Matthew's Feed
May 7, 2010

Local fishermen unhappy at BP Gulf spill jobs offers

BURAS, Louisiana (Reuters) – For thousands of fishermen whose livelihoods are threatened by an expanding oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the offer of jobs by energy giant BP to help clean up the spill seemed like a lifeline.

But hope has already turned to disappointment for many in Louisiana and Alabama who complain that too few people are being selected. Some also say that out-of-state fishermen are taking advantage of a program designed specifically for locals.

May 7, 2010

Containment chamber nears Gulf seabed oil leak

, May 7 (Reuters) – BP Plc <BP.L> engineers using undersea robots maneuvered a massive metal chamber to within 200 feet (60 metres) of a gushing ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, working to contain a leak that threatens an environmental catastrophe on U.S. shores.

The four-story structure, BP’s only short-term hope of controlling the spewing crude, is designed to fit over the biggest of two leaks nearly one mile (1.6 km) below the water and funnel the escaping oil to a surface tanker.

But the technique has never been tried at that depth, where engineers guiding remotely operated vehicles battle darkness, currents and intense undersea pressure. BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward warned there was no certainty of success.

"The pressures and temperatures are very different here, so we cannot be confident that it will work," Hayward told CNN.

He said the dome was being lowered "very carefully" on to the leak, and the next three to four days would be spent making the connections to try to pump crude to the surface.

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TAKE A LOOK on the spill [ID:nSPILL]

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INSIDER TV: link.reuters.com/gen92k

Graphic: link.reuters.com/xeh23k

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Light oil washed ashore for the first time on a chain of islands off the Louisiana coast on Thursday as the slick expanded. At least 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 litres) have poured into the Gulf each day since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded two weeks ago, killing 11 workers.

BP says the containment dome could be operating by Monday. The company is drilling a relief well to halt the leak that could take two or three months to complete.

Engineers have also considered pumping heavy fluids into the top of the failed blowout preventer to plug the leaking well in a technique called "top kill." But that would be "a couple of weeks away," officials said, as BP tries to fix the blowout preventer with underwater robots.

BP has been under heavy pressure from Washington to meet its responsibilities in what could be the largest oil spill in U.S. history. After meeting with BP executives in Houston, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the company and its partners made "some very major mistakes." [ID:nN06140663]

"Its life is very much on the line here," Salazar told reporters. "Are they doing everything that they can possibly do? I hope that they are. I want to make sure that is in fact happening."

Salazar reiterated the U.S. government will issue no new offshore drilling permits until an inter-agency panel gives a safety review to President Barack Obama by May 28. In the meantime, existing drilling will continue.

SHARES FALL

Hayward said the company would meet its obligations to contain and clean up the spill, as well as compensate businesses for their resulting losses. He said a $75 million legal cap on its liabilities under federal law, which some U.S. lawmakers want to raise, would not be a limit.

"Where there are legitimate claims for business interruption, then we will be good for them," he said. "We have said that it is inevitable that the $75 million limit has no relevance in this case."

BP shares fell, dropping 2.3 percent in London on Friday, in line with the fall in the broader market. The STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index <.SXEP> was down 3.8 percent.

The world’s biggest reinsurer, Munich Re <MUVGn.DE>, warned payouts for natural catastrophe claims and the U.S. oil spill had placed its 2010 earnings goal in jeopardy. Munich’s nearest competitor, Swiss Re <RUKN.VX>, said the spill’s cost to the entire industry would be $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion. [ID:nLDE64526K]

The spill threatens an economic and ecological disaster on popular tourist beaches, wildlife refuges and fertile fishing grounds in four states. It has forced Obama to rethink plans to open more waters to offshore drilling.

A sheen of oil washed ashore on much of the Chandeleur Islands, barrier islands that are part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, in the first confirmation of the oil slick hitting land, a U.S. response team spokeswoman said.

Some oiled birds, including pelicans and a gannet, had been found, Jeff Dauzat of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said.

M.A. Sanjayan, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, flew over the Chandeleur Islands and described seeing "ribbons and ribbons" of orange-colored oil stretching for miles and penetrating the numerous small bays, channels and inlets of the islands.

From the air, he said, the oil containment operations appeared almost futile compared with the enormity of the slick.

"We saw over a dozen skimmers working one slick," he said. "As the boats would approach (the oil), it would just give way right in front of them, from the wake. So they looked like toys, like Q-tips, trying to mop up a very large area."

The heavier oil remains farther off the coast for now, closer to the leak site. But the Mississippi Delta, Breton Sound and Chandeleur Sound are in danger of shoreline contacts over the next few days, officials said.

‘BEAUTIFUL BEACHES’

Kevin Begos, a seafood industry spokesman in Apalachicola, Florida, said the spill has affected the marketplace, even though there’s no oil anywhere nearby yet. He said seafood dealers in his area have seen orders drop considerably.

"Right now, it’s mostly fear, because oil hasn’t come here yet," Begos said.

Alabama tourism officials planned an ad campaign to let tourists know the beaches were still clean and encourage them not to cancel their vacation plans.

"The beaches are beautiful, the weather is great and the water is clean. The oil is way offshore," Alabama real estate agent Bobby Hornsby said in a message to customers.

About 250 boats deployed protective booms and used dispersants to break up the thick oil on Friday as crews took advantage of another day of calm weather to fight the slick.

By late Saturday or Sunday morning, winds in the Gulf region could pick up to 15 to 20 knots (17 to 23 mph/27 to 37 kph), a National Weather Service meteorologist said. That may make efforts to battle the slick more difficult.

Coast Guard and port officials said there had been no impact so far on ship traffic, and made preparations to clean vessels quickly en route to port to keep traffic moving — a move that could eventually cause delays. [ID:nN07189284]

Dozens of Louisiana fishermen met with a marine toxicologist in a pizza restaurant in Venice late on Thursday and many said they were worried about the spill’s impact.

"BP needs to look at more than the bottom line," said Kindra, who declined to give her last name for fear her husband, a fisherman, could be excluded from a temporary jobs program the company is offering. (Additional reporting by Matt Daily in New York; Tom Bergin in London; Anna Driver and Chris Baltimore in Houston; Tom Brown and Pascal Fletcher in Miami; Michael Peltier in Pensacola; Steve Gorman and Brian Snyder in Mobile; Scott Malone in Boston; and Richard Cowan in Washington; writing by John Whitesides; editing by Eric Beech)



May 7, 2010

Huge containment chamber expected atop U.S. Gulf leak

By Matthew Bigg

VENICE, La. (Reuters) – BP Plc engineers were expected to lower a massive metal containment chamber onto a ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday in an effort to stem the widening slick.

If all goes as planned, the four-story-tall structure will redirect the flow of crude from nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) below the water and pump it up to the surface. But BP officials warned it will be no easy task.

May 7, 2010

Oil from Gulf spill creeps ashore in Louisiana

VENICE, Louisiana (Reuters) – Oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico came ashore on a chain of islands off the Louisiana coast on Thursday as BP Plc engineers prepared to start lowering a 98-ton metal chamber over the ruptured seabed well miles off the coast.

A sheen of oil washed ashore on much of Chandeleur Islands, barrier islands that are part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, a spokeswoman for the U.S. response team said.

May 6, 2010

BP to lower huge box over gushing oil well

By Matthew Bigg

VENICE, La. (Reuters) – BP engineers prepared on Thursday to start lowering a 98-ton metal chamber over a ruptured undersea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, trying to control a spill that threatens an environmental catastrophe for the U.S. shoreline.

The barge carrying the massive white-painted box arrived at the site of the spill where a BP-owned well blew out two weeks ago 40 miles/64 km off the Louisiana coast, causing the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

May 6, 2010

Volunteers, military team up for U.S. spill fight

By Matthew Bigg

VENICE, La. (Reuters) – Oil workers, volunteers and the military prepared to toil for another day in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday in an attempt to plug a gushing oil leak and protect the U.S. coast from an environmental nightmare.

Meanwhile, questions arose about regulators’ practice of granting exemptions from environmental impact studies for some oil exploration projects deemed to involve little risk, as was the case with the approval for BP’s ill-fated well.

May 6, 2010

Giant dome, fires aimed at huge U.S. oil spill

VENICE, Louisiana (Reuters) – Workers toiled above and below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday to plug a gushing oil leak and protect the U.S. shoreline in one of the biggest spill containment efforts ever mounted.

London-based energy giant BP loaded a massive metal device on a barge that is designed to channel the flow of leaking oil from the seabed to a drilling ship on the surface.

May 5, 2010

Calm U.S. Gulf weather aids spill fight, for now

By Matthew Bigg

VENICE, La. (Reuters) – Teams of oil spill workers were set to take to advantage of at least one more day of calm in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday to keep fighting to contain a huge and growing slick before winds turn against them.

Cleanup crews waiting on shore along the U.S. Gulf have had a few days reprieve as the slow-moving slick, from oil spewing from a damaged deep-water well, remained parked in waters that are placid, for now.

May 5, 2010

Weather aids oil slick fight; current feared

VENICE, Louisiana (Reuters) – A flotilla of nearly 200 boats tackled a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, taking advantage of calm weather to intensify containment efforts while a scientist warned that a powerful current could carry the crude to Miami and points beyond.

Cleanup crews waiting on shore along the U.S. Gulf got a few days reprieve as the slow-moving slick remained parked in the Gulf waters that are calm, for now.

May 4, 2010

Better weather aids fight on U.S. oil slick

By Matthew Bigg

VENICE, La. (Reuters) – A flotilla of nearly 200 boats tackled a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, taking advantage of calm weather to intensify the fight to reduce the spill and limit its impact on the U.S. shoreline.

Energy giant BP Plc, under heavy pressure in Washington, struggled to plug a gushing undersea leak that threatened to wreak havoc on Gulf Coast fishing and tourism and reshape the U.S. political debate on offshore drilling.