portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting global

economic justice

Mini documentary about activists shutting down oil refinery in Britian

This is small documentary about a project called "Crude Awakening" which was about shutting down an oil refinery.
The participants succeeded in shutting it down by using flash mobs. The activists there have also created some new ideas in claiming public space, namely in using bamboo tripods. I think this is fitting given that BP is located in Britain.

Also National Geographic had an article about the oil spill in the gulf this month worth reading. It compares it to the Ixtoc oil spill in Mexico and states that they are still able to find oil tar in the region where Ixtoc happened in 1979. The information there gives no such a pretty picture about the future of the gulf region after Deep Water.


More 28.Oct.2010 16:56

original poster

This is a mini-documentary on the training camp on how to create and use the bamboo tripods.

Here is an excerpt from that National Geographic story on the oil spill in the gulf:

"Some deepwater wells go in relatively easy. The Macondo well did not. BP hired Transocean, a Switzerland -based company to drill the well. Transocean's first drill rig was knocked out of commission by Hurricane Ida after just one month. The Deepwater Horizon began its ill-fated effort in Feb 2010 and ran into problems almost from the start. In early march the drill pipe got stuck in the borehole, as did a tool sent down to find the stuck section; the drillers had to back out and drill around the obstruction. A BP email later released by Congress mentioned that the drillers were having "well control" problems. Another email, from a consultant state, "We have flipped design parameters around to the point that I got nervous."

A week before the explosion, a BP drilling engineer wrote, "This has been a nightmare well."

By April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon was six weeks behind schedule, according to MMS documents, and the delay was costing BP more than half a million dollars each day. BP had chosen to drill the fastest way possible- using a well design known as a "long string" because it places strings of casing pipe between the oil and the blowout preventer on the seafloor: a cement plug at the bottom of the well, and a metal seal, known as a lockdown sleeve, placed right at the well head. The lockdown sleeve had not been installed when the Macondo blew out.

In addition, congressional investigators and industry experts contend that BP cut corners on its cement job. It failed to circulate heavy drilling mud outside the casing before cementing, a practice that helps the cement cure properly. It didn't put in enough centralizers-- devices that ensure that the cement forms a complete seal around the casing. And it failed to run a test to see if the cement had bonded properly. Finally, just before the accident, BP replaced the heavy drilling mud in the well with much lighter sea water, as it prepared to finish and disconnect the rig from the well.

BP declined to comment these matters, citing the ongoing investigation. All these decisions may have been perfectly legal and surely they saved BP time and money-- yet each increased the risk of a blowout. On the night of April 20th, investigators suspect, a large gas bubble somehow infiltrated the casing, perhaps through gaps in the cement, and shot straight up.

The blowout preventer should have stopped that powerful kick at the seafloor; its heavy hydraulic rams were supposed to shear the drill pipe like a soda straw, blocking the upward surge and protecting the rig above. But that fail-safe device had itself been beset by leaks and maintenance problems. When a geyser of drilling mud erupted onto the rig, all attempts to activate the blowout preventer failed.

The way BP drilled the Macondo well surprised Magne Ognedal, director general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA). The Norwegians have drilled high-temperature high-pressure wells on their shallow continental shelf for decades,, he said in a telephone interview, and haven't had a catastrophic blow out since 1985. After that incident, the PSA and the industry instituted a number of best practices for drilling wells. These included riserless drilling from stations on the seafloor, which prevents oil and gas from flowing directly to a rig; starting a well with a small pilot hole through the sediment which makes it easier to handle gas kicks; having a remote controlled backup system for activating the blowout preventers and most important, never allowing fewer than two barriers between the reservoir and the sea floor.

"The decisions (BP) made when they had indications that the well was not stable, the decision to have one long pipe, the decision to have only one long pipe, the decision to have only six centralizers instead of 21 to create the best possible cement job-- some of these things were very surprising to us here," says Ognedal.

The roots of those decisions lie in BP's corporate history, says Robert Bea, a University of California, Berkeley expert in both technological disasters and offshore engineering. BP hired Bea in 2001 for advice on problems it faced after it took over the U.S. oil companies Amoco and ARCO. One problem, Bea says, was the loss of core competence: After the merger BP forced thousands of older, experienced oil field workers into early retirement. That decision, which made the company more dependent on contractors for engineering expertise was a key ingredient in "BP's recipe for disaster," Bea says. Only a few of the 126 crew members on the Deepwater Horizon worked directly for BP.
The drilling operation itself was regulated by the MMS (which in the wake of the accident, was reorganized and renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement). In 2009 the MMS had been excoriated by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) for its lax oversight of offshore leases. That same year, under the new Obama Administration, the MMS rubberstamped BP's initial drilling plan for the Macondo well. Using an MMS formula, BP calculated that the worst case spill from the well in would be 162,000 barrels a day-- nearly three times the flow rate that actually occurred. In a separate spill-response plan for the whole gulf, the company claimed that it could recovery nearly 500,000 barrels a day using standard technology, so that even the worst case spill would do minimal harm to the Gulf's fisheries and wildlife-- including walruses, sea otters, or sea lions in the Gulf.

There are no walruses, sea otters or sea lions in the Gulf. BP's plan also listed as an emergency responder a marine biologist who had been dead for years, and it gave the web address of an entertainment site in Japan as an emergency source of spill-response equipment. The widely reported gaffes had appeared in other oil companies' spill response plans as well. They simply had been cut and pasted from older plans prepared for the Arctic.

When the spill occurred, BP's response fell well short of its claims. Scientists on a federal task force in said in early August that the blown out well had disgorged as much as 62,000 barrels a day at the outset-- an enormous flow rate, but far below BP's worst case scenario.


Coryton oil refinery blockade- report and pics 02.Nov.2010 12:41

Alex Milan Tracy

more 07.Nov.2010 16:45