T Nation

BP Caps the Oil Leak


NEW ORLEANS -- BP finally choked off the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday -- 85 days and up to 184 million gallons after the crisis unfolded -- then began a tense 48 hours of watching to see whether the capped-off well would hold or blow a new leak.

To the relief of millions of people along the Gulf Coast, the big, billowing brown cloud of crude at the bottom of the sea disappeared from the underwater video feed for the first time since the disaster began in April, as BP closed the last of three openings in the 75-ton cap lowered onto the well earlier this week.

But the company stopped far short of declaring victory over the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history and one of the nation's worst environmental disasters, a catastrophe that has killed wildlife and threatened the livelihoods of fishermen, restaurateurs, and oil industry workers from Texas to Florida.

Now begins a waiting period during which engineers will monitor pressure gauges and watch for signs of leaks elsewhere in the well. The biggest risk: Pressure from the oil gushing out of the ground could fracture the well and make the leak even worse.

"For the people living on the Gulf, I'm certainly not going to guess their emotions," BP vice president Kent Wells said. "I hope they're encouraged there's no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico. But we have to be careful. Depending on what the test shows us, we may need to open this well back up."

The news elicited joy mixed with skepticism from wary Gulf Coast residents following months of false starts, setbacks and failed attempts. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's face lit up when he heard the oil flow had stopped.

"That's great. I think a lot of prayers were answered today," he said.

President Barack Obama called it a positive sign, but cautioned: "We're still in the testing phase."

The stoppage came 85 days, 16 hours and 25 minutes after the first report April 20 of an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers. Somewhere between 94 million and 184 million gallons spilled into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

"Finally!" said Renee Brown, a school guidance counselor visiting Pensacola Beach, Fla., from London, Ky. "Honestly, I'm surprised that they haven't been able to do something sooner, though."

"I don't believe that. That's a lie. It's a (expletive) lie," said Stephon LaFrance, an oysterman in Louisiana's oil-stained Plaquemines Parish who has been out of work for weeks. "I don't believe they stopped that leak. BP's trying to make their self look good."

Wells said the oil stopped flowing into the water at 2:25 p.m. CDT after engineers gradually dialed down the amount of crude escaping through the last of three valves in the cap, an 18-foot-high metal stack of pipes and valves.

On the video feed, the violently churning cloud of oil and gas coming out of a narrow tube thinned, and tapered off. Suddenly, there were a few puffs of oil, surrounded by cloudy dispersant BP was pumping on top. Then, there was nothing.

"I am very pleased that there's no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, I'm really excited there's no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico," Wells said.

The cap is designed to stop oil from flowing into the sea, either by bottling it up inside the well, or capturing it and piping it to ships on the surface. Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man on the disaster, said it is not yet clear which way the cap will be used. The answer could depend on the pressure readings over the next two days.

Even if it works, the cap is not a permanent fix, and not the end of the crisis by any means. BP is drilling two relief wells so it can pump mud and cement into the leaking well in hopes of plugging it permanently by mid-August. After that, the Gulf Coast faces a monumental cleanup and restoration that could take years.

BP stock, which has mainly tumbled since the spill began, closed nearly 8 percent higher on the New York Stock Exchange after the news.

Steve Shepard, Gulf Coast chairman of the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club, said he was still skeptical about the news. "I think it's a little premature to say it's definitely over. They've gotten our hopes up so many times before that in my mind I don't think it's going to be over until Christmas."

Nine-year-old Lena Durden threw up her hands in jubilation when her mother told her the oil was stopped.

"God, that's wonderful," said Yvonne Durden, a Mobile-area native who now lives in Seattle and brought her daughter to the coast for a visit. "When came here so she could swim in the water and see it in case it's not here next time."

Randall Luthi, president of the Washington-based National Ocean Industries Association, a national trade group representing the offshore oil industry, said: "This is by far the best news we've heard in 86 days. You can bet that industry officials and their families are taking a big sigh here."


BP's stock is under $40/share, it was about $60/share before the spill. Anyone tempted to buy?


I don't know what I'm going to watch now. Those feeds were keeping me entertained.


I would say wait a day or two but if no bad news comes out I would buy.


By then the stock might be $50!

Either way, the low of $29 seems like a steal at this point.


If anyone knows who Matthew Simmons is, over the phone on Dylan Ratigan today he expressed his doubts that there's no more oil leaking in to the Gulf of Mexico. I hope he's wrong, but he basically said there's no way that the amount of oil that has leaked out all came out of that 6 inch wide hole we've all seen. While this sounds like it's crazy, Matthew Simmons very early after the incident called BP out on their early estimates of the amount of oil escaping as being way too low. It's not like BP has shown that they are particularly worthy of peoples' trust, but this would be nuts if it were actually the case.

From Wikipedia:

May 26, 2010, Matthew Simmons was a guest on 'The Dylan Ratigan Show' on MSNBC, where he explained his reasons for believing that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill involved not only the leak being monitored by British Petroleum's video-camera-equipped ROVs [remotely operated vehicles], but another, much bigger leak, several miles away:

SIMMONS: ...when you look at the riser [on the live BP video], you realize that you're looking at a twenty-one-and-a-half inch circumference riser, and there looks like somewhere between a six and seven inch rip on the top. So the stuff coming out -- it looks like a lot, but I actually saw a white fish go through it and come out white. So I said, this isn't the same as this brown, gooey, orange stuff that they found in the plume seven miles away. And I still believe that what happened is that the riser blew off the wellhead, and it's hooked onto the rig; so you've got a mile of oil inside that that's pretty light concentrate. So that's what they're actually trying to get out. So it's not sure that -- luckily they placed the top kill correctly. But now they have to see if it will take mud. It probably will take mud. But then they shouldn't delude themselves that they've stopped the spill; they should now go and say, 'Let's figure out what the plume was all about,' because if THAT'S the hole, and the casing blew out, we have an enormous problem.

RATIGAN: ...so you're saying that the video we're all now looking at right now is not the only leak, is that what you're saying?

SIMMONS: That's a tiny leak, and what the scientists are saying watching this stain spread -- it's now bigger, I gather, than Maryland and Delaware, and several hundred feet thick, and it's gooey stuff -- that's NOT coming out of there; they think that it's flowing at 120,000 barrels a day. It would almost have to be that big to flow that wide.

RATIGAN: And where do you believe the second outlet is relative to what we're seeing on the video, Matt?

SIMMONS: What the research vessel found a week ago Sunday [referring to news reports of May 16, 2010] was this giant plume about six miles away, and then this huge layer of goo on the ocean floor... that's almost certain- I mean, maybe it's a natural fracture -- I think that's where the wellhead is.


True, those who bought at $29 are making a killing. Even if waiting a day or two to make sure everything is ok causes it to be $50 everyone knows why there stock is depressed and it will go higher, I would much rather take the hit on profit then buy tomorrow and the next day wake up and find out the cap is blown and the stock tanks.


stopped reading when I saw "dylan ratigan."


I hear they opened up commercial fishing after the fish were tested and found to not be tainted by the oil.


Hey now, I thought the oil was going to create dead spots and this spill showed us that we must immediately stop using oil and immediately socialize all our resources into creating a new green fuel or else all living things on the planet will die!

At least thats the impression I got from a few liberal friends of mine.


Pretty funny.

All oil is is dead plants and animals compressed with some heat, and the dead parts turn into black jelly. Why would this matter kill everything in its path? May cut off sunlight to plants, but as you see from the Exxon Valdez the damage does go away. It is not like a Chernobyl where you still are not allowed to go around. One thing a lot of liberals do not understand is the eletrical motors used to produce electricity put out a lot of ozone, and this is harmful to humans down here on earth, especially to the sick and elderly. Up in the atmosphere ozone is good. There is a catch 22 with going green or using fossil fuels. We need them both.


I usually really like what you have to say maddox, but this is extremely ignorant and I have to say I'm genuinely surprised you would espouse something like this. Crude is deadly to the ecosystems where it is spilled. Some more than others, granted, depending on the make-up of the ecosystem. But deadly nonetheless. Yes, compressed animal matter with heat...that turns the compressed animal matter into essentially a biologically processed and Mother-Nature-cooked eco-poison.

You're 100% correct that it goes away, is not like Chernobyl, and that damage is eventually healed up. But that does not in any way whatsoever negate or minimize the amount of damage it CAN do--and DOES do--while it is here and not cleaned up.


On a separate note...

In case WHAT'S not here?? The Gulf of Mexico?!? What the fuck does she think is going to happen to it?????


I guess my point was not clear, so I apologize. My point was the damage does not last forever as some dems would like for us to beleive. This is a disaster, but when disasters happen we have to work hard to try and fix it. A Hurricane bringing salt water inland will do as much if not more damage to the ecosystem than an oil spill. Oil is able to be seen and cleaned up. Salt Water seeps into the ground and plants will not grow there for a period of time.

There was a large spill down in Mexico in the late 1970's early '80s called the Ixtoc and it is compared to the BP spill but we really did not hear about it in the US. The damage in Mexico is gone. Check out this webpage for some history on different types of oilspills all over the world, and this is for the insurance industry so it has a lot of insurance stuff in there, so I understand if you do not want to read all of it. Click on the powerpoint presentation link at the bottom of the page.



In that case I think I would agree with your point. Thanks for clarifying.


I had it marked at 29.75, bought it just in time, but now it's too high.


I believe thats recreational fishing.


lol. Well, at least they should be well practiced at this point.


A little levity in spite of the tragedy


I was talking to a friend at work about this the other day. I have no available spare money at the moment otherwise I would have filled my boots.