Friday, September 2, 2011

Growing oil slick found at site of Deepwater Horizon disaster

by Judson Parker

Over the course of last week, allegations arose of renewed leaking in the Macondo oil field, the site of last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Map). New Orleans lawyer Stuart Smith initially reported that as many as 40 Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) boats were hired by BP to lay boom around a growing slick near the site of the Macondo field. Later, two ships that assisted in the mission to kill the leaking oil well were photographed near the site: Helix Producer I, an oil production vessel capable of handling 45,000 barrels of oil per day, and the Helix Express, a subsea construction vessel.

It is currently unknown what the two Helix vessels are doing in the vicinity of the Macando well, but there has been speculation that the ships are working to find the source of the leak via Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and perhaps working to construct subsea infrastructure that will allow BP to produce oil to the surface or connect into the 25,000 milesof underwater oil and gas pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course, BP outright denied all allegations of activity in the Macondo field last week. "None of this is true," said company spokesman Daren Beaudo, who went on to claim that samples were taken of "silty water" but preliminary test results showed no trace of oil or natural gas.

Prompted by the allegations and photographic evidence from a flyover by On Wings of Care pilot Bonny Schumaker, a team of reporters from the Mobile Press-Register took a boat out to the Deepwater Horizon site to investigate.

According to reporter Ben Raines:

Floating in a boat near the well site, Press-Register reporters watched blobs of oil rise to the surface and bloom into iridescent yellow patches. Those patches quickly expanded into rainbow sheens 4 to 5 feet across.

Each expanding bloom released a pronounced and pungent petroleum smell.

The team also reports that new globs of oil and sheen were erupting to the surface from the area over the Macando Prospect to nearly a mile away every few seconds. “I think the primary source with high probability is associated with the Macondo well,” said Robert Bea, an internationally prominent petroleum engineer and professor emeritus at the Berkeley campus of the University of California.

Even in light of this new evidence, BP is sticking to its denial of activity near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “We stand by what we said last week, neither BP nor the Coast Guard has seen any scientific evidence that oil is leaking from the Macondo well, which was permanently sealed almost a year ago,” said BP spokesman Justin Saia in a report on Wednesday, August 24.

Official reports on the status of the leak are pending from the US Coast Guard. Updates will be posted as they become available.

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