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Breaking News: Another Oil Rig Explodes in the Gulf
September 2, 2010 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Another oil rig has reportedly just exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Though coverage is scanty now as this is a breaking story, there is updated coverage here. This news comes just as a new study by officials from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources working with local oyster men finds that roughly 90% of oysters in the areas they sampled were dead.
posted by saulgoodman (126 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the initial link:
The platform owned by Mariner Energy is in about 2,500 feet of water, the Coast Guard said, and was not currently producing.
Hopefully that means there won't be a spill.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:05 AM on September 2, 2010


Asked about concerns regarding oil leaks or pollution, Colclough said "there are reports the rig was not actively producing any product, so we don't know if there's any risk of pollution."

Oh please oh please oh please.
posted by MustardTent at 9:06 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if it does spill, it's all Obama's fault, right?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Mariner Energy

Yahoo! Stock Profile

Mariner Energy, Inc. operates as an independent oil and gas exploration, development, and production company. The company's principal oil and gas properties are located in the Permian Basin, Gulf Coast, and the Gulf of Mexico deepwater and shelf. As of December 31, 2009, it had estimated proved reserves of 1,087 trillion cubic feet equivalent. The company was incorporated in 1983 and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

posted by zarq at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2010


“We don’t have any evidence that oil has contributed to these mortalities,” he said.

What an asshole.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:09 AM on September 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


Don't worry, 70% of oil will disappear as if by magic.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:10 AM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't think the BP rig they just sealed was classified as producing either, was it?
posted by dglynn at 9:12 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if it does spill, it's all Obama's fault, right?

Gulf of Mexico you say? Well, let me just don my official didn't-do-the-reading Tea Party Opinion hat: he hasn't put strict control on illegal immigration from Mexico. Had he done so, there'd be more Mexicans there to make sure the rig was in good shape.

How's that? That sound about right?
posted by griphus at 9:13 AM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


*Runs and hides under bed*
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:14 AM on September 2, 2010


We're just not competent enough as a species to do things like deep water drilling, we only attempt it because we are desperate and uncreative, and it's only going to get worse.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2010 [20 favorites]


Why haven't we banned this shit yet
posted by graventy at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was woken up this morning by my phone beeping for the AP alert about this. That's a screwed up way to wake up. God, I hope there's no spill.
posted by brundlefly at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think the BP rig they just sealed was classified as producing either, was it?
posted by dglynn at 12:12 PM on September 2 [+] [!] No other comments.


true - Deepwater Horizon was drilling an *exploratory well*.

Thank god for weasel words.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:18 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


And another 13 Louisiana families (at least) say: "Thank you Judge Feldman! You sure are right that there's no evidence these rigs are unsafe."
posted by The Bellman at 9:18 AM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


We're just not competent enough as a species to do things like deep water drilling...

I suspect that instead it's that we're too greedy as a species to insure that it's done with ample safety margins.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2010 [17 favorites]


Well, at least the fact that there's no real information about this "Breaking News" has provided us ample opportunities to snark with abandon. I mean honestly -- breaking news?
posted by proj at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why haven't we banned this shit yet


Because it is safe and environmentally friendly.

posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:21 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


We're just not competent enough as a species to do things like deep water drilling

This rig is in shallow water. While I understand everyone's inclination to draw comparisons to Deepwater Horizon, this rig is a whole 'nother animal.
posted by devinemissk at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is 2,500 feet considered shallow water devinemissk?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


producing any product

All and any higher powers, please save us from this ocean of oleaginous obfuscatory bullshit, please.
posted by blucevalo at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read the first linked article and it said the rig was in shallow water.
posted by devinemissk at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2010


Man, the problem with us liberals is that we're spending money on carbon offsets that build wind turbines, biofuels, plant trees, etc. That's great, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to what we're up against.

What we need is to take all that money, and put it towards a green lobby. One that calls for oil to be drilled safely, ethical coal mining practices (no mountaintop removal, for one) and for congress to fund and mandate green technology.

In this country, if you want something to happen, you have to lobby or nothing changes. Yes, it's depressing, but that's the truth.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also, where did you get the 2,500 feet number? It's not in either linked article.
posted by devinemissk at 9:24 AM on September 2, 2010


The platform is in about 2,500 feet of water, the Coast Guard said, and was not currently producing.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:24 AM on September 2, 2010


Pffft - only in half a mile deep water? That's like a kiddie pool.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:24 AM on September 2, 2010


Well, saulgoodman, that's all well and good but that article isn't linked in the post.
posted by devinemissk at 9:26 AM on September 2, 2010


Granted, 2,500 feet is a lot less than 4,132 feet (the depth at which the Deepwater Horizon was operating), but it's not exactly shallow water by any intuitive definition.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:27 AM on September 2, 2010


that article isn't linked in the post.

Therefore it doesn't exist; making any such discussion of it totally off-topic.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:28 AM on September 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't think the BP rig they just sealed

They're actually still not done sealing that well permanently.
posted by hippybear at 9:29 AM on September 2, 2010


Why haven't we banned this shit yet

Because the department of the interior and the EPA are constructed entirely out of waffles?
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:29 AM on September 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


Well, saulgoodman, that's all well and good but that article isn't linked in the post.

Fair enough. Now it's linked in the comments (twice, just to be sure).
posted by saulgoodman at 9:30 AM on September 2, 2010


Oh, poop, the Fox News commentors are certain it's Obama's fault.
What an amazing coincidence! After decades and decades of safe, incident free drilling in the gulf, suddenly 3 explosions in less than a year. It reminds me of a great quote: "Mr. Bond, once is happenstance, twice is circumstance, three times is enemy action." – Ian Fleming (Goldfinger).
-smartdoctor of Georgia
I'm sure the lack of safety on this rig is Obama's fault. He should have been on that rig, making sure everything was to code.
-natew
Hmmmmm, No oil rig explosions in the last 15 years and two since our new regime has started..... Coincidence?
-bedrock459 of New Mexico
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:30 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, this was posted all of 25 or so minutes ago; I read the linked articles and then noticed the profusion of comments here comparing this to Deepwater Horizon and I responded with information I read in the linked articles. Forgive me for not going out to other sources to check to make sure that effing NPR was right about the rig being in shallow water.

I'm out; this is b.s.
posted by devinemissk at 9:30 AM on September 2, 2010


The well is apparently in 2,500 feet of water. At least for purposes of the moratorium that the Obama administration imposed after the Deepwater Horizon disaster (which Judge Martin "Einstein" Feldman struck down, because, again, these rigs are so obviously safe), deepwater drilling was defined as anything over 500 feet.

Administration officials have defended the six-month moratorium as necessary to provide time to investigate the cause of the BP oil well spill and to ensure that other wells being drilled below 500 feet (152 meters) of water are safe.

By the way, that decision came down in late June. It took our boy all of eight weeks to be proved disastrously wrong -- quick, even for a Federal Judge.
posted by The Bellman at 9:31 AM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


(My response was to Threeway Handshake. Thanks for adding the link now, saulgoodman.)
posted by devinemissk at 9:31 AM on September 2, 2010


So everyone here has taken every possible step to reduce their oil consumption, right?
posted by Artw at 9:34 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


"So everyone here has taken every possible step to reduce their oil consumption, right?"

I switched all my vehicles to whale oil years ago.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:35 AM on September 2, 2010 [19 favorites]


Why haven't we banned this shit yet

Because the department of the interior and the EPA are constructed entirely out of waffles?


You mean it's made out of future multimillionaire oil company lobbyists biding their time as industry lap dogs.
posted by any major dude at 9:35 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


No problem, devinemissk. Wish I'd found it in time for the original fpp.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:36 AM on September 2, 2010


Oh wow, they're invoking Godwin.
No explosions or major spills in over 60 years......2 in a few months? Bullshit! This is Obama's Reichstag.
-sriser1

And he's wrong, to boot!
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2010


(FYI, references to the 2,500 feet depth have disappeared from the NY Times article. The Wall Street Journal has this:
The name of the Mariner Energy platform that caught fire is the Vermillion Oil 380. According to data posted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the platform, installed in 1980, operates at a depth of 340 feet and is manned around the clock.
It's not clear what number is correct here yet.)
posted by devinemissk at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2010


... roughly 90% of oysters in the areas they sampled were dead.

Oysters are one of organisms most sensitive to petroleum pollution. They don't metabolize or excrete oil. They don't have a particular enzyme cycle that can handle polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), so they accumulate a "history" of oil in their tissues. Of course, this makes them very susceptible to oil poisoning.

Oyster sampling is really importantant during a spill. They're a sensitive sentinel species, a canary in the coalmine. As filter feeders, they sit in one place continuously injesting water. Becuase they don't depurate PAHs they make great lifetime "samplers" to the history of total oiling in their location.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2010 [22 favorites]


My response was to Threeway Handshake.

You know, before I start commenting on some technical detail of a major disaster, I usually will either spend about 5 seconds maybe looking at Wikipedia or maybe even Google News about the thing I'm going to "correct" everybody on, unless it is related to something I do for a living, or consider myself knowledgable about. My bad!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:38 AM on September 2, 2010


mccarty.tim: " I'm sure the lack of safety on this rig is Obama's fault. He should have been on that rig, making sure everything was to code.

-natew
"

Hamburger?
posted by brundlefly at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I think for starters, there may be some who are confusing a drilling rig with an established well oil platform, which is what Vermilion 380 was. No drilling going on there.

Also, from the dead oysters link:
The weather this summer may be a cause of the oyster deaths, he said.

“We’ve had an unseasonably hot summer,” Gordon said.

He said high temperatures lead to lower levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, which could cause oysters and other marine animals to die.
Completely disregarding the fact that bacterial digestion of the oil also depletes oxygen, down to dead zone levels.
posted by hippybear at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2010


Take your pissing match elsewhere.

Man, that oyster sampling data is scary stuff.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2010


Brundlefly, with Fox News commentors, the Poe is very strong. You can never be sure. It made me giggle, though, so I copied it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:42 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wrote to the Prez asking him to jack up the gas tax to match world prices, and use the resulting revenues to build public transportation networks. I got a form letter in return, but no word on whether I should travel to Stockholm next June to claim my prize.

Also and hopefully unrelated, I've been getting my mail a day late recently and it has a strangely...handled...look to it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:42 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You mean it's made out of future multimillionaire oil company lobbyists biding their time as industry lap dogs.

They're covered in waffles as some sort of radar-scattering device.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:43 AM on September 2, 2010


“We don’t have any evidence that oil has contributed to these mortalities,” he said.
-- What an asshole.


To be fair, that's only what the newspaper reported. They also sampled just a tiny fraction of the oyster bed and are going to sample more areas. If the 90% mortality was limited to a particular locale, it may indeed have nothing to do with the oil spill. If it ends up being 90% mortality over the entire area, then it is probably directly linked.

Scientists and government agencies have a responsibility to be careful before making pronouncements that will have a significant impact. It doesn't always mesh with what a reporter wants, however.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:44 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


mccarty.tim: "Brundlefly, with Fox News commentors, the Poe is very strong."

Absolutely! Hence the "?"
posted by brundlefly at 9:46 AM on September 2, 2010


Hmmmmm, No oil rig explosions in the last 15 years and two since our new regime has started..... Coincidence?


I was telling a friend the other day how the entire teabagger movement is based on deciding that something is a fact, and that any evidence to the contrary is merely liberal bias. If Miller didn't win in Alaska, it's vote fraud. If Obama shows his birth certificate, it's a forgery. And now, Obama is trying to sabotage our nation's infrastructure.

The exact statement I used was: "it's like a religion where every member is both the Pope and retarded."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:47 AM on September 2, 2010 [46 favorites]


save us from this ocean of oleaginous obfuscatory bullshit

That's what we need mccarty.tim's green lobby for.

First on my list: stop using the word 'production' to describe nonrenewable resource extraction. It's an economists' abstraction turned cancerous. Nobody produces crude oil, or coal for that matter.

The contract to come up with a better word will be awarded to whoever manages to find an effective name for 'global warming'.
posted by anthill at 9:48 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


According to Mariner's March 10-K report, the Vermillion 380 was damaged in Hurricane Ike and resumed reduced production in late 2009.

So far, it sounds like there is no leak, and no one died in the explosion. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
posted by malocchio at 9:50 AM on September 2, 2010


Apparently the Coast Guard is who supplied the 2500 feet of water figure. I'm guessing they'd know, if anyone would.
posted by hippybear at 9:50 AM on September 2, 2010


The contract to come up with a better word will be awarded to whoever manages to find an effective name for 'global warming'.

I presumed that reasonable people had been calling it "climate change", if only for the sake of accuracy, for quite some time. "Global warming" has too much baggage associated, and is not nearly descriptive enough.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:51 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oil extraction: it doesn't sound sexy, it sounds like a medical necessity and we'll all be happy when it's over.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:51 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


OBVIOUSLY safe.
posted by kafziel at 9:52 AM on September 2, 2010


Orthodox Jews, I believe, do not eat bottom feeders, such as shrimp, oysters, lobsters. (less than orthodox eat shrimp, esp at Chinese restaurants), so this may be a part of some zionist entity conspiracy...just a thought.
posted by Postroad at 9:52 AM on September 2, 2010


"Producing", and "to produce" have several meanings, by the way.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:53 AM on September 2, 2010


So everyone here has taken every possible step to reduce their oil consumption, right?

Every possible step? No, but steps. Owning a hybrid and having a smart AC system at home helps at least a little, I hope. I also kind of helped persuade a close friend to turn his pizza restaurant's delivery service into a bike-based service (I can't take full credit for the idea, but I'm pretty sure my constant bellyaching about fossil fuel consumption influenced the decision, since I pontificated on the subject to the point he frequently got annoyed with me). I'd abandon modern tech completely and take to the hills, but--a programmer's gotta make a living somehow...

posted by saulgoodman at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2010


Regarding 90% mortality. Do massive oyster die-offs occur periodically? In the past, has a hot summer resulted in, say, a 70% die-off? The fishermen seemed discouraged, but not flabbergasted by the number.
posted by UrbanEye at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2010


I wrote to the Prez asking him to jack up the gas tax to match world prices, and use the resulting revenues to build public transportation networks. I got a form letter in return, but no word on whether I should travel to Stockholm next June to claim my prize.

the House must pass such bills first. So write to your Congressman. Obama only gets a yay or nay on a bill the House and Senate pass.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 AM on September 2, 2010


Nola.com is reporting 1 worker was injured and that the rig is confirmed to have not been producing oil. That's calming me down a little.

Man oh man, LET'S FIGHT THAT FREAKING MORATORIUM, huh?
posted by honeydew at 10:03 AM on September 2, 2010


They also sampled just a tiny fraction of the oyster bed and are going to sample more areas. If the 90% mortality was limited to a particular locale, it may indeed have nothing to do with the oil spill. If it ends up being 90% mortality over the entire area, then it is probably directly linked.

We can do much better than that.

Firstly, by measuring the total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) in the oyster tissues, we can have a pretty good idea of how much oil the oysters were exposed to in their lifetime. All oysters in the Gulf are exposed to a little, the natural seeps, vessel traffic, etc..., but oysters affected by the DWH spill would be above this background. Note that the background level is fairly well established as food safety people monitor these numbers carefully.

But we can do better than that too. We can confirm that the oil came from the DWH directly. Because oysters don't depurate PAHs, the relative ratios of the dozens of these compounds don't tend to get altered by the oysters. So, we can compare the "fingerprint" of the relative abundances of PAHs in the oysters with the PAH concentrations in the DWH source oil. If they match, the oil came from the DWH incident. If the measurements don't match, or if they appear to be from a lot of sources, then the DWH release may not be the source for the oyster mortality.

As mentioned above, oysters can die for a lot of reasons unrelated to oil poisoning. They can also die from other sources of oil. Ships dumping bilge water nearby is a common reason. But, if oil killed the oysters directly, a possible cause by the DWH oil can be tested easily. These sorts of analyses are considered by the courts to be at least as good as fingerprints. Oil forensic analysis is routinely used to assign liability, fines and criminal penalties for these sorts of damages.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 10:04 AM on September 2, 2010 [15 favorites]


Briefing.com notes a CNBC interview with the company just now in which management says, “there is no spill, no sheen, no nothing.”

That's third-hand, but I'm hoping it's true.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:05 AM on September 2, 2010


Oysters are one of organisms most sensitive to petroleum pollution. They don't metabolize or excrete oil. They don't have a particular enzyme cycle that can handle polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), so they accumulate a "history" of oil in their tissues. Of course, this makes them very susceptible to oil poisoning.

I've also seen it reported that this year's oyster mortality is a byproduct of Jindal opening the freshwater diversions in the Mississippi right after the rig started spurting oil, to flood the (slightly-inland) oyster beds with enough water pressure that it forced any coastal oil back into the ocean. Since oysters can't live without pretty high salinity, the inrush of fresh river water killed many of them, but it also kept the oil out of the breeding grounds of extremely oil-sensitive maritime life, which means the recovery time for the oyster population will be a year or two, rather than decades.

I feel kind of dirty defending Bobby Jindal, but this might be the only thing he's done right during his governorship. And anything that puts gulf coast oysters back into New Orleans is OK by me.
posted by Mayor West at 10:09 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


We're just not competent enough as a species to do things like deep water drilling.

I'd actually like to argue against that, slightly. I think we certainly can be smart enough to do this technically. DWD has been going on for several decades. Where we fall down horribly is thinking long term. I'm not sure if this is exactly the correct term, but think of it like a disaster curve. The longer something is in operation/existence the greater the chance it will be used (nuclear weapons) or break (oil rigs, nuclear power plants, space shuttles, interstate bridges...), until at some point it becomes a certainty.

A sufficiently robust system will highly mitigate the risk from moment to moment. But, robust systems are tedious and often expensive and so what starts out fairly well protected will in all likelihood eventually result in barely acceptable risk, and that leads to disasters faster.

So, we currently live in a global system that relies on fossil fuels. And the blame for that is spread pretty wide, from our consumption (you and I), to promotion and supply (BP/Exxon....), to exploitation and economic dependence (governments). In a system such as this, we will continue to experience oil spills. It is inevitable. If we rely on nuclear power, at some point, no matter how well designed, we will have another Chernobyl... whatever we do, there will be breakage.

Things fall apart.

What are we willing to endure to live the life of privilege we do?
posted by edgeways at 10:12 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Orthodox Jews, I believe, do not eat bottom feeders, such as shrimp, oysters, lobsters. (less than orthodox eat shrimp, esp at Chinese restaurants), so this may be a part of some zionist entity conspiracy...just a thought.

They still drive cars, though.
posted by zarq at 10:16 AM on September 2, 2010


Zoidberg has a licence?
posted by bonehead at 10:20 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


So everyone here has taken every possible step to reduce their oil consumption, right?

Enough with this personal responsibility b.s. Individuals trying to reduce their oil use isn't going to do anything without laws that actually restrict things. Buying hybrid cars or putting up solar panels and wind turbines help by creating the infrastructure for moving to a reduced oil future. That's good.

But if you just do those things without any legal framework to reduce overall oil consumption, all you're doing is freeing up oil for others to use more cheaply.
posted by delmoi at 10:23 AM on September 2, 2010 [14 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Texas: With Neighbors Unaware, Toxic Spill at a BP Plant
posted by homunculus at 10:23 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, the MSNBC report linked earlier has since been edited to remove the original Coast Guard account of the rig being in 2,500 feet of water. Instead, on that topic, the article now notes only:

"Company records show that the platform and rig is in 340 feet of water."

So either the Coast Guard got it wrong initially, or someone isn't being honest.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:27 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


And now, Obama is trying to sabotage our nation's infrastructure.

Huh. I read those comments as suggesting terrorist activity, not sabotage from within. Which might be indirectly linked to policy changes under Obama, but there's nothing in those comments to suggest that's their point, any more than there's something to suggest that terrorists are angry at the new administration and ramping up their efforts (which could be interpreted as pro-Obama.)
posted by davejay at 10:31 AM on September 2, 2010


I vote honest mistake. Information management is really hard on these timescales.

I bet they're reporting reservoir depth, how deep the oil is below the surface, as water depth, how deep the ocean is. A resevoir depth of half a mile isn't unreasonable for a shallow water well.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 10:33 AM on September 2, 2010


DWD has been going on for several decades.

If you mean deep water offshore drilling on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon, I don't think this claim is true.

Most accounts I've come across (including this one quoted below) indicated that we've only had the technology and technical know-how to exploit true deepwater resources at depths at or around 5000 feet for around a decade now. So, it's been going on for roughly one decade, not several, although if this rig were at 2,400 feet, as initially reported (or at 340 feet, if that turns out to be the correct figure), then this particular operation doesn't qualify as deepwater in the technical sense.
Since 2001, there have been 12 discoveries in waters 5,000 feet deep, drilling into older rock formations known as the Lower Tertiary. Those point to the presence of a region that might hold as much as 15 billion barrels of reserves.

The latest and largest find in the Lower Tertiary, about 250 miles south of New Orleans, was announced in August by BP. The find is a layer of 800 feet of oil-bearing sands, more than five miles under the ocean floor.

“The deep water in the Gulf of Mexico is a textbook application of where technology drove opportunity,” said Barney Issen, a geologist with Chevron. “It’s been known for quite some time that there were huge resources out there but we didn’t have the seismic data to have the nerve to drill. And even if we did, we didn’t have the drilling tools until recently.”
posted by saulgoodman at 10:34 AM on September 2, 2010


I vote honest mistake. Information management is really hard on these timescales.

That actually seems the likeliest explanation to me, too. Although it's a hell of a difference! And the rig is 80 miles off the coast. Didn't realize the water so far out could be so shallow.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:36 AM on September 2, 2010


Ach! The text of these articles seems to change every couple of minutes. (To be expected with a breaking story I guess, but it'd be nice if they at least noted the revisions somewhere so it doesn't look like I'm just making quotes up.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:39 AM on September 2, 2010


A noise annoys an oyster.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:43 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Didn't realize the water so far out could be so shallow.

There's a large shelf extending out into the Gulf before it drops off. Here's a nice visual of the Gulf seabed.
posted by devinemissk at 10:45 AM on September 2, 2010


That's around where I fish. I'd be extremely surprised if it was 2500 feet deep. It would have to be in a trench or something.
posted by ColdChef at 10:51 AM on September 2, 2010


Oooh, even more interestingly: a map showing active oil and gas drilling in that part of the gulf. This is from the NOAA, which co-funded deepwater exploration in the Gulf.
posted by devinemissk at 10:55 AM on September 2, 2010


None of the later and revised reports mention the original 2400 feet figure cited in the initial versions of the reports anymore, so an honest mistake seems the likely explanation (or is it a massive coordinated cover-up! /hamburger).

Hopefully, there won't be any leakage anyway, so it's a non-issue. But at least stopping/containing a spill in 340 feet of water should be a lot easier in any event.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:58 AM on September 2, 2010


Regarding 90% mortality. Do massive oyster die-offs occur periodically? In the past, has a hot summer resulted in, say, a 70% die-off? The fishermen seemed discouraged, but not flabbergasted by the number.
posted by UrbanEye at 12:55 PM on September 2 [+] [!] No other comments.


Can, although not that massive. Also, remember they've had over four months to get their heads around the idea. Just because it's devastating doesn't mean it wasn't expected.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:06 AM on September 2, 2010


The exact statement I used was: "it's like a religion where every member is both the Pope and retarded."

Tea Partiers are Discordians?
posted by maus at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, shit. Apparently there's sheen, indicating a probable leak at the site.

From the updated CNN link:

[Updated at 2:08 p.m.] U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Bordelon tells CNN there is a sheen at the site of the production platform that measures approximately 1 mile by 100 feet. This information comes after Gov. Bobby Jindal who said there were reports of a mile-long sheen.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:17 AM on September 2, 2010


Goddamnit.

I'm usually pretty rational, but the paranoia of these being done on purpose by [pick a nation/interest group/corporation/clown posse] is creeping in.
posted by maus at 11:34 AM on September 2, 2010


Fucking sabotage, how does that work?
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:47 AM on September 2, 2010


But seriously, all the suspects lack the motive and/or the resources to go around blowing up oil equipment. If Obama wants to get anything done, he's not wasting capital on stuff like this, and extremist environmental groups are usually just angry young people with no assets.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:49 AM on September 2, 2010


Son of a... DAMMIT!
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on September 2, 2010


The platform is a fixed petroleum platform that was in production at the time of the fire, according to a homeland security operational update obtained by The Associated Press.

The update said the platform was producing about 58,800 gallons of oil and 900,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The platform can store 4,200 gallons of oil.


Here's a report that says the platform IS (or was) operational.

From NOLA.com
posted by little_c at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2010


I think it's more likely we're just starting to see the consequences of the Bush (and even to a lesser extent the Clinton administrations') pushes to "streamline" oil and gas development regulations and safety requirements in order to "fast track" the development of these resources, due to the well known supply/demand problems looming ever closer on the horizon. (This platform came online, I think, in 2008.)

The whole point of the Bush energy policy was to "cut through all the red tape" (which in Fox News-speak means communist state apparatus) that hinders the rapid development of domestic fossil fuel resources.

But who knows? Maybe it was foreign terrorists. Maybe it was unicorns on bicycles. The UAE has alleged that the recent tanker explosion incident in the Straits of Hormuz was a terrorist attack. But those claims have generally been received skeptically elsewhere. Either way, it's too early to conclude anything or really even to speculate too much at this point, with what few details about what actually happened on the rig are available. Maybe one of the operators just accidentally pushed the self-destruct button.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have we figured out how deep it is yet?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:58 AM on September 2, 2010


340 feet, so at least it's at human-accessible depth.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:00 PM on September 2, 2010


Maybe we should ask the Dutch to use their dam building experience on this one.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:08 PM on September 2, 2010


the paranoia of these being done on purpose

You might be surprised by how many fires there are on offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil and Gas exploration and production involves working with flammable/volatile substances. Whatever the root cause of this incident, 13 folks had their survival suits ready to go and their evacuation plans squared away. I'm not saying Mariner won't ultimately be found to have screwed up, maybe they have a crappy safety culture and just got lucky that everyone is safe, but even when companies do everything right, things sometimes go wrong.
posted by IanMorr at 12:12 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that pre-Deepwater this wouldn't even have made the news, much less gotten everybody jumping up and down like this.
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Crossing my fingers the environment doesn't decide it's Had Enough Of This Shit and wipe us off the face of the planet.
posted by tommasz at 12:19 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Individuals reducing their oil intake really isn't going to do a whole lot.

The whole idea of individual cars is unsustainable, IMHO*. The problem isn't that one has a SUV instead of a hybrid, it is that we all have cars. Everyone having a Prius doesn't change the overall impact very much.

So, if you have a car of any kind you, and I, are both part of the problem. You can put your high horse away now. If you cycle or use public transit exclusively, feel free to hurl rocks in my general direction.

*This post is a statement of opinion and thus does not require a citation.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:21 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


*Hurls rocks*
posted by shakespeherian at 12:26 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's too soon to say that with any confidence, Artw, because part of what makes this story significant is it's close proximity to the DWH spill.

For one thing, response resources may still be under extraordinary stress right now (since all the spill response plans in the Gulf were designed to leverage the same finite pool of resources). For another thing, the ixtoc spill (which, granted was a drilling rig spill while this was a production rig) took place in only 160 feet of water, and yet, it ended up dumping 3,000,000 barrels into the Gulf before the flow was eventually stopped. A lot of analysts, post-DWH, have noted that not much as much has really changed in the spill response arena as one would expect since that spill.

Also, the fact that people may be paying more attention to these events now is one of the few good things to come out of the DWH event, not an unfortunate consequence of it. It's good people are noticing how much our fossil fuel reliance is damaging our oceans and the environment more generally for a change, IMO. The steady, persistent damage we're doing is one of the largest hidden and externalized costs of the fossil fuel industry.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:27 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll be glad to stop driving a car, once more employers make accommodations for me to telecommute. Otherwise, I'm screwed, because I have to work on-site most of the time.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:30 PM on September 2, 2010


Some (relatively) good news, possibly:

Jindal said that Mariner has told him that all seven wells have been closed off and that what is burning now is from fuel in storage, and not from an active leak.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:46 PM on September 2, 2010


If methane gas is involved in this, I'd say that methane has taken on corporeal form and has decided to fuck shit up. Because it's been fucking a lot of shit up this year.
posted by angrycat at 12:48 PM on September 2, 2010


Coast Guard officials said a sheen measuring one mile long by 100 feet wide had been spotted near the damaged production platform on Thursday afternoon. But the platform’s owner said the structure had not been producing at the time of the accident, and a spokesman for the company, Mariner Energy, told CNBC that there was no evidence of any spill.

Someone is lying.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:49 PM on September 2, 2010


What? No evidence of a spill? What are they claiming? "Uh, that oil was here when we got here."
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2010


Well, my understanding is it's documented that they kept several thousand barrels worth of oil in storage aboard the rig. That may be the source of the sheen observed. Although a company spokesperson also initially indicated they had not observed any signs of a spill during a flyover of the site.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:02 PM on September 2, 2010


New from the AP:
Federal authorities have cited Mariner Energy and related entities for 10 accidents in the Gulf of Mexico over the last four years, according to safety records from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The accidents range from platform fires to pollution spills and a blowout, according to accident-investigation reports from the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2010


Someone is lying.

Not necessarily. There are lots of potential small source on a platform. It's quite possible this is diesel fuel for the rig's generator, for example, or some of the aviation fuel.

A silver/rainbow sheen 1 mile long by 100 feet wide (1600m x 30 m x 0.01 µm) is about a pint of oil total (~500mL). This could even be deckwash sprayed off by the fire hoses.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 1:49 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


First as tragedy, then as farce.

Allow me to point out that we are screwed whether this turns into an oil spill disaster or not. If it does, then the gulf and all related to it are screwed. If it turns out that this rig exploded but nothing happened, it will perversely be used to argue for increased drilling , because it will be used to illustrate that the BP disaster was a freak accident, and this accident shows how reliable the safety precautions are.

Furthermore, as production peaks on all land-based oil reserves, more off-shore drills will need to be built, and therefore they will be built. But even if these wells are marginally safer than then ones operating now, the total number of rig disasters like the BP one will increase simply because the chances of a disaster on a given rig will remain roughly the same or drop slightly, but the number of rigs will increase significantly.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:06 PM on September 2, 2010


So, if you have a car of any kind you, and I, are both part of the problem. You can put your high horse away now. If you cycle or use public transit exclusively, feel free to hurl rocks in my general direction.

Look, unless you live in a cave, everything you look at or touch is the result of petroleum. Your computer keyboard, monitor and casing. The varnish on your desk, polyester carpeting, the paint on your walls, the acrylic in your socks, the elastic in your underwear, the buttons on your shirt, the glasses on your face, the toothpaste you used this morning (the toothbrush too), the shampoo in your hair, the plastic container your breakfast yogurt came from, your asthma or diabetes medication, your phone, the tv, the grain for the bread for your sandwich, the tofu loaf you ate instead of meat, the mail the arrived in your mailbox, the vinyl, spill-resistant plastic on the seats of the bus (which runs on oil - finally!), the paint on your bike, your bike hand grips and fenders...
posted by KokuRyu at 2:34 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


A silver/rainbow sheen 1 mile long by 100 feet wide (1600m x 30 m x 0.01 µm) is about a pint of oil total (~500mL).

While we're all operating on small bits of information, a lot of it receiving contradictory reporting, there is nothing I see in the Coast Guard's 1 mi x 100 ft estimate that says the sheen/slick is 0.01 µm thick.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on September 2, 2010


Well, that was fast. No one wants to hear the government report about another oil spill. The NYTimes should have some way of going back to previous edits of their reporting, so that we can track how public officials quickly change their story.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2010


Sheen is a technical term for describing oil in water in this context. A sheen is, by the USCG's definitions, a silver or rainbow sheen. A silver sheen is 0.005 µm thick, a rainbow sheen about 0.015 µm thick. This is codified in ASTM F1779 - 08 Standard Practice for Reporting Visual Observations of Oil on Water.

I split the difference. I'm also probably overestimating, possibly by a factor of 2 or 3, because almost no sheen is 100% coverage.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 3:03 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


While we're all operating on small bits of information, a lot of it receiving contradictory reporting, there is nothing I see in the Coast Guard's 1 mi x 100 ft estimate that says the sheen/slick is 0.01 µm thick.

According to some bit of the US government who should know about these things, and working with my counting of orders of magnitude, a sheen is going to be between 0.1 and 0.3µm thick, depending on just how sheeny it is. I suspect that either I or the $5 sockpuppet have got our orders of magnitude mixed up, but either way it's in the region of a pint or a gallon, if you're using old money, rather than barrels or cubes or anything like that.
posted by Lebannen at 3:03 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or, you know, what the Anonymous person said. That page I linked to has amazingly bad formatting anyway, I'd rather not look at it if I was you.
posted by Lebannen at 3:07 PM on September 2, 2010


Actually, Lebannen, I double checked and you are completely correct. I'm low by a factor of ten. Make that about 5L of oil on the water. Dammit. Teach me not to double check the standard.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 3:09 PM on September 2, 2010


Sheen is a technical term for describing oil in water in this context

Well, it's moot anyway because the government is now saying there is no slick, sheen, or other oil in the water.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:12 PM on September 2, 2010


It was all a cover for the construction of another Metal Gear unit.
posted by fuq at 3:21 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe we lucked out this time. That happens when you play Russian roulette, too, sonetimes. But that still doesn't make playing such dangerous games a sensible idea.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:41 PM on September 2, 2010


Damn iPod.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:04 PM on September 2, 2010


The oysters are dead in the Pacific NW too, and have been dying for several years.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:30 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, unless you live in a cave, everything you look at or touch is the result of petroleum.

True, but only a small portion of those products will be burned. The remainder will be sequestered under a land-fill somewhere after a long and useful life. We'll probably always need a certain amount of drilling, but burning it is wasteful. One day we will realize that petroleum is too valuable to burn; let's hope we stop using it before it gets to that point.
posted by ambulocetus at 5:49 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


True, but only a small portion of those products will be burned.

The issue in this case, I thought, was offshore drilling and apocalyptic oil spills.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:19 PM on September 3, 2010


US rig owner Transocean accused of compromising safety in North Sea.
posted by adamvasco at 1:04 AM on September 6, 2010


Scientists Find Thick Layer Of Oil On Seafloor
posted by homunculus at 6:20 PM on September 10, 2010


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