areas
  • The deployment of nearly 2 million feet of containment and sorbet boom
  • The recovery of about 7.6 million gallons of oil/water mix
  • The use of about 640,000 gallons of dispersant above and below the water's surface
  • Controlled burns

On the seafloor, BP reports that the "top kill" equipment is on location near the blowout preventer (BOP). Engineers plan to pump heavy fluids and cement through the BOP and directly down hole to kill the well. Another option is to inject a "junk shot" into the BOP to clog the well's flow, followed by heavy fluids and cement to seal the well. BP says gamma ray surveys are continuing to provide diagnostics about the conditions and pressures inside the BOP.

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Update on May 19, 2010 at 10:57 a.m.

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in New London, Conn., has determined that none of the tar balls collected on the Florida Keys shoreline yesterday came from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A statement issued this morning, says, "...tests conclusively show that the tar balls collected from Florida Keys beaches do not match the type of oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico." The source of the tar balls is unknown, and the beaches remain open.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.