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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Latest on Oil Spill Stop Gap Efforts in Gulf

The containment dome lowered to the seafloor at the destroyed Deepwater Horizon site is clogging with hydrates. At present, there's no definite solution to the problem. Engineer's are working on it. Meantime, oil continues to gush out of the hole with volcanic force. Some say the leak is spewing 5,000 barrels a day. Some say 50,000 or more barrels a day. I suspect some of the confusion here is that reporters and journalists aren't distinguishing between barrels and gallons when relaying their stories. Maybe there really is a lot of confusion and nobody knows for sure.

The problem now is that gas hydrates are forming in the cold, high pressure environment at the seabed, 5,000 feet below sea level. These hydrates are forming a sludge that's clogging the outlet in the dome and building up pressure. BP had to lift the dome and move it out of the way.

On another note, the Administration has been in talks with the United Nations and other countries in an effort to enlist additional aid and support. A couple of oil skimming vessels from Sweden are en route. These are very large skimmers that should have been mobilized a week ago. Once the oil reaches the shoal waters of the panhandle, these large vessels will be useless.

Also, as a taxpayer in a country that drills and transports and uses more oil than any other country and/or people in the world, I'd like to know why we here in the U.S. don't have the largest oil skimmers in existence? Tax money is suppose to be used to educate, protect and defend. Why doesn't the U.S.C.G. have large oil skimmers? We have HAZMAT response vehicles in our fire departments. We're equipped to handle oil spills on the road. So why not on the water?

I'll tell you why. Because when the time came for the Coast Guard to procure new vessels, they didn't think large oil skimmers or multi-purpose vessels were sexy enough. A skimmer doesn't have the appeal of a sleek, high speed cutter armed to the teeth. Who wants to be on a 10 knot tub wearing a hard hat and getting covered in oil when you can be wearing Kevlar combat armor, carrying an assault rifle and cruising the high seas at 38 knots. When the Coast Guard became part of the Department of Homeland Security, and its mission focused more on coastal defense, patrol and drug interdiction, the emergency response for rescue and environmental protection suffered.

It's inexcusable for the U.S. not to have a fleet of large oil skimmers. And it's equally inexcusable for the administration to wait so long to procure the largest of these vessels. It's tantamount to having a huge fire in the middle of your town and not sending any fire trucks.

Click on the photos for the full story at the New York Times.

~seabgb

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great information. You sure the skimmers from Sweden are enroute to the Gulf? I've tried to find confirmation, and all I see is that they offered them. No mention of the US accepting. It's just unbelievable that the US would not have this type of equipment readily available.

seabgb said...

I don't know if they're underway. I don't even know that much about them. They were referenced in an article sometime around the May 9. I tried to Google them but came up with nothing. I'm still looking. Btw, JBL Inc. designed a large (123') skimmer vessel, not large by ship standards but large by skimmer standards. The company tried to sell them to the Coast Guard as a multi-purpose Buoy Tender/Skimmer. The Coast Guard wasn't interested. They did build at least one vessel and it was sent to Alaska.

Skimmers don't have a very wide operational window. They can't really pick up oil in anything to rough. Still and all, from what I read about those big Swedish vessels, they're exactly what we need right now.

herb said...

Why not fly these oil skimming boats here> We have planes that are big enough by far.