NEW YORK, May 25 (Reuters) – Just how many barrels of oil
are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon
spill is a billion dollar question with implications that go
beyond the environment. It could also help determine how much
BP <BP.L> and others end up paying for the disaster.
A clause buried deep in the U.S. Clean Water Act may expose
BP and others to civil fines that aren’t limited to any finite
cap — unlike a $75 million limit on compensation for economic
damages. The Act allows the government to seek civil penalties
in court for every drop of oil that spills into U.S. navigable
waters, including the area of BP’s leaking well.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of lawmakers will recommend BP be ordered to idle its Atlantis oil and gas platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico until federal regulators can prove the region’s second biggest rig is operating safely.
More than 20 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter on Wednesday with language that urges the Minerals Management Service to shut down Atlantis, which pumps up to 200,000 barrels per day of crude, pending a safety probe. The letter, given to Reuters, will be delivered to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar early Thursday, congressional staff said.
NEW YORK, May 19 (Reuters) – A group of U.S. lawmakers will recommend BP <BP.L> be ordered to idle its Atlantis oil and gas platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico until federal regulators can prove the region’s second biggest rig is operating safely.
At least 17 Democratic lawmakers will urge the Minerals Management Service to shut down Atlantis, which pumps up to 200,000 barrels per day of crude, pending a broad safety probe, according to a letter they will deliver to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday, obtained by Reuters.
"We urge MMS to listen to the expert engineer who reviewed the Atlantis situation and called for an immediate shutdown until it can be shown that this platform is operating safely," the letter said.
An earlier, Feb. 24 letter from 19 lawmakers to the MMS urged an investigation into Atlantis’s safety, months ahead of the rig explosion at BP’s Macondo field in April and the resulting growing oil spill and environmental disaster. [ID:nN19188461]
Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva, who sits on the Committee on Natural Resources, led the February effort and is the first signatory on the new letter.
"Given the backdrop of what has happened, the idling of the (Atlantis) platform I think is justified," Grijalva said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "We need to make sure another catastrophe doesn’t happen."
In the letter, lawmakers will voice renewed concern that the Atlantis oil and gas project, which began production in 2007, has operated without up-to-date "as built" engineering documents and diagrams showing how all of its components work, raising the specter of a disaster that could be even bigger than BP’s Macondo spill.
"We are very concerned that the tragedy at Deepwater Horizon could foreshadow an accident at BP Atlantis, which is operating in deeper water than Horizon," according to the letter. The "worst-case scenario spill" could be many times worse than the Horizon disaster, exceeding the volume of the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 in just two days time, it says.
So far, the U.S. Gulf oil spill has yet to significantly affect U.S. oil production. Any order to halt Atlantis could change that. One of the most complex deepwater platforms in the world, Atlantis pumps crude and natural gas from the Green Canyon blocks in the U.S. Gulf, in waters more than 7,000 feet (2,130 metres) deep, around 150 miles (240 km) south of New Orleans.
BP operates Atlantis and holds a 56 percent stake, while BHP Billiton <BHP.AX> holds a 44 percent stake.
Salazar said in Senate testimony on Tuesday the U.S. government was investigating Atlantis, and admitted his agency came up short in preventing the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill. [ID:nN18168199]
Atlantis accounts for a major chunk of BP’s U.S. crude and natural gas production. The platform can produce up to 200,000 barrels a day of crude, around 13 percent of total U.S. Gulf output, and up to 180 million cubic feet of natural gas.
BP, the top Gulf producer, pumps more than 400,000 bpd of oil equivalent in the region, and operates the two largest platforms, Thunder Horse and Atlantis.
Lawmakers expect MMS to complete an initial investigation into Atlantis by May 27, Grijalva said. The MMS did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
BP wouldn’t comment on the letter as it hasn’t seen it, but has said Atlantis adheres to rigorous safety standards and has safely produced millions of barrels of oil since its start-up.
On Monday, the company rebuffed claims from a former BP contractor, Kenneth Abbott, who has said BP operated the rig without complete or accurate engineering documents.
Abbott, along with advocacy group Food and Water Watch, filed a federal lawsuit this week against Salazar and the MMS, seeking Atlantis’s shut down.
BP’s earlier investigation into the matter found that Abbott’s claims were "without substance," the company said.
Grijalva is urging the MMS to interview Abbott and other experts. According to a database Abbott compiled while on contract with BP, more than 90 percent of the engineering documents and drawings for Atlantis’ subsea components had not been approved by an engineer as required by regulations, Grijalva said.
The letter also cites an internal BP email from 2008, indicating that the company recognized incomplete or inaccurate engineering documents on Atlantis "could lead to catastrophic Operator errors."
Grijalva said lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Republicans, have increasingly been talking about the likelihood of criminal probes into BP’s operations.
Department of Justice spokesman Andrew Ames said he could neither confirm or deny the existence of any investigation.
Grijalva said a criminal investigation into BP’s activities "has become part of the conversation on the Hill," adding that he expected BP to face a probationary period as well as potential indictments. (Reporting by Joshua Schneyer; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
NEW YORK, May 19 (Reuters) – Several U.S. lawmakers plan to
recommend the shutdown of the BP-operated Atlantis oil and gas
platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico until federal regulators
can prove the region’s second biggest rig is operating safely.
A group of lawmakers will urge an expanded investigation by
the Minerals Management Service into Atlantis, which pumps up
to 200,000 barrels per day of crude, according to a draft of
the letter they will deliver to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
on Wednesday, obtained by Reuters.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – BP’s oil spill could make for one of the highest-stakes U.S. Gulf hurricane seasons on record.
Storms may scuttle clean-up efforts, force containment vessels to retreat, or propel spilled crude and tar balls over vast expanses of sea and beach, scientists said.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A bill of more than $10 billion to clean up oil gushing from BP’s U.S. Gulf well could be small compared to costs the disaster adds to producing oil offshore in coming years, enough to push world oil prices higher.
As regulators, oil companies and insurers plot their response to the U.S. Gulf disaster, few experts expect offshore drilling to be halted or sharply cut, given its importance to global oil supply. Deepwater output accounts for around 9 percent of the world’s oil, or double its contribution a decade ago, according to industry estimates.
NEW YORK, May 3 (Reuters) – The rate to charter oil and
product tankers in the Caribbean and US Gulf Coast region has
surged by 50 percent or more over the last week as tankers
confront the massive oil spill in the region and brave stormy
seas, shipbrokers and analysts said on Monday.
The day-rate to charter an Aframax tanker in the
Caribbean-USGC region, with capacity to transport around
750,000 barrels of crude, surged to around $13,000 a day by
Monday, up from around $8,700 a week ago, according to the
Dahlman Rose investment bank.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Major oil and grain shipping channels through the Gulf of Mexico are not being affected by the massive oil slick, officials said on Thursday amid concerns that it could disrupt operations in the region.
While oil traders braced for potential freight restrictions that could curtail crude oil imports to the nation’s refining hub, the Coast Guard sought to prevent the spreading slick from affecting traffic and the nation’s biggest oil import terminal off Louisiana said it did not anticipate a disruption for now.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil steadied below $83 a barrel as declining U.S. gasoline stocks helped offset investor concern about European economies after Standard & Poor’s downgraded Spain’s credit rating.
Gasoline stocks fell unexpectedly in the United States last week even as refineries ramped up operations, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in weekly data, a sign of recovering fuel demand in the world’s largest consumer.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil fell more than 2 percent on Tuesday toward $82 a barrel after investors concerned about the Greek debt crisis and rising U.S. crude inventories pulled cash out of energy markets in a flight from risk.
Standard & Poor’s cut Greece’s credit rating to junk status minutes after downgrading Portugal. Concerns surrounding debt-laden European economies have led to a bearish outlook for fuel demand in a key consumption region. The euro extended losses versus the dollar following the downgrades.