BP Oil Spill May Finally be Capped This WeekAug 2, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
BP may begin a process as early as tonight that could end the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill once and for all. According to The Washington Post, engineers are preparing a two-pronged “kill” shot by which they will pump heavy mud into the well in the hopes of pushing the oil back into it source rock, 2 1/2 miles underground.
The first part of the process is called a “static kill”, the Post said. That process starts at the top, and involves firing mud and possibly cement into the blowout preventer that sits on the wellhead. BP says it will take up to two days to complete the static kill.
Five to seven days after that, engineers will attempt a “bottom kill”. In this process, more mud and cement will be pumped into the well through a relief well that BP has been working on since May.
The well has been spewing oil since the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 men. Though it has been capped with a containment device since July 15, the well is still a threat. And while BP is very optimistic that the static kill attempt will work, it is not guaranteed. According to The Washington Post, that is why the company will follow it up with bottom kill utilizing the relief well.
While Gulf Coast officials and residents are excited at the prospect that the oil spill might finally come to the end, they are wary too. According to the Post, some Louisiana officials are concerned that the government and BP will bail out prematurely in their response to the spill. Even once the well is permanently capped, the region still faces a massive cleanup, and it will take years for the environment to completely recover.
The 1,500 or so commercial fisherman employed by the “Vessels of Opportunity” program to clean up the spill could face unemployment after the well is plugged. Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who has been overseeing the federal response to the spill, has said there will be a “resource leveling,” once the well is fully capped. According to the Post, Allen said the government has put together a plan to keep the fishermen employed at least through August.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, a controversy raged over the chemical dispersants BP has used to break up the spill. On Saturday, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., released a letter charging that: “BP often carpet bombed the ocean with these chemicals and the Coast Guard allowed them to do it.” This was allowed, Markey said, despite restrictions imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the use of the chemicals.
In May, the EPA and the Coast Guard ordered BP on to cut the use of chemical dispersants by 75 percent. But according to Markey’s letter, the Coast Guard approved 74 waivers over a 48-day period after the EPA order.
As we’ve reported previously, long-term exposure to dispersants can cause central nervous system problems or damage blood, kidneys or livers. And while the chemicals do a good job of breaking up the oil into tiny droplets, scientists say this makes it easier for the oil and chemicals to be absorbed by much marine life, especially eggs and larvae.
According to the Associated Press, in response to Markey’s letter, Allen said the Coast Guard did not ignore the EPA directives, but that some field commanders had authority to allow more dispersants to be used on a case-by-case basis.
In a statement released over the weekend, the EPA said BP reduced the use of chemical dispersants by 72 percent through mid-July, when the containment cap was placed on the well
“While EPA may not have concurred with every individual waiver granted by the federal on-scene coordinator, the agency believes dispersant use has been an essential tool in mitigating this spill’s impact,” the agency said.