mother earth is still bleeding around the mouth of the river

Its like she has all these open sores from the abandoned wells that she cannot close off – and all the while our coast continues to die from it

Here is one west of the mouth of the river, near Grand Isle

Shallow Gulf well is source of mysterious oil sheen near Grand Isle, state official says
Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 6:22 PM Updated: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 11:00 PM
By David Hammer, The Times-Picayune

A large sheen of oil that has confounded the Coast Guard and state officials for days has been traced to a well-capping accident about 20 miles southwest of Southwest Pass, a state official said.

Meanwhile, environmentalists reported new, unconfirmed sightings Tuesday of what appeared to be surface oil over several miles in Chandeleur Sound, all the way on the other side of the Mississippi River’s delta.

A state official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a continuing Coast Guard investigation, said the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries traced the emulsified oil on the west side of the river to its apparent source at West Delta Block 117. He said tests by a state-contracted lab confirmed that was the source of the oil.

Three discharges of oil from Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners’ Platform E facility were reported to the Coast Guard, records show. The first came Friday, with a report of a “downed platform” and half a gallon of spilled crude during operations to plug and abandon the well. Another report Sunday said the same incident had spilled 1.33 gallons of oil. A third report on Monday of 1.89 gallons of spilled oil was classified by the Coast Guard as “operator error.”

Late Tuesday night, Houston-based Anglo-Suisse issued a statement acknowledging that the Coast Guard believes it may be responsible for the spill and accepting responsibility for cleanup. Anglo-Suisse said it was surprised because the well is “non-producing and has been monitored closely for the last six months.” The company said it had reconnected the wellhead structure Tuesday morning and fully shut it in by 8:30 p.m.

The company said it was the 12th well in the area to undergo plugging and abandonment operations. Crews have been monitoring the site since September and didn’t report any oil discharge until the end of last week.

Wildlife and Fisheries officials found the source of the oil Monday evening and encountered workers in a boat trying to restore a cap on the well using a remotely operated submarine. “Well-capping went out of control,” the state official said.

The well in question is in shallow water, about 210 feet deep, but the specter of any well-capping accident comes at the worst possible time for federal regulators, who have just approved the first four deepwater drilling projects since last spring’s BP oil disaster — mostly predicated on the oil companies’ assurances that they can now cap their wells quickly in case of a blowout.

Environmental groups pounced on the symbolism of the latest spills.
“We have thousands of spills every year. The BP spill just called attention to it, but it’s really the Wild West out here,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “There are laws on the books that are unenforced. The record is clear that we don’t have the situation under control. It’s taken several days to figure out where (the spill west of the river) is coming from, and if we don’t have the technology to do that, then we shouldn’t be drilling new wells at all.”

According to federal government data, several wells in that 3-square-mile block were operated by Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners LLC. A news release from the former federal Minerals Management Service said in 2006 that five wells in that drilling area had platforms damaged in Hurricane Katrina. The state official said the spilling well is one that used to have a platform over it, but lost it during Katrina.

The Coast Guard, meanwhile, still isn’t ready to say where the spill originated. “We don’t have any report of it actually being identified,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Leeman.

At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Coast Guard officials said only between ¼- and ½-mile of beach was directly affected by oily material within the 30-mile stretch between Grand Isle and West Timbalier Island where the sheen and emulsified oil has been seen.

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, told reporters during a break in a conference in New Orleans earlier Tuesday that while officials with is agency had conducted a flyover of the affected area, the Coast Guard was handling the response and “exploring all possibilities.”
“I think right now, it remains a mystery,” Bromwich said.

and another east of the Mississippi near the fragile Chandeleur Islands courtesy of Anglo Suisse Offshore Partners, located in Houston, Texas.

New sightings of apparent oil near Chandeleur islands reported from flyover
Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 7:26 PM Updated: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 11:35 PM
By David Hammer, The Times-Picayune

Even as officials tried to determine the source of weathered oil near Grand Isle, whole new swaths of what could be fresh surface oil have popped up on the other side of the Mississippi River, in the open water between the delicate coastal bayous and the sandy crescent-shaped Chandeleur barrier islands.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Leeman said the Coast Guard had received no reports of oil-like material east of the river, but a group of environmentalists, engineers and scientists flew over Chandeleur Sound on Monday and Tuesday, and shared photographs and detailed descriptions with The Times-Picayune showing black, streaky plumes over a 20-mile stretch from just east of Quarantine Bay to just west of the shoal remains of Curlew Island.

That expedition was led by Bonny Schumaker, founder of the California environmental nonprofit group On Wings of Care Inc. It included Jim Franks, a scientist at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, and mechanical engineer Don Abrams.

“I lived on Chandeleur Island for seven weeks before the (BP) spill and I have never seen anything like this, other than what happened with the Deepwater Horizon,” said Abrams, who took photographs during the flyover.

“It’s too early in the season for this to be an algal bloom. It’s just not the color of the algae I’ve seen. I try to approach this very rationally and as a serious skeptic, so I’m not willing to say 100 percent conclusively it’s oil. But I’ve been out to the islands during the BP spill and stepped in it and it looks very much like oil to me.”

Schumaker’s log of the trip Tuesday described the sheen as larger than the day before and darker in color than the weathered oil to the west of the river, suggesting it may be fresher. Abrams said it appeared to be very close to the surface.

Coast Guard checks out dark-stained water in Chandeleur Sound
Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 11:20 PM
By Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune

The Coast Guard began an investigation of a large area of dark-stained water in the Chandeleur Sound on Wednesday to determine whether it might be oil, even as the agency was overseeing a separate cleanup of oil near Grand Isle, to the west of the Mississippi River.
“We have a crew out there sampling it and trying to identify what it is,” Petty Officer Stephen Lehmann said of the suspect water stretching from just east of Curlew Island to just west of Quarantine Bay along the east side of the Mississippi. “We’ve done some overflights with helicopters to gauge how big a thing this is and what it is.”
Test results should be complete by Thursday afternoon, he said.
John Arenstam, the Coast Guard’s New Orleans deputy sector commander, said Wednesday that his agency had received reports of oil-like material east of the river from officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality, who flew over Chandeleur Sound on Tuesday. The 20 miles of black streaky plumes were first spotted by environmentalists and scientists during flights over the area Monday and Tuesday.

Arenstam said there’s a good chance the dark water may be an algae bloom, though it’s still early in the year for such events. “We’ve had extreme high water increases in the Mississippi River,” and rapidly rising water full of sediment could spark such a bloom, he said. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard confirmed that it has notified Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners that preliminary samples suggest oil samples collected from Elmer’s Island, to the west of Grand Isle, match those from the company’s West Delta 117 well, which sits in about 210 feet of water 30 miles southeast of Grand Isle. The well is also a few miles east-southeast of the mooring point for tankers unloading at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port.

The Coast Guard said Anglo-Suisse agreed to aid in the cleanup, pending further tests of samples that might confirm where the oil is from. But the Coast Guard has not determined that the company is the legal “responsible party.”

“We do not believe the spill along the coast is the result of our operations, however, when the Coast Guard informed us that this might be the case, the responsible thing to do was mobilize,” said Anglo-Suisse CEO John Sherwood in a news release issued by the Coast Guard.

The company said it reported to the Coast Guard on Friday “a discharge of less than five gallons of oil from a non-producing well that was in the process of being plugged and abandoned in accordance with federal regulations.” The company said the well was fully shut in by 8 a.m. Tuesday, and is no longer capable of flowing. The plug-and-abandon operation involved a well that has been shut in since 2005.

An offshore construction and dive vessel have been at the site since September, with crew members monitoring the well continuously on the surface and at the wellhead under water, the company said. Anglo-Suisse is a privately held company based in Houston. It received Safe Operator Awards from the former Minerals Management Service in 2005 and 2007. The company has hired O’Brien’s Response Management to supervise the cleanup.

The Coast Guard said an overflight from just east of Grand Isle to the eastern end of Timbalier Island and 12 miles offshore found no oil Wednesday. No oil was visible at the West Delta wellhead, either.
About 8,400 feet of containment boom has been deployed to prevent damage to beaches and wetlands, and eight skimmers and 10 barge boats are in the area.

Over the weekend, the Coast Guard reported test results of a third area of suspicious water stretching south from off Grand Isle, saying small quantities of oily substances were below the state DEQ’s water standards.

The reports about the potential oil releases has some environmentalists concerned. “I’m frustrated by the lack of solid information about these incidents,” said David Muth, coastal Louisiana state director for the National Wildlife Federation and former chief of planning at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. “Do we know for sure how many separate incidents we’re dealing with? Do we have a handle on how much oil is involved?

“If several simultaneous events are taking place, are they freak occurrences or are they routine?” he said. “If we can’t be sure what’s going on, how can we be sure how to respond? And is this indicative of the fact that we are a long way from having an effective response capability for offshore drilling?”

~ by maringouin on Thursday, March 24, 2011.

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