The Source of Our Despair in the Gulf

Sunday, 18 July 2010 10:05 By Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld, t r u t h o u t | Photo Essay | name.

The Source of Our Despair in the Gulf
(Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

For the first time in 87 days, little or no oil could be escaping into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's Macondo well. The new capping stack was deployed on July 11 from onboard the Transocean Discoverer Inspiration.

With a new containment cap atop the damaged well, many are hopeful.

But all is not well, after all.

National Incident Commander Thad Allen said Friday that the pressure within the cap is not increasing, as was expected.

Gulf oil clean-up operations. Photo by Erika Blumenfeld

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

The idea is that the pressure (in pounds per square inch [PSI]) within the cap should balance out between 8-9,000 PSI, which would show the well has maintained integrity. BP hoped to reach 9,000 PSI, but stated that well integrity would be maintained with 7,500+ PSI. Unfortunately for BP, if the pressure tops out below that level, as it is now at 6,720 PSI, this could be an indication of a sub-sea leak somewhere deeper inside the well casing, meaning the well has failed. One concern associated with this lower pressure is that it may indicate that the well has been breached, and that oil and gas are leaking out at other undetermined points.

Given BP's proven propensity towards lying, skeptics - who are consistently needed to keep BP's rhetoric in check - are also pointing toward other factors that could mean oil is continuing to spew into the Gulf near the well.

"With the pressure now virtually level at 6,700 [psi], it's at the lower end of the ambiguity range, so it seems there is a good chance there is leak-off," writes the Daily Hurricane. "That makes a lot of sense to me since there [are] 1,200 feet of open hole from the bottom of the 9 /7/8" liner to TD at about 18,300 feet. That's not to mention possible casing damage up hole. Think of it like a garden hose with a nozzle on the end. As long as the nozzle is open, the hose looks fine. As soon as you close the nozzle, the hose will leak through any pinholes or around the faucet as pressure builds inside. In his statement late yesterday, Admiral Allen indicated they were probably going to go back to containment, which means they'll be flowing the well to the various ships they have on station."

Like virtually every other aspect of BP's oil catastrophe in the Gulf, we'll have to wait and see how bad this really is.

On Monday, we took a flight out to what is referred to now as "the source": the former site of the Deepwater Horizon rig. It's taken me this long to be able to write about what we saw, because it was, frankly, traumatizing.

Oil sheen and sub-surface plumes of oil were visible long before we arrived at the source, located approximately 45 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana.

In what has been a consistently maddening theme of our trip, flying out to the source found us viewing countless oil platforms, and in some cases, drilling rigs, all of which comprised the oily backdrop of BP's disaster.

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The stench of the oil began to infiltrate my nose and burn my eyes long before they arrived at the source. Black oil clouds lurked below choppy blue seas in every direction as a virtual cityscape of ships and drill rigs loomed on the horizon. They appeared to rise out of the Gulf as we approached.

Erika Blumenfeld

Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of "The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan," (Haymarket Books, 2009), and "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq," (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for nine months as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last five years.

Erika Blumenfeld is an internationally exhibiting artist and Guggenheim Fellow with a BFA in Photography from Parsons School of Design. She is known for her Light Recordings series, and her ambitious work The Polar Project, a series of environment-focused artworks that document the environment of Antarctica and the Arctic. Blumenfeld’s installations have been exhibited widely in galleries and museums in the US and abroad, and have been featured in /Art In America/, /ARTnews/ and more than half a dozen books. She is posting her photographs of the Gulf Coast on her blog.
 

Last modified on Monday, 19 July 2010 08:55