Tag Archives: oil spills

Cleansing the Oil Tanker

The oil spill that hit the Fujairah coast on January 25, 2018 was the result of tankers illegally cleaning out their holds.  That is according to the general manager of Fujairah port (UAE), Capt Mousa Murad, who has called for 24-hour monitoring of ships to tackle the issue.  “The recent oil spills have been caused by tank cleaning by passing ships,” Capt Murad told The National on Tuesday.  “Especially when tankers change from [carrying] one product to another,” he said, implying that the spills are made up of residue cleaned from within the tanks.  He said the oil “comes from international waters and could hit Dibba, Fujairah or Khor Fakkan.”…

TankerTrackers.com, a pro-bono website that monitors the flow of oil at sea and investigates oil spills, previously suggested that January’s spill was caused by a ship-to-ship transfer.Ship-to-ship transfers happen when a smaller vessel supplies a larger one with oil and spills from overflow can happen through negligence or by accident.

Excerpts from Fujairah oil spill caused by tankers ‘illegally cleaning their holds’ The National UAE Edition, Feb. 14, 2017

A Hundred Years of Silent Oil Leaks: Gulf of Mexico

Containment Dome for Arctic Challenger, 2012. Image from wikipedia

A decade-old oil leak where an offshore platform toppled during a hurricane could continue spilling crude into the Gulf of Mexico for a century or more if left unchecked, according to government estimates obtained by The Associated Press that provide new details about the scope of the problem.  Taylor Energy Company, which owned the platform and a cluster of oil wells, has played down the extent and environmental impact of the leak. The company also maintains that nothing can be done to completely eliminate the chronic oil slicks that often stretch for miles off the coast of Louisiana….

Federal regulators suspect oil is still leaking from at least one of 25 wells that remain buried under mounds of sediment from an underwater mudslide triggered by waves whipped up by Hurricane Ivan in 2004….A Taylor contractor drilled new wells to intercept and plug nine wells deemed capable of leaking oil. But a company official has asserted that experts agree the “best course of action … is to not take any affirmative action” due to the risks of additional drilling…

The AP’s review of more than 2,300 Coast Guard pollution reports since 2008 showed a dramatic spike in sheen sizes and oil volumes since Sept. 1, 2014. That reported increase came just after federal regulators held a workshop August 2014 to improve the accuracy of Taylor’s slick estimates and started sending government observers on a Taylor contractor’s daily flights over the site.

Presented with AP’s findings, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that is about 20 times greater than one recently touted by the company. In a February 2015 court filing, Taylor cited a year-old estimate that oil was leaking at a rate of less than 4 gallons per day.

A Coast Guard fact sheet says sheens as large as 1.5 miles wide and 14 miles long have been spotted by Taylor since the workshop. Since last September, the estimated daily volume of oil discharged from the site has ranged from roughly 42 gallons to 2,329 gallons, with a daily average of more than 84 gallons.,,, Based on satellite imagery and pollution reports, the watchdog group SkyTruth estimates between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons have spilled from the site since 2004, with an annual average daily leak rate between 37 and 900 gallons.

Ken Arnold, an industry consultant, said natural oil seeps from cracks in the seabed can last for thousands of years. But he has never heard of another commercial oil spill lasting more than a decade, let alone a century.

In 2008, Taylor set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for leak-related work as part of a trust agreement with the Interior Department. The company says it has spent tens of millions of dollars on its efforts to contain and halt the leak, but it hasn’t publicly disclosed how much money is left in the trust. The company sold all its offshore leases and oil and gas interests in 2008, four years after founder Patrick Taylor died, and is down to only one full-time employee.

Justice Department officials say the company approached the government concerning the trust fund, but they declined to discuss the terms of its proposal. Federal agencies responded that more work needed to be done, including installing a more effective containment dome system, and that the company remained responsible for doing that work, the officials said.

Oil leak that began after 2004 storm could last a century, U.S. says, Chicago Tribune, May 15, 2015

 

 

Crying over Spilled Oil is Useful; BP Deepwater Horizon

An oil containment boom deployed by the U.S. Navy surrounds New Harbor Island, Louisiana.  Image from wikipedia

After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing a lake of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP knew it would be punished severely. So far, the British oil firm has set aside $42 billion to pay fines, compensate victims and clean up the mess. Of this, some $36 billion has already been paid out or earmarked. America has also temporarily barred the company from bidding for federal contracts.

In all, BP has shelled out $14 billion to stop the spill and restore the coast to the way it was. It has paid out or earmarked $17.5 billion to compensate individuals and small businesses, plus another $4 billion to settle criminal charges with the Department of Justice. It has also set aside $3.5 billion to pay penalties for oil leaks under America’s Clean Water Act.  These have yet to be determined. A civil trial, set to begin on February 25th in New Orleans, will apportion blame for the accident, determine how much oil gushed out and apply financial penalties. The federal government is demanding $21 billion in compensation for spilt oil. To get that much, it must prove BP was “grossly negligent”. It must also persuade the court to accept its estimate of the size of the leak, rather than

As if that were not enough, BP’s annual results, released on February 5th, harboured another nasty surprise. Tucked away on page 42 were details of hefty new claims against the oil giant. Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana are demanding $34 billion for economic losses and property damage. These mainly relate to tax revenues allegedly lost as a result of disruptions to businesses, says BP.  The oil giant knew that a bill was in the post: a three-year statute of limitations will soon expire. However, it was not expecting the bill to be so big. BP disputes the way the sum has been calculated and is ready to fight the claims in court. It reckons that the states will have a tough job substantiating their calculations of forgone taxes.

Both claims seem likely to be settled out of court…BP would far rather end the matter quickly and get on with its business. The uncertainty over the final bill is weighing down its share price. And its sheer size is daunting. If all the claims against it are upheld, BP’s total bill will amount to $90 billion or so. By way of comparison, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was ordered to pay reparations of $52 billion ($88 billion in today’s money) for invading Kuwait.

One reason why a settlement has proved elusive is that the case is so complex. It involves three pieces of legislation and several layers of federal, state and local government with precious little co-ordination between them. For example, BP notes that 11 tiny Louisiana parishes have made a separate claim for damage to local wildlife. BP’s woes are not over.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster: Spills and bills, Economist, Feb. 9, 2013, at 66

Where it is Cheap to Pollute: the West Atlas Oil Spill

West Atlas Oil Spill. image from wikipedia

An environmental group said that it would file a report to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) [Indonesia] over alleged gratuities given by Thailand-based oil and gas producer PTTEP Australasia to a number of parties in Indonesia.  PTTEP Australiasia is responsible for the Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea, off the northern coast of Western Australia.The environmental group in question, Ocean Watch Indonesia (OWI), alleged that the oil and gas company had paid gratuities to certain individuals to prevent them from speaking about the magnitude of the damage from the spill.  “The case has been going on for four years, but we haven’t seen any efforts by the company, the Indonesian government or the Australian government to settle the problem. We suspect that there is a conspiracy resulting from the gratuities given,” executive director of OWI Herman Jaya said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Herman said that the KPK should launch an investigation into a possible case of graft that resulted in no progress in the oil spill investigation.  The group said that the company’s account of the disaster, published on a PTTEP AA Fact Sheet, could be used as a starting point for the KPK to begin investigations.  The report said there was no scientific evidence to verify that the oil spill had brought environmental degradation to Indonesian waters, Herman said.  The OWI alleged that one of the country’s top universities was responsible for authoring the report and was willing to do so only after payment from the company.

Earlier, fishermen who earned a living from catching fish or farming seaweed in the south of East Nusa Tenggara, had filed a lawsuit at the Australian Federal Court against PTTEP Australasia, after the company stated that it would not pay compensation to victims who had suffered from the impact of the oil spill since Aug. 21, 2009.  The lawsuit also demanded that PTTEP Australasia hire an independent team comprising of scientists from Indonesia, Australia, Timor Leste and the US to conduct scientific research to determine the impacts of the pollution in a scientific, transparent and accountable manner.

On Aug. 31, 2012, PTTEP Australasia accepted fines totalling A$510,000 (US$536,010) handed down by the Darwin Magistrates’ Court for its responsibility in the 2009 Montara incident.  In Dec. 2010, then transportation minister Freddy Numberi said that PTTEP Australasia had acknowledged responsibility for the oil spill.  Freddy said that the government had demanded Rp 23 trillion ($2.56 billion) in compensation from the company to repair the damage.  PTTEP Australasia’s oil platform in the Montara field, off Australia’s northern coast, exploded and spilled more than 500,000 liters of crude oil per day into the Timor Sea in August 2009.  Oil and gas leaks continued for 74 days until Nov. 3, 2009, and a permanent cap was installed a month later.  The oil rig, called the West Atlas, is owned by Seadrill, a Norwegian-Bermudan offshore drilling company, and operated by PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of the Thai-owned oil and gas company PTT.  Thirty eight percent of Indonesia’s marine territory in the Timor Sea was reportedly affected by the spill.

Environmental group to report Timor Sea oil spill to KPK, The Jakarta Post, , January 21, 2013

The ExxonMobil Oil Spill in Nigeria

An oil spill near an ExxonMobil oilfield off the southeast coast of Nigeria has spread along the shore for about 15 miles, and locals said it was killing fish they depend on to live.  Mobil Producing Nigeria, a joint venture between ExxonMobil and the state oil firm, said this month it was helping clean up an oil spill near its Ibeno field in Akwa Ibom state, though it did not know the source of the oil.  This Reuters reporter saw that water along the coast was covered with a rainbow-tinted film of oil for miles….Oil spills are common in Nigeria, where enforcement of environmental regulations is lax and armed gangs frequently damage pipelines to steal crude.  In the Iwuokpom-Ibeno fishing community, village elder Iyang Ekong held up one of a load of crabs that a fisherman had caught that morning, only to find they were soaked in toxic oil.  “When I got I home, I realised we can’t even eat them because they smell so badly of chemicals. So we’re just going to leave them by the waterfront,” he said.

Decades of oil production in Nigeria’s swampy Niger Delta, where Africa’s second-longest river empties into the Atlantic, have turned parts of it into a wasteland of oily water and dead mangroves. Thousands of barrels are spilled every year.  The companies say oil theft by criminal gangs is responsible for most of it.  “Our fishermen noticed the oil on an outing, but the sea has started depositing crude oil along the coast, and it has filled the water,” said Samuel Ayode, chairman of the fishermen’s association of Akwa Ibom, as he repaired his fishing net on the beach. He added that it started around Aug. 10.  “No one’s done any fishing since. The fish have migrated away from the pollution.”

A landmark U.N. report in August last year slammed the government and multinational oil companies, particularly Shell , for 50 years of oil pollution that has devastated the Ogoniland region. One community is suing for compensation in a London court.  The government and oil majors have pledged to clean up the region and other parts of the delta, but locals say they have seen no evidence of action yet.

Oil spill stretches for miles near Exxon Nigeria field, Reuters, Sept. 1, 2012

The Oil Needy and the Iran Sanctions: China and India

China is considering sovereign guarantees for its ships to enable the world’s second-biggest oil consumer to continue importing Iranian crude after new EU sanctions come into effect in July, the head of China’s shipowners’ association said.  Tough new European Union sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s oil exports to Europe also ban EU insurers and reinsurers from covering tankers carrying Iranian crude anywhere in the world. Around 90 percent of the world’s tanker insurance is based in the West, so the measures threaten shipments to Iran’s top Asian buyers China, India, Japan and South Korea.

Global crude oil prices have risen nearly 20 percent since October, partly on fears over supply disruptions from Iran.  “(Ship) operators are worried that if the insurance issue cannot be resolved, they will not be able to take orders for shipping Iranian oil any longer,” Zhang Shouguo, secretary general of China Shipowners’ Association, told Reuters in a rare interview with foreign media.  “We have put forward our concern and related government departments are studying the issue.”

Iran, OPEC’s second-largest producer, exports most of its 2.2 million barrels of oil per day to Asia, and major buyers have yet to find a way around pending EU sanctions.  Like China, India and South Korea were also mulling sovereign guarantees for their tankers. Indian shipping firms indicated last week they would continue to transport Iranian oil even if limited insurance cover exposed them financially to a spill or accident.  Chinese insurers and shipowners would not take the risk on themselves and government intervention was necessary, Zhang said. Major ship insurer, China P&I club, told Reuters earlier this month it would not provide replacement cover for domestic tankers carrying Iranian oil.  Most of China’s tanker fleet, owned by firms such as China Shipping, COSCO Group and Nanjing Tankers, were covered by European insurers, analysts said.

Several government departments were considering the industry’s request, including the Ministry of Finance, China Insurance Regulatory Commission, Ministry of Transport and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Zhang said. He did not say when a decision might be made.  Until recently, China was Iran’s top customer, taking more than 20 percent of its crude exports but customs data last week showed China halved its Iranian crude imports in March compared with the same month in 2011.

Excerpt, Alison Leung, China mulls guarantees for ships carrying Iran oil, Reuters, April 30, 2012

The Costs of Fighting Oil Pollution, the offshore oil exploration and exploitation industry

The Caribbean region including Jamaica and other Small Island Developing States lacks the resources to combat a major oil spill, delegates to a regional convention on oil spill prevention and response have been warned.  Opening the convention to discuss oil spill prevention, preparedness and response in the Gulf of Mexico, keynote speaker Christopher Cargill, Chairman of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, said Jamaica and other islands in the region do not have access to vast amounts of resources to combat major oil spills of the magnitude of the BP Deepwater Horizon incident – which occurred two years ago this month in the Gulf of Mexico.

He told delegates: “We understand that the BP Deepwater Horizon incident involved 47,000 persons, 600 vessels and 120 aircraft and the responders had access to a Spill Liability Trust Fund.  The development of a mechanism for cooperation is therefore a critical part of the preparedness in the region as Jamaica and other small states will have to rely heavily on their neighbours to the north for assistance in dealing with such events. “  The objective of last week’s convention, held in Kingston, Jamaica from April 11-13th, was to further regional preparedness and cooperation to oversee the offshore oil exploration and exploitation industry and to improve oil spill response preparedness and capabilities.

This was third such forum and aimed to complete a Caribbean Multinational Authorities Matrix to aid regional plans towards the offshore oil exploration industry. The previous discussions looked at the legal and policy frame work for drilling operations and issues related to preparedness and response to pollution incidents arising from oil and gas exploration and exploitation.  According to Bertrand Smith, Director of Legal Affairs at the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ): “This meeting was important to Jamaica as we ratified the IMO Oil Pollution and Response Convention (OPRC) two years ago and are currently incorporating its provisions into national legislation to deal with discharges from oil and gas platforms, among other things.”  The convention was sponsored by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Regional Activity Centre/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre (RAC/REMPEITC).

Excerpt, Caribbean Lacks Resources to Combat Oil Spills Warns Jamaica, the Maritime Executive,  April 16, 2012