The application of oil dispersants 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) was set to begin in a matter of hours Friday afternoon as responders continued to combat oil leaking from the deepwater well ruptured last week 42 miles from shore south of Venice, LA (see Daily GPI, April 27). An attempt to drill a relief well to stop the oil’s flow was to begin Saturday.
Doug Suttles, COO of BP plc, which is ultimately responsible for the leaking well, told reporters Friday that the company has sought suggestions for stopping the leak from throughout the industry “We welcome every new idea and every offer of support,” he said.
The undersea application of dispersants could be a first for the United States, at least in the deepwater, officials have said.
However, Louisiana’s governor and federal officials appearing with Suttles at a press briefing Friday said they were intent on keeping the pressure on BP to fix the leak and to seek whatever assistance it needs from the federal government and the energy industry at large to do so.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wondered aloud whether BP is up to the task.
“We are concerned and we have encouraged BP strongly to seek even more assistance from the federal government because I do think this response could overwhelm their capabilities,” Jindal said.
Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressed more confidence in the giant oil company. “BP has all hands on deck,” he said. However, “we have also asked British Petroleum to reach out to the entire oil and gas industry around the world. I asked BP to put together a swat team to put together the best ideas from other companies.
“This particular incident has huge ramifications for what happens with energy development in the oceans all around the world…The oil and gas industry has a tremendous amount to lose in terms of their global economic value here.”
The spill is the aftermath of an apparent well blowout April 20 on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 (MC252) where the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon caught fire and sunk following the blowout with the loss of 11 lives. The rig was owned and operated by Transocean Ltd. and under contract to BP (see Daily GPI, April 30; April 28a; April 28b).
Joining Salazar in Louisiana to survey the spill site were Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Napolitano emphasized that all planning to combat the spill envisioned a “worst-case” scenario. Like most government officials who have spoken of the spill in recent days, she emphasized that BP is ultimately the “responsible party.” However, she said it is time for BP to further supplement its own capabilities with the resources of the federal government.
For instance, the Defense Department is sending to C-130 aircraft to the spill site to carry oil dispersants. The U.S. Navy has sent thousands of feet of inflatable boom to help contain the spill, as well as other equipment.
The current cost estimate for response efforts is $6-7 million a day.
Jackson said her agency has begun monitoring the air quality in the region and would begin water sampling Friday.
While no oil or gas production from the GOM has been curtailed due to the spill or the response effort, the longer-term environmental and political impact of the disaster for the oil and natural gas industry will not be clear for a while.
“This is a black eye for the industry that is going to continue to get darker the longer the oil is still leaking,” analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities Inc. said in a note.
Storms were threatening efforts to protect the coast Friday.
David Axelrod, senior adviser to the White House, said Friday morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “no additional [offshore] drilling has been authorized and none will be until we find out what happened here…No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there’s a review of what’s happened here.”
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, as of Friday morning more than 217,000 feet of boom (barrier) had been assigned to contain the spill with an additional 305,760 feet available. To date responders have recovered 20,313 bbl (853,146 gallons) of an oil-water mix.
“Those responsible will be held accountable,” Salazar said Friday.
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