Oil Spill: Louisiana Builds Sand Booms, Obama Bills BP $69 Million

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, June 3, 2010 (ENS) – President Barack Obama is planning a third trip to the Gulf of Mexico on Friday for another look at the federal response to the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill that has now come ashore in Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida Keys as well as in Louisiana.

BP announced Wednesday that it supports the U.S. government’s decision to proceed with construction of six sections of sand booms to keep oil off the Louisiana barrier islands. The company will fund the estimated $360 million it will cost to construct the six sections.

More sand booms like this one at Grande Isle will be constructed along the Louisiana coast to keep oil out of fragile marshes. (Photo courtesy Louisiana National Guard)

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said today that the state is executing an emergency contract to immediately begin mobilizing dredges and start work on the six sand-boom segments approved by the White House.

Governor Jindal said, “This morning, I authorized the state to execute an emergency contract with Shaw and Bean Dredging to immediately mobilize dredges and get to work on the six sand boom/dredging segments the White House approved yesterday to help us in our fight to protect the coast. We have also asked the Army Corps of Engineers to free up their contracted dredges as feasible. We expect to see dirt above water on the Chandeleur Islands in 10 days, unless BP forces additional delays.”

“We sent BP an ultimatum this morning and told them they have two choices – either they can do this themselves or they can send us a check and get out of the way so the state can do it. I talked to the President last night and the White House again this morning – and we are demanding that BP stop stalling us with lawyers and paperwork and get to work on these segments, as the President ordered.”

BP said in a statement Wednesday that the company will not manage or contract directly for the construction of the island sections, nor will the company assume any liability for unintended consequences of the project. The company plans to make payments in stages based on the project’s milestones.

“BP is committed to implementing the most effective measures to protect the coastline of Louisiana and reduce the impact of the oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The federal government and the state of Louisiana have agreed that the barrier islands construction is an effective response to the spill, and we look forward to working with them on this project,” said Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive officer.

The large drillship Discoverer Enterprise and other vessels cluster above the broken wellhead 5,000 feet below as BP makes one attempt after another to contain the blow out. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

BP today successfully cut through a pipe on the seafloor to allow the placement of a containment cap on the damaged wellhead that is still gushing thousands of barrels of oil into the gulf every day. An attempt to cut the pipe yesterday failed.

Briefing reporters in New Orleans this morning, Incident Commander U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen called the pipe cutting success “a significant step forward.”

“The next step is to put on the containment cap and start seeing if we can move oil and gas up the pipe,” said Allen. “We’re going to put a very, very solid seal in place with that cap.”

Working with remotely operated vehicles 5,000 feet under the water’s surface, BP expects to fit the containment cap over the leaking wellhead to capture the oil and gas mixture and send it up a pipe to a ship on the surface. There, the oil will be stored for eventual refinement into products, the gas will be flared off, and any water in the mix will go back into the gulf.

Admiral Allen said, “If it is not a perfect seal, there a chance some oil could escape. With these rubber seals, the pressure of oil coming up through the pipe could force oil out through the seals. BP has the option to use undersea dispersants to break up any oil not captured by the containment cap.”

In addition to the cap containment system, BP also intends to use the hoses and manifold that were deployed for last week’s failed “top kill” operation to take oil and gas from the failed Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer through a separate riser pipe to an intervention vessel on the surface.

This system, which is expected to be available for deployment in mid-June, is intended to increase the overall efficiency of the containment operation by possibly increasing the amount of oil and gas flow that can be captured from the well.

The next planned operation will provide a more permanent system by directing oil and gas to a new free-standing riser ending about 300 feet below sea level. A flexible hose then will be attached to a containment vessel.

The Atlantic hurricane season began on Tuesday, and this longer-term option is designed to permit the system to more effectively disconnect and reconnect the riser to provide the greatest flexibility for operations during a hurricane, BP said. Implementation of this enhancement is expected in late June or early July.

“BP’s priority is to keep as much oil as we can from causing additional harm to the Gulf, the shoreline and the people of the region,” said Hayward. “This planned multi-step containment strategy is our best option for achieving this as we work hard towards completing the relief wells that will kill this well completely.”

Two relief wells are being drilled, and Admiral Allen said today that both are on schedule. The first relief well is expected to be complete around August 2, three months after drilling started.

The Obama administration today sent a preliminary bill for $69 million to BP and other responsible parties for response and recovery operations relating to the BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Deepwater Horizon oil is collected in a skimming boom attached to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cypress. (Photo courtesy USCG)

The bill covers the activities of more than two dozen federal entities and agencies from three states and for costs incurred by the federal on-scene coordinator to support federal, state, and local response efforts.

The administration issued a statement saying it will continue to bill BP regularly for all associated costs to ensure the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is reimbursed on an ongoing basis.

As a responsible party, BP is financially responsible for all costs associated with the response to the spill, including efforts to stop the leak at its source, reduce the spread of oil, protect the shoreline and mitigate damages, as well as long term recovery efforts to ensure that all individuals and communities impacted by the spill are made whole.

To provide full transparency of the ongoing efforts and to ensure that the American public is not held accountable for the costs of response and recovery activities, the federal government will bill BP and the other responsible parties periodically.

The administration expects prompt payment and will take additional steps as necessary to ensure that BP and other responsible parties, not American taxpayers, pay all of the costs associated with the BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

The United States Coast Guard is responsible for administering the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to ensure that individuals and communities harmed by oil spills are made whole and that the costs of response and cleanup are borne by the responsible parties.

BP already has provided $170 million to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to help with their response costs and help promote their tourism industries. The company also has paid approximately $42 million in compensation to people and companies affected by the spill.

Admiral Allen has ordered Coast Guard vessels and helicopters to protect Alabama from the oil spill. The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress arrived in Mobile Bay Wednesday to protect Dauphin Island from the north and west.

Today, Allen said, “we will commence a surge of boom to Alabama’s Katrina Pass that will be positioned to create a funnel to collect oil that comes in with the tide. Additionally, we have deployed four coastal patrol boats to coordinate response in Alabama’s coastal waters.”

“Four helicopters are being deployed to the Alabama, Mississippi and Florida coast to provide surveillance information to help skimmers position their efforts strategically to collect the most oil threatening the shore possible,” said the admiral. “The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa has a flight deck that will allow for these helicopters to refuel offshore, and the Coast Guard Cutter Elm is currently in the area off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, working around the clock to skim oil from the surface.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.