The complexities of life seem to be influencing other aspects of the spill and situation today. The voyage of the “A Whale” to sweep up large quantities of oil has so far been inconclusive and, despite the large fleet of vessels employed for the process, only an average of 900 barrels a day is reported as having been skimmed and recovered, initially by the two companies BP relied on
BP said it would reach the stated goal largely by deploying two companies that have the necessary expertise, trained staff and equipment: the nonprofit Marine Spill Response Corp. and the for-profit National Response Corp.Part of the problem of accurately assessing performance comes in the definition of what is being counted as recovered, the oil, or the initial oil & water volume before the oil is recovered. (Of which latter volume some 31.3 million gallons has been recovered). The same sort of questions, in other words, applied to the overall oil recovery as are now being asked of the “A Whale” performance.
More questions are also being asked of other aspects of the spill response. There is an article, for example in the Times Picayune that critically reviews the move to dredge and create sand islands between the Louisiana coast and the oil spill site. The article notes some of the major concerns, for this series of 6-ft tall berms that will be created over an 80-mile stretch. These include that by changing the seabed geometry the dredging might reduce the energy-adsorption of the coast as storms approach.
This ties in to the changes in the natural flow patterns of the area, with some areas seeing increased fluid flow that will accelerate erosion, while other areas will lose the ebb and flow of seawater, critical to the health of the protected areas.
The berms created have already been proven to be fragile, with some protective barriers that were emplaced by the National Guard off Holly Beach having been eroded away by the actions of Hurricane Alex. However this was partly due to their location, and to be effective the berms, made with Hesco baskets, need to be further from the water.
The new floating riser system is now anticipated (after the storm delay) to be in place and working by the end of the week. This will capture additional oil through the kill lines, hopefully allowing the vents on the top of the cap to be closed, although the will still be some spill around the base to prevent hydrate formation. (And if the new cap is in place will also help with the height of mud column that can be generated when the two wells are connected and the kill begins).
Incidentally the report on waste collection that BP released today does show that some of the boom is being pressure washed to remove, and collect the oil that it captured.
The current numbers are:
For the first 12 hours on July 5 (midnight to noon), approximately 8,340 barrels of oil were collected and approximately 4,095 barrels of oil and 28.8 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.
On July 4, total oil recovered was approx. 24,955 barrels:
• approx. 16,920 barrels of oil were collected,
• approx. 8,035 barrels of oil were flared,
• and approx. 56.9 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.