A summary of events Wednesday, July 14, Day 85 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.
STOPPING THE STOPPING THE FLOW
BP froze activity on two key projects Wednesday meant to choke off the flow of oil billowing from its broken well in the Gulf of Mexico after days of moving confidently toward controlling the crisis. The development was a stunning setback after the oil giant finally seemed to be on track following nearly three months of failed attempts to stop the spill, which has sullied beaches from Florida to Texas and decimated the multibillion dollar Gulf fishing industry. The oil giant and the government said more analysis was needed before testing could proceed on a new temporary well cap — the best hope since April of stopping the geyser. Work on a permanent fix, relief wells that will plug the spill from below with mud and cement, also was halted.
Oil continued to spew nearly unimpeded into the water, with no clear timeline on when it would stop. "We want to move forward with this as soon as we are ready to do it," said Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president. BP had zipped through weekend preparations for getting the 75-ton cap in place and undersea robots locked it smoothly into place Monday atop the well, raising hopes the gusher could be checked for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. Wells said that it was the government's call late Tuesday to re-evaluate plans for testing the new cap, and that plans were on hold for at least 24 hours. Federal officials and the company will re-evaluate the best path forward after that time period.
The run-up to the now-delayed testing process was being closely monitored from Washington. Allen, who came to BP's U.S. offices in Houston on Tuesday, also met with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and U.S. Geological Survey head Marcia McNutt along with BP and industry representatives. And President Obama has been receiving multiple daily briefings on the work's progress, his adviser David Axelrod said.
Work on a permanent fix, a relief well that would plug the leak with heavy drilling mud and cement, was halted for up to 48 hours as a precaution because it's not yet clear what effect the testing of the new cap could have on it. BP said on Tuesday that it halted work on a second relief well, but that holdup was expected. The company is drilling the second well as a backup in case the first doesn't work. The relief well's timeframe has always been hazy, with company and federal officials giving estimates ranging from the end of July to the middle of August before it can be completed.
The surprise delay jarred Gulf Coast residents already weary of unending gloom. On the Alabama coast, Joyce Nelson said every bit of news from the spill site increases her stress and sparks a new round of telephone calls between friends and relatives in Bayou La Batre, where the seafood industry is virtually shut down because of the spill. The slowdown at the rig site just made things worse. Roger N. Anderson, a marine geologist at Columbia University, said he believes BP and government scientists are just being very cautious and he's not worried. Freezing work on the relief well may mean scientists are worried that clamping down the cap will push new pressure all the way down to the depths of the broken well, he said. "So I wouldn't panic, is the answer. They're going to be very, very deliberate about this," Anderson said.
Regulators urged banks to make loans to creditworthy people and businesses whose livelihoods have been hurt by the Gulf Oil spill. In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the regulators said banks should make an effort to work with customers to help them get over any financial humps. Doing so, will help the local economies heal and strengthen the long-term relationships between the banks and their customers. "Banks can help customers recover financially and be better positioned to honor their obligations," the regulators said. "In the affected areas, these efforts can also contribute to the health of local communities." The agencies making the plea include federal regulators, such as the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., along with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, which oversees banks at the local level.
Scientists report early signs that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is altering the marine food web by killing or tainting some creatures and spurring the growth of others more suited to a fouled environment. Near the spill site, researchers have documented a massive die-off of pyrosomes — cucumber-shaped, gelatinous organisms fed on by endangered sea turtles. Along the coast, droplets of oil are being found inside the shells of young crabs that are a mainstay in the diet of fish, turtles and shorebirds. And at the base of the food web, tiny organisms that consume oil and gas are proliferating. If such impacts continue, the scientists warn of a grim reshuffling of sea life that could over time cascade through the ecosystem and imperil the region's multibillion-dollar fishing industry.
The first sea turtles to hatch from eggs evacuated to Florida's Kennedy Space Center because of the Gulf Coast oil spill have been released into the Atlantic Ocean. Biologist Jane Provancha says the newborn Kemp's ridley sea turtles did well after their release. About 700 sea turtle nests — each containing about 100 eggs — are being trucked from oiled shores along the Gulf to Cape Canaveral, where they're kept at a climate-controlled facility. The turtles are being released into the Atlantic as they hatch. Scientists feared that a generation of the imperiled species would die if they hatched and swam into the oil.
Information from: Florida Today, http://www.floridatoday.com