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Posts Tagged ‘gulf of mexico’

Deepwater Horizon rig catastrophe has been called a unique event by the oil industry, but the recent history of offshore drilling suggests otherwise according to an investigative story by the Wall Street Journal.

In the months before and after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the industry was hit with several serious spills and alarming near-misses.

A rig operated by PTT PCL caught fire off Australia in late 2009. - Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A blowout off the coast of Australia left oil flowing into the Timor Sea for weeks. An out-of-control well in the Gulf of Mexico dislodged a 4,000-pound piece of equipment on the deck of the Lorris Bouzigard drilling rig as workers scurried to safety. A gas leak in the North Sea aboard a production platform came within a rogue spark of a Deepwater Horizon-scale disaster off the coast of Norway.

Data from regulators around the world suggest that after years of improvement, the offshore-drilling industry’s safety record has declined over the past two years.  In 2009, in the Gulf of Mexico, there were 28 major drilling-related spills, natural-gas releases or incidents in which workers lost control of a well – up 4% from 2008, 56% from 2007, and nearly two-thirds from 2006. If you include the number of hours worked on offshore rigs in the equation, the rate of these incidents rose every year from 2006 to 2009.

There are various possible explanations for the recent spate of problems. Investigations into the Deepwater Horizon and some other recent incidents have pointed to the industry’s difficulties finding and retaining enough experienced workers, its struggles to balance safety priorities with profit demands, and occasional lapses in the face of lax regulation. These challenges have become more pronounced as oil companies continue to push the limits of technology and experience in deeper water, harsher environments and more complex oil reservoirs, the investigators say.

The six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling imposed by the Obama administration ended in October, one month ahead of schedule.  Still, the administration reversed plans to expand drilling into new areas.

Public Citizen continues to call for better regulation and stronger accountability for off-shore drilling operations.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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The following blog was posted on Public Citizen’s energy blog by Tyson Slocum

Another Rig Explosion in the Gulf of Mexico

Map showing location of Mariner Energy platformHere’s what we know: On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 2, an oil and gas rig owned by Mariner Energy, Inc., operating in about 340 feet of water on the continental shelf experienced an explosion and subsequently caught fire, resulting in all 13 workers on board to flee into the water.

This incident is different from BP’s Mancondo disaster because BP’s fiasco occurred on a floating rig operating an exploration well in ultra-deepwater a mile deep, whereas this Mariner Energy operation was in shallow water (340 ft) on a rig that is permanently fixed to the ocean floor below (and not a floating rig).

While we wait for details, here are two things to think about:

1. In June the Obama administration unveiled new, tougher rules for shallow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The question is: Have federal inspectors personally reviewed this Mariner Energy facility, and what were the results of all certifications and tests of this particular facility?

2. Here’s what we know about Mariner Energy: In January 2004, the private equity funds Carlyle/Riverstone and Texas Pacific Group purchased Mariner Energy from Enron for $271 million and took the company public in March 2005. Carlyle/Riverstone then exited as an investor, but Texas Pacific Group, through its ACON Investments subsidiary, still has significant interests, with ACON’s Bernard Aronson and Jonathan Ginns both serving on Mariner’s board.

Mariner’s Enron legacy continues, as the company’s Chairman, CEO and President is Scott D. Josey, who served as VP of Enron North America from 2000-02. At the time, Enron was engaged in one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history, stealing billions of dollars from West Coast energy consumers. Jesus G. Melendrez is Mariner’s CFO and he served as a VP with Enron North America from 2000-03. Mariner’s General Counsel, Teresa G. Bushman, worked as a lawyer with Enron from 1996-2003.

Public Citizen revealed that Mariner Energy has escaped paying more than $44 million in royalties because it has legally been producing oil and gas from Gulf of Mexico leases royalty-free.

On Aug. 11, 2007, the federal government fined Mariner Energy $30,000 after an employee “fell 11 feet.”

Earlier reports claimed the platform was not in production, but this AP report indicates that, according to a homeland security operational update, the platform is a fixed petroleum platform that was in production at the time of the fire, and that the platform was producing about 58,800 gallons of oil and 900,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The platform can store 4,200 gallons of oil.

 

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The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes the start of the new baseball season with another highlight reel of the week’s political activity.

Off the Kuff looked at how voting returns changed in Texas from 2004 to 2008 in the Presidential and judicial races.

Aruba Petroleum: The Epic Fail of the Barnett Shale. Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS now brings you 55 posts to document this failure of epic proportions.

Marshmallow Peeps make sweeping endorsements of Democrats on The Texas Cloverleaf.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why Republicans and Republican suck ups act like bleeping thugs? New Perry appointee, Nueces County DA Jimenez, threw out the board certified attorneys to bring in her cronies and HD 76 rep Norma Chávez is channeling Karl Rove.

The last chapter (?) in the sad saga of Stay Bailey Hutchison is read aloud by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Sure April Fools Day is over, but this was funny enough to share again. Sarah Palin to Replace Michael Steele as Chair of the GOP. Bay Area Houston continues to be full of wit.

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy takes a first look at the Bryan mayoral candidates, and this week he will be taking a look at the candidates for College Station City Council Place 2 and Bryan City Council Single Member District 3. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the GOP’s latest posturing and states that it’s time for Gov. Perry and the Texas GOP to put up or shut up.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about undersea volcanoes in the Gulf of Mexico that shoot out asphalt. Who knew?

WhosPlayin says animal welfare actvists in North Texas are claiming a victory in their fight against puppy mills: After months of weekly picketing by Texans Exposing Petland, the Lewisville, Texas Petland store is closing down.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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San Antonio, TX –  Nuclear power is the most water intensive energy source available. When San Antonio and all of Texas are suffering from extreme drought and are increasingly in need of sources of drinking water, pursuing more nuclear reactors doesn’t make sense, especially true since cheaper, safer alternatives such as energy efficiency, wind, geothermal and solar energy are available. All use significantly less water than nuclear reactors.

Dr. Lauren Ross’ comments are timely in that the Texas drought continues to worsen, and the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is still considering nine water-related contentions submitted in opposition to additional reactors by SEED Coalition, Public Citizen and STARE, the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy.

“Nuclear reactors consume vast quantities of water,” said Dr. Lauren Ross, environmental engineer and owner of Glenrose Engineering. “The proposed STP reactors 3 and 4 would withdraw 23,170 gallons per minute from the Colorado River. The two proposed reactors would increase forced evaporation by an additional 37,400 acre-feet per year. The water withdrawal required from the Colorado River to replace evaporated water for all four reactors would be about 74,500 acre-feet per year.”

“Water withdrawal for STP’s nuclear reactors can be a significant fraction of the total river flow. Peak water use so far occurred on September 16, 2001, when the water withdrawal was 48% of the total Colorado river flow near the reactor site,” said Dr. Ross. “From January 1, 2001 through September 30, 2006 there were 69 days when withdrawal for existing STP reactors was equal to or greater than one quarter of the entire river flow.” With four reactors and an increase in the surface water demand, the river flow in the future could go even lower than it is now.

Estimated groundwater use would more than double from an average of 798 gallons per minute for the existing facility over the last five years to a level of 2040 gallons per minute for all four reactors, according to Dr. Ross, but STP wants to wait on analyzing groundwater availability until after the permit is issued.

The year 2008 was one of the driest years on record for Central Texas. Dr. Ross’s most recent research shows that in 2008 water use by LCRA’s firm water customers plus four irrigation operators was more than twice that of the Highland Lakes inflows for the same period, so losses are not being replenished. Moreover, STP’s authorized withdrawal is more than one-third of the total Highland Lakes inflow for 2008.

Water versus Energy

The San Antonio Water System recently filed suit for breach of contract against the Lower Colorado River Authority for $1.23 billion. The suit claims that the water-sharing project was killed by the river authority in order to make sure there would be enough water for power plant deals in Matagorda County. At the same time CPS Energy, the San Antonio municipal utility, seeks to be a partner in the proposed nuclear reactors for Matagorda County. STP’s annual permitted withdrawal from the Colorado River is 102,000 acre-feet per year, incredibly close to the amount in the canceled LCRA/SAWS water agreement, 102,500 acre-feet per year (average).

“Will we reach a point where San Antonio will have to decide which matters most, electricity from nuclear reactors or water for drinking?” asked Alice Alice Canestaro-Garcia, visual artist and member of EnergÍa MÍa. “It makes no sense to build two more reactors, which together would use enough water to fill 1,440 swimming pools in one day.”

Increasing Radioactive Contamination

South Texas Project’s license application fails to evaluate the increasing levels of groundwater tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that can be dangerous if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Tritium emits Beta radiation that causes cancer, cell mutation, and birth defects. “Tritium has been detected in two of the pressure relief wells that collect water leaking from the unlined bottom of the existing main cooling reservoir. Concentrations of tritium have been increasing in both wells, and these concentrations could rise if two more nuclear reactors are built at the site,” said Dr. Ross.

A state water permit proposed for the site fails to address radionuclides such as tritium, and doesn’t require monitoring for total dissolved solids, some metals or the chemicals added by the facility, such as biocides, sulfuric acid, and anti-scalants. There are also no sulfur or sodium limits for the wastewater discharges, even though these are significant components of the water that would be released back to the Colorado River system.

The application’s Environmental Report relies upon a dilution factor of 10 to meet discharge standards, but fails to provide information about how much the waste discharge loads would change with two additional nuclear reactors. It fails to analyze the consequences of the load increases into a system with only a small change in the dilution factor, since the storage volume would increase only 7.4%.

The reactor application admits that “5,700 acre-feet per year leaks through the unlined bottom of the main cooling reservoir into the underlying Gulf Coast Chicot Aquifer” and 68% of it is recovered. The rest migrates underground, seeping into nearby surface water bodies, into pumped wells or the estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico.

“Failure to monitor and regulate leakage through the bottom of the main cooling reservoir constitutes a failure to protect groundwater and surface water from plant operations,” said Dr. Ross.

For more information, visit www.EnergiaMia.org

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