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BP finally seals leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well

September 19th, 2010 No comments

The ruptured well that has spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has finally been sealed, US officials say.
A pressure test showed a cement plug put in place by BP to permanently “kill” the well was holding.
President Obama hailed the news, vowing to continue to help those affected.

The worst offshore oil spill in US history began after the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up on 20 April, killing 11 workers and later sinking.

‘Important milestone’

The top US federal official overseeing the disaster, Coast Guard Adm Thad Allen, said on Sunday that the well was now “effectively dead”.

“Additional regulatory steps will be undertaken but we can now state definitively that the Macondo Well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico,” Adm Allen said.

A temporary cap had sealed the flow on 15 July while a relief well was dug. That well finally linked up with the ruptured well on Thursday, allowing workers to start pumping in the cement, removing the need for the cap and creating the permanent “kill”.

The disaster has brought an environmental nightmare to hundreds of miles of US coast. It led to BP chief executive Tony Hayward standing down and the imposition of a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling.

In a statement, President Obama hailed Sunday’s “important milestone” and thanked all those who had “worked around the clock to respond to this crisis and ultimately complete this challenging but critical step to ensure that the well has stopped leaking forever”.

Bay Jimmy on the Louisiana coast, 16 Sept The impact on the economy and wildlife has yet to be fully assessed

He said he remained “committed to doing everything possible to make sure the Gulf Coast recovers fully from this disaster”.

He added: “This road will not be easy, but we will continue to work closely with the people of the Gulf to rebuild their livelihoods and restore the environment that supports them.”

The cost of the disaster to BP has been massive. It has created a compensation fund of $20bn and paid out another $8bn so far in the clean-up campaign.

This final sealing will mean BP can leave the site and concentrate on dealing with the aftermath of the spill.

At the beginning of August, the US government announced that almost three-quarters of the oil had been cleaned up or broken down by natural forces.

The remaining quarter was thought to be “degrading quickly”.

But more recent research noted an undersea plume of crude oil-based chemicals up to 200m high and 2km wide, extending 35km from the spill site.

Despite optimism about the clean-up, the damage to the local economy, wildlife and the ecosystem of the Gulf is hard to fully assess yet.

Original Story at BBC News

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Environmental impacts of the oil spill on the Gulf

June 26th, 2010 No comments

Environmental impacts of the oil spill on the Gulf

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Amid the Gulf crisis, a nation is turning to Rutgers

June 24th, 2010 No comments

For years, Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Science has been doing rigorous scientific work that is now paying off in helping to assess the extent of the damage from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

You get headlines for saving whales and dolphins in front of cameras, not from doing the painstaking, behind-the-scenes research like collecting data of a wide range of oceanographic information.

Things like measuring currents and water temperatures, studying fisheries and waves and creating computer weather forecast models don’t seem to matter much — until they do.

In the aftermath of the ongoing spill, Rutgers University was not only among several institutions called by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to help monitor the disaster, but the Rutgers Coastal Lab was asked to package the data gathered by all the researchers as a kind of data clearinghouse.

Rutgers deserves a lot of credit here.

The university has built a prestigious institution that our nation has turned to as one of its most reliable and competent resources during this tragic spill.

Dealing with the after-effects of this environmental catastrophe will require the best and brightest minds of not only our country, but of the world, and Rutgers University is currently at the forefront of the effort.

Rutgers’ Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory also has two remote control underwater gliders down in the Gulf of Mexico that are being used to help determine the extent of the spill.

One of the best-kept secrets is that the ocean waters off of New Jersey are some of the best-sampled on the planet, which is a main reason why the Rutgers Coastal Lab was called upon to package the data gathered by all the researchers in the Gulf.

You don’t get your name in the newspapers because you know how a current is going to work off the southern tip of Cape May. For years, Rutgers researchers have done the quiet, heavy lifting in the trenches.

That honest work in gathering data and accruing knowledge is paying dividends for our nation now as we grapple with what may be the worst environmental disaster of our lifetime.

MyNorthJersey.com original article >>

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Mini subs from Rutgers helping to predict spread of oil in the Gulf

June 21st, 2010 No comments

Monday, June 21, 2010

BY JAMES M. O’NEILL
The Record
STAFF WRITER

Rutgers oceanographer Scott Glenn observing data sent back by two gliders in the Gulf of Mexico.

A Rutgers University ocean lab has two remote-controlled gliders, or small robotic submarines, in the Gulf of Mexico helping federal agencies predict the path of the oil plume from the BP spill.

Shortly after the spill occurred in April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration turned to ocean experts at Rutgers’ Coastal Ocean Observation Lab. The lab sent down two research gliders with sensors to collect ocean data in the Gulf. They remain deployed off Tampa, Fla.

The Rutgers team has also taken the lead role in consolidating all the data coming in from a small fleet of other research equipment scattered through the Gulf. Having all the information sent to the lab in New Brunswick has enabled scientists from NOAA and other government agencies to get a more complete picture of the oil spill — and its possible path.

“This is what we do, and so when we heard about the disaster, we knew this was how we could contribute,” said Josh Kohut, a Rutgers oceanographer associated with the lab.

So far, the gliders have sent updates about the flow of ocean currents as well as water temperature and salinity readings, which researchers are using to create models that predict where the oil spill might go.

The gliders are also reading the colors of fluorescent light in the water, which can be produced by aquatic life and other organic material, including oil. Several gliders stationed along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast near the spill have detected certain fluorescent bands that are distinctly different and that researchers think may be produced by the oil. They are awaiting confirmation from signals from shipboard sensors.

The Rutgers gliders off Tampa have not yet detected this kind of fluorescence. Instead, they have so far recorded the fluorescent bands that scientists say are consistent with the region.

The lab has used gliders for a decade to measure the speed, salinity and water temperature of the ocean currents off New Jersey. Last year, the Rutgers team became the first to successfully send one of the remote-controlled gliders clear across the Atlantic, from New Jersey to Spain.

Array of applications

Rutgers’ use of the gliders has helped change oceanography and provides a wealth of new information on the ocean with a wide array of applications that can help at-sea rescues, the fishing industry and, now, federal officials monitoring the BP oil spill.

The gliders – which look like small yellow torpedoes — are made from plastic and aluminum, are 6 feet long and weigh about 100 pounds. They can operate for more than a month on a bundle of alkaline batteries and use a little more than a watt of power at a time — the equivalent of three or four Christmas tree lights, said David Aragon, a research staffer.

They send data back to the lab by satellite phone in their tail fins.

The gliders move slowly — no more than a half-mile per hour — and because they have no propellers, they can’t move in a straight line. They follow a roller-coaster path. The glider’s nose captures water, which helps push the robot forward and down, and then spits the water out, sending the robot back up toward the surface, said Scott Glenn, a Rutgers oceanographer and a co-founder of the Coastal Ocean Observation Lab.

Researchers can switch out different sensors in a glider’s payload depending on what kind of data they’re seeking.

In addition to Rutgers’ two gliders, the team in New Brunswick is consolidating data from gliders in the Gulf owned by the University of Delaware, the University of Washington and the University of South Florida.

Federal officials are able to obtain information on ocean movement from orbiting satellites that can read deeper water currents, and from shore-based radar that can measure shoreline ocean movement. The gliders are helping them gather information in a zone that neither the satellites nor the radar can read.

Much of the spill cleanup has been focused on the oil on the Gulf’s surface. But some researchers have detected possible plumes of oil weaving through the Gulf far below the water surface.

“Whether an underwater plume of oil really exists is still being debated,” Glenn said.

In the Gulf, the gliders have faced some problems, chiefly groups of remora, also called sucker-fish. They normally hitch free rides on sea turtles, sharks or other larger fish, but apparently have taken a liking to the gliders, Glenn said. As the fish latch on, they prevent the robots from ascending to the surface.

Rutgers currently owns 20 gliders, which cost $70,000 to $100,000 each. Its gliders have been used off the coasts of New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Australia, and in the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers are starting to use the robots in heavy weather to better understand the impact of storms on currents.

“They don’t get seasick,” Glenn said of the gliders.

The lab’s main data collection room looks like a miniature NASA launch control center. Large color monitors cover one wall, and these days show updated color-coded images of the Gulf of Mexico, with warm areas shaded dark orange and cooler areas depicted in greens and blues. Hundreds of thin white arrows on the screens show the direction of Gulf currents.

Antarctica mission

Rutgers' battery-powered gliders are made from plastic and aluminum and weigh about 100 pounds each. They send back data from satellite phones in their tail fins.

In another room, several gliders in various stages of disassemble rest on long tables. On one tables, glider RU24 is being programmed for an upcoming trip to Antarctica.

Rutgers’ Kohut is a member of an task force set up by the state Department of Environmental Protection to monitor the Gulf spill and its potential to reach New Jersey’s beaches.

The oil is in an eddy in the Gulf. For the oil to escape the Gulf, head around Florida and float up the East Coast, that eddy would have to link up with a loop current that feeds into the Gulf Stream.

But the Gulf Stream veers off to the east once it reaches Cape Hatteras, and is more than 200 miles out to sea off the Jersey coast, making it very unlikely for any oil to wash up on New Jersey beaches, Kohut said.

In addition, the prevailing current closer to shore along New Jersey is a flow of colder water that runs south from the Arctic. The oil would have to breach this flow as well for it to move west from the Gulf Stream and hit New Jersey.

A severe hurricane or nor’easter might be able to push the oil in to shore. “It’s not out of the question,” Glenn said, but it is unlikely.

In addition, as the oil moves north it would degrade and change form, Glenn said. Some oil would evaporate off the water’s surface. Bacteria would eat some it, breaking it down. And some would form tar balls and drop to the ocean bottom.

When President Obama announced in March that he wanted to lift a ban on offshore drilling from Florida to Delaware, Governor Christie was quick to attack the idea as a danger to New Jersey’s coastline, tourism and fishing industries.

Glenn said that the closer to New Jersey a spill occurs, the more likely it will affect New Jersey’s shoreline. But because the prevailing current close to shore moves south, a spill off Delaware or Virginia would be less likely to have a major impact on New Jersey than if a spill occurred to the north and east, off Long Island or Massachusetts, Kohut said.

The time of year would also play a role, Kohut said. Summer provides for calmer currents than fall and winter. Wind can have an impact as well. Winds from the southwest, which provide cooling breezes for beachgoers in summer, also tend to drive cold deep water toward the beach.

Heavy rains that might increase the flow of fresh water down the Hudson River and into the Atlantic may also affect the salinity, and thus the buoyancy, of the water off the coast.

‘Our coast is unique’

While ocean temperatures change relatively little around the world from season to season, the most dramatic shifts occur off the East Coast. “Our coast is unique that way. Things are so dynamic in our region,” Kohut said.

“The ocean itself has its own ‘weather’ beneath the surface,” Kohut said. “There are high and low pressure systems, just as in the atmosphere. The high pressure pushes the water clockwise, and the low pressure pushes counterclockwise. And when you get a high and low pressure system next to each other, you get really fast currents in between.

“So many parts of the ocean,” Kohut said, “are still very difficult to predict.

Original Article

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Live Discussion on Impact of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

June 17th, 2010 No comments

Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies to Hold
Third Panel Discussion on Impact of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Island University
6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX  78412 361.825.2420 FAX 361.825.2620


DATE:
June 14, 2010
CONTACT:
Dr. Larry McKinney 361.825.2070; Cassandra Hinojosa 361.825.2337

Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies to Hold
Third Panel Discussion on Impact of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Scientists with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico
Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will hold the third of four panels to
discuss the long-term impacts of the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Friday, June 18,
from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Harte Research Institute, Conference Room 127.
Panel moderator will be Dr. Larry McKinney, HRI executive director who will make
opening remarks and, following the panelist’s presentations, take questions from the audience.
Panelists are:

  • HRI Associate Director Wes Tunnell who will speak on comparisons between the Deepwater Horizon spill and the 1979 Ixtoc I oil spill in the Bay of Campeche off the coast of Mexico.
  • HRI Advisory Council Chair Sylvia Earle, speaking on putting the Gulf oil spill in a world perspective.
  • Senior Research Scientist Marion Nipper who will discuss the toxicity of crude oil and dispersants to marine organisms.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. The meeting can also be viewed on
the Internet by going to http://www.ustream.tv/user/tamuccvideogallery and clicking on
“TAMUCC HRI Panel Discussion on Gulf Oil Spill.” The final panel in the series will be held
on Friday, June 25.
The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies supports and advances the long-
term sustainable use and conservation of the Gulf of Mexico through research, public policy
initiatives and public education. Advisory board members represent leaders in academia,
industry, and conservation from the United States, Mexico and Cuba.

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Josh Kohut: Robot Developed at Rutgers Aiding Oil Cleanup – Philadelphia’s CBS3 06/15/10

June 16th, 2010 No comments

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Professor Larry Atkinson: Oil spill could reach North Carolina – 14 Jun 2010

June 14th, 2010 No comments

Andy Fox

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Day 54 of the Gulf Oil Spill brings more news about the severity of the situation. New numbers potentially double original estimates of the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

But locally, there is a danger that the crude could snake its way around Florida and up the coast toward North Carolina.

At Old Dominion University’s Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, there is a computer simulation of oil leaving the Gulf of Mexico that flows right off the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina.

Professor Larry Atkinson with ODU’s Center has made some predictions based on the simulation.

“Statistically there will be tar balls off Cape Hatteras. The chances they will get into Virginia Beach are really really low,” he said.

There is no panic in Virginia Beach, but Emergency Management is keeping an open eye.

“There are existing plans. The Coast Guard has an area contingency plan,” said Mark Marchbank, who is Virginia Beach’s deputy coordinator of Emergency Management.

Atkinson says there is no chance any of the thick red and black “gunk” traveling from the Gulf will reach North Carolina or Virginia. What we can expect to see are tar balls, which are clumps of oil residuals that become like floating pieces of asphalt.

Virginia Beach is preparing for that.

“Again, we do not perceive this as a risk. If it does develop, it’ll be looked on as a clean up operation. There are certain OSHA standards to apply in terms of that. We have specialized teams in terms of hazmat. We have contractors in the region who deal with hazmat, and they would assess the situation, and take the appropriate protective action,” said Marchbank.

Atkinson said that it takes about 45 days to go from Key West to Cape Hatteras.

Original Article >>

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Comparing Gulf Spill With Exxon Valdez Spill

June 14th, 2010 No comments
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Dr. Michael Bruno Discusses Oil Spill on Fox News – 3 June 2010

June 14th, 2010 No comments


Professor Michael S. Bruno, Sc.D is dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science at Stevens Institute of Technology – read more >>

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Local robots aid Gulf surveys

June 11th, 2010 No comments
(Photo: Flickr/NASA)

(Photo: Flickr/NASA)

Oceanographers from Rutgers and the University of Delaware have sent their underwater robots to the Gulf of Mexico. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens has more on their surveying efforts.

Eight underwater gliders from universities across the country are criss-crossing the Gulf and sampling conditions. These unmanned robots gather information on salinity, temperature, and some can predict the presence of oil. They are scanning water conditions and searching for signs of oil north of the Florida Keys and near the BP oil spill itself.

Rutgers University is gathering all the data on a freely available website where oil recovery teams can use them to predict ocean conditions and oil movements more accurately. Matt Oliver is an oceanography professor at the University of Delaware.

Oliver: It’s really interesting to be able to sit at my computer and watch the dance of gliders from many separate institutions comb the Gulf in real time and see it all happen right there in front of you is quite amazing.

Oliver says these unmanned gliders are useful in a crisis like this because they don’t sleep, they don’t get seasick, and they can enter hazardous conditions.

Oscar Schofield is a professor in Rutgers’ Coastal Ocean Observation Lab.

Schofield: None of us had ever thought that we would end up having to marshal all of our assets in one area because of such a tragedy. What’s really heartening about it is a lot of the groups down there right now are working as one big team while the rest of the year we’re competitors.

The Rutgers’ gliders had been getting set for an expedition in Antarctica, but Schofield says if there were ever a time to disrupt science, this is it.

original article

By: Kerry Grens
kgrens@whyy.org

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