Stormy seas delay plan to double oil capture rate

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-06-2010-05-2008


In a press briefing earlier today, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, commander of the federal response to BP’s spill, announced that rough seas caused by Hurricane Alex are forcing a delay in a plan to double the rate of oil captured from BP’s leaking well.

The plan to increase capacity depends on the addition of a third vessel by the end of June, the Helix Producer, to the two already capturing oil. That vessel is now on site, but with waves at between seven and twelve feet, the conditions in the Gulf are too rough to connect it to the piping carrying the captured oil. Allen said that until the waves fall to between three to five feet, it won’t be possible to connect the new vessel to the piping.

Currently, BP is able to capture about 25,000 barrels per day using two vessels, the Discoverer Enterprise and the Q4000. Unless conditions worsen, that capture rate will continue until it is possible to connect the Helix Producer. Once that happens, the capture rate capacity will increase to 53,000 barrels per day, which might be enough to capture 90% of the oil flowing from the leaking well. BP developed the plan for additional capacity earlier this month under pressure from Allen and the administration.

The rough waters generated by Hurricane Alex are also causing problems across the Gulf Coast, pushing more oil onto the shoreline in all Gulf States — including, for the first time, Texas.

In his briefing, Allen also debunked a false rumor being spread by former oil company executives and right-wing media that the government was barring the use of foreign flagged vessels in the cleanup operation due to the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, vessels used to carry goods between U.S. ports must be U.S. flagged. The rumor claims that foreign flagged vessels have been turned away from helping in the cleanup effort because of the Jones Act, but Allen said there was no basis in fact for that claim. According to Allen, the Jones Act does not apply to waters more than three miles offshore and therefore is not relevant to the response operation. Allen also said that even if it were relevant (or a situation arises where it would become relevant), a waiver would be granted.

The urgency of pushing back on false rumors like this was underscored by a new Marist poll released today showing people think President Obama is handling the oil spill as badly as President Bush handled Hurricane Katrina.

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