AP reports that the containment cap has been replaced, after a robot bent on human destruction bumped it out of alignment. While the cap was off for a day, at least 40,000 and probably more like 100,000 barrels of oil gushed into the water unchecked. But I want to focus on this piece buried in the AP story:
While the cap was off, clouds of black oil gushed unchecked again at up to 104,000 gallons per hour, though a specialized ship at the surface managed to suck up and incinerate 438,000 gallons.
The oil-burning ship is part of an armada floating at the site of the rogue well some 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, and the scene below the surface is no less crowded. At least a dozen robotic submarines dangle from ships at the surface on mile-long cables called “umbilicals,” with most of the undersea work taking place within a few hundred yards of the busted well.
We haven’t heard a lot about this specialized ship that’s burning 438,000 gallons of fossil fuels a day into the atmosphere. While that’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things – more fossil fuels are burned in large cities during a single morning commute – this is pure crude, and seemingly no sanctions are being placed on anyone for burning up the atmosphere in this fashion.
This is at least the second ship burning oil, and it’s been deployed for at least a week, with a capacity of up to 10,000 barrels (600,000 gallons) a day. Who is allowing BP to just burn oil at the surface of the water? You guessed it, the Minerals Management Service, which authorized burning up to 12,000 barrels.
Clearly there are a lot of trade-offs here, and you have to weigh burning oil against allowing it to wash ashore. But do we know anything about the effects of this on the environment? The MMS seal of approval shouldn’t exactly comfort anyone. Nor should BP’s claims:
BP said the burner used for the operation has “very high” combustion efficiency and is not expected to cause much smoking. Respirators have been distributed to personnel working in the area.
But we know that BP has under-reported pollutant exposure, and that they have not distributed enough respirators to cleanup workers in other parts of the Gulf. So I don’t buy it.
I’ll be digging into this a bit more…