On Tuesday, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office, summoning Americans to a “national mission” to move away from reliance on oil and develop alternative sources of energy, and noted that it is imperative for Congress to act quickly to overcome “a lack of political courage and candor” surrounding the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf, the New York Times reported.
Obama also promised a long-term plan to make sure that the gulf states affected by the oil spill are made whole again. He has appointed Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy and the former governor of Mississippi, to develop a Gulf Coast restoration plan in cooperation with states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, conservationists and gulf residents.
On Tuesday the government released a new estimate that as much as 60,000 barrels of oil could be spewing into the Gulf of Mexico each day, a sharp increase compared to last week’s estimate of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day, the New York Times reported.
“We share the President’s goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast,” a BP spokesperson said in a statement following the speech. “We look forward to meeting with President Obama tomorrow (Wednesday) for a constructive discussion about how best to achieve these mutual goals.”
Also on Tuesday the chairmen of four of the world’s largest oil companies ended a nearly two-month silence on the oil spill and publicly blamed BP for mishandling the well that caused the spill, the New York Times reported.
In an effort to separate their companies from the continuing crisis in the gulf and the political backlash in Washington, the leaders of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips insisted at a Congressional hearing that they would not have made the mistakes that led to the well explosion and the deaths of 11 rig workers on April 20. As quoted by the New York Times:
“We would not have drilled the well the way they did,” said Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil.
“It certainly appears that not all the standards that we would recommend or that we would employ were in place,” said John Watson chairman of Chevron.
“It’s not a well that we would have drilled in that mechanical setup,” said Marvin Odum, president of Shell.
As the chairmen sat before Congress, BP was dealing with issues on the oil containment front.
At approximately 9:30 am CDT on Tuesday, a small fire was discovered at the top of the derrick on the Discoverer Enterprise and quickly extinguished, BP reported in a press release. The fire was caused by a lightning strike and prompted a power outage that halted the oil containment process. The U.S. Coast Guard gave authorization for the operation to resume at 1:40 p.m. after the ship’s crew completed safety and operational assurance inspections. The shut-down of the containment system was a precautionary move designed to protect the health and safety of the crew during the incident. There were no injuries and all safety systems operated as designed, BP noted. At 2:15 p.m. CDT, the Discoverer Enterprise resumed the containment process.
In addition, BP announced today, Wednesday, June 16, that oil and gas is now flowing through a second containment system attached to the Deepwater Horizon rig’s failed blow out preventer (BOP).
This second system supplements the lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system, which remains in operation. The new system is connected directly to the BOP and carries oil and gas through a manifold and hoses to the Q4000 vessel on the surface. The Q4000 uses a specialized clean-burning system to flare oil and gas captured by this second system.
Oil and gas collected from the BOP reached the Q4000 at approximately 1:00 am CDT on June 16. Operations continue to stabilize and optimize the performance of the second containment system.
Information on the volume of oil collected and gas flared by the LMRP cap containment system is being updated twice daily on BP’s Web site, www.bp.com. When measurements are available for volumes of oil and gas being flared by the Q4000, this information will be added to the updates on BP’s Web site.
Neither the new capture system nor the LMRP containment cap system has ever before been deployed at these depths and conditions, and their efficiency and ability to contain the oil and gas cannot be assured.