‘Unprecedented’ use of subsea dispersant to combat BP oil disaster

Updated gush figure added.

By Rady Ananda

Today, May 12, the Deepwater Horizon Incident Unified Command held a media advisory regarding the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which began on April 20th.  Officials advised that subsea dispersants, the effects of which are widely unknown, are being used for the first time.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA, opened the call with brief statements focused on the use of dispersants, chemical agents used to break up the oil. 

“The use of subsea dispersants is unprecedented,” reported Lisa Jackson.

As the Deepwater Horizon oil platform is located 48 miles offshore, most of the dispersants that have been used are no closer than 3 miles to the shoreline. The subsea dispersants are used at 10 meters and deeper.

Officials monitoring the subsea results reported that the first two tests were inconclusive. Logistical problems in obtaining samples down to 5,000 feet prevented proper sampling. A third test is underway, with some samples already in the labs at Louisiana State University.

The tests involve satellite and airplane imaging, and chemical, biological and atmospheric sampling. Temperature, salinity, and particle size in situ and above surface are also being monitored.

Subsea dispersants require much less in volume than do surface ones, but the effects of their use are still widely unknown. Authorities are taking an “adaptive monitoring approach,” meaning they modify the monitoring requirements as the test proceeds.

“This is no silver bullet,” warned Jackson. “Dispersants are the lesser harm.”  The response team is also skimming the surface of oil and burning it, she reported.

Chemical dispersants can be highly toxic and some have been banned by the EPA and in the UK. A particularly toxic one, known as 9527, has been used, but officials were unable to provide the exact amount. Another dispersant, 9500, is the modified and safer version. Jackson roughly estimated that between the two, they’ve used each equally, but did not provide the total figure.

Jackson did say that 500,000 gallons are already staged and another 805,000 gallons of dispersant have been ordered.

The question I would have called in, had no one asked, pertained to the failure to use already stockpiled, EPA-approved, organic, environmentally-safe dispersants. We have reports in Florida that:

“a Columbian company with an office in Florida… Global Environmental Technology, has a product that is 100 percent organic and was invented in 1998 by its president, Carlos Forero. He won science competitions in Switzerland and Austria for the product, which encapsulates oil and cleans the material up. Not only does the product clean up the oil, it can also be recycled for use afterwards. In addition, if birds are contaminated, the product can [be] used for them as well.”

Three different media outlets raised this question, but officials failed to adequately respond. Finally, they admitted that manufacturers do impact the choices that authorized responding parties make as to which products to use. BP is also involved in selecting which dispersants to use.

Several questions were raised concerning reports of dead wildlife, including turtles and dolphins. Officials would not confirm whether any of these deaths can be attributed to the use of dispersants, saying that no necropsies had been performed.

When asked if they would eat fish from the Gulf caught today, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA, responded. “Yes, and I would enjoy it.”

On April 29th, officials estimated that the amount of oil gushing undersea is at least 5,000 barrels [210,000 gallons] a day. Since the initial explosion, crude oil has reached the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

BP Plc, Transocean Ltd, and Halliburton are being held responsible for the catastrophe, and faced a second day of Congressional questioning today, reports Reuters. Meanwhile, in an effort to restrict offshore drilling, the “Senate climate bill released Wednesday would allow U.S. states to prohibit offshore oil activity within 75 miles of their coasts. Other lawmakers from coastal states have called for a complete halt to offshore drilling in any new areas, saying the risk is just too great for coastal economies.”

The official site of the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command is http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/site/2931/.
Those wanting Twitter updates from Deepwater Horizon can follow Oil_Spill_2010.

Developing information by the EPA is posted at
EPA use of dispersants in the BP Gulf spill can be accessed at http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/dispersants.html.
Those wanting Twitter updates from the EPA can follow lisapjackson.

Information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is linked at

[Note: The image at the top was posted on or before May 3 at Times Picayune, which has posted an animated graphic of the spread of the oil from inception.]

UPDATE: This YouTube captures the gush of one of the leaks on May 11:

19 responses to “‘Unprecedented’ use of subsea dispersant to combat BP oil disaster

  1. This will kill you – its killing me.

    I have just had it confirmed from someone close to the bone of this situation that what we’re being told in the MSM isn’t even close as to how bad the cavern is.

    And here’s the kicker, this you’re going to love, they aren’t using straw, the cheapest and most effective method of sopping up the oil, because … drum roll please … they can’t make any money off “cheap”.

    I can tell you this, the beast, and when I say beast think of the people most responsible for near all our woes, for that’s where this info is coming from, tells me that they’re scrambling to get it together before they release the true magnitude of this disaster. They gave me a time-frame of about 2-weeks. They’re once again, trying to not let a good crisis go to waste.

    If you think the infusion of tens-of-thousands of refugees during Katrina was bad? Try the displacement of tens-of-millions.

    We live in interesting times, and maybe not for long.

    • wow, thanks for the update, Mr M… during the conference call today, there were a few journalists openly hostile toward the gov. and, I thought of you, the one question i wanted to ask (which 3 reporters asked, in different ways) – the first media outlet to pose that question was the Times Picayune.

      Interesting, tho, one of the follow up questions – who makes the decision on what product to use – came from CNN.

      When you look at that video which BP finally released…. and that’s only one leak… there is no doubt this is catastrophic. It might deteriorate to an Extinction Level Event, especially when you consider that this is spawning season for many species in the Gulf.

      you and me bro are at ground zero…. all the states bordering the gulf.

      And volaar raised an interesting point – there isn’t enough oxygen in the atmosphere to burn all the oil beneath the floor. that cavern is hUGE

      • The person I talked to was scared, which was strange to see in this person. Not openly scared, but for the first time, somewhat not so confident as I’ve always seen them.

        I asked to meet within the next two-days, before they travel to hot-spots arranging the Devils dealings over the next two weeks, and hopefully they will call, because at the rate things are transpiring, two-weeks is a very long time.

      • Rady,

        It isn’t oxygen that sustains our sun’s inferno.

        Let’s carry the logic for a lack of sufficient oxygen to completely burn all the black pools of oil that bubble beneath our feet, a step further. I surmise that if a significant amount of those pools were mixed with the molecular oxygen locked up within sea water; remember, sea water contains oxygen, H2O, one part hydrogen to two parts oxygen, when decoupled, both very volatile. I suspect that such a decoupling could be initiated if the intensity of the inferno were to reach adequate critical mass.

        It is why fireman shy away from using water on high intensity flames, because it has the capacity for sucking the oxygen right out of the water. Then again, the mindless brutes of science didn’t seem to be worried too much with the thought of setting the ocean on fire while violently tearing into nature’s secrets as it ripped the atom apart; Bikini Atoll.

        Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

        “Just look at that pile of dead bastards over there”

        WikiLeaks—Collateral Murder

        • right, I didn’t say O2 sustains the sun’s inferno (that’s helium); but it does sustain fire on earth. Oil, etc needs O2 to combust in air. It’s been a while since college chemistry, but that much I do remember!

          Now, when you talk about high intensity fires and the best way to douse them… that’s way beyond my ken. I’ll have to defer.

    • From cheap straw to:

      Info-Tainment, courtier, Anderson Cooper, discussing current methods engaged for mopping up the black slop; which included stuffing nylon stockings full of hair from wigs, to power-shooting shredded rubbish into the gushing breach, suggested we send the Sham-Wow Guy down to the leak – untethered, I would hope.

      Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

  2. btw, not for the first time, this disaster reminds me of Revelations… the prediction of fire (not flood) that wipes out the planet.

    • the planet? nah, life on it? … certainly in this area for some time to come …

      Damn, I hope this is just another misinformation, propaganda, COINPROTEL, keep em scared story.

      but everything tells me what I’m fearing is not wrong, and my heart aches like never before, and I’m witnessing an entire region going through the seven stages of death. And as of now most are in the first phase. It won’t get any better.

      • right… this disaster won’t be global… but that fire in the sky had me thinking; that’s all.

        my heart aches too – and even my dear ol’ dad is worried about this. I don’t care what they say, the fish can’t be healthy.

  3. CLG Updates:

    Gulf oil spill: firms ignored warning signs before blast, inquiry hears –Documents suggest BP, Transocean and Halliburton ignored tests indicating faulty safety equipment, says committee 12 May 2010 Oil executives ignored warning signs in the hours before the disastrous Deepwater rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last month, a congressional hearing heard today. In a second day of hearings, the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee said documents and briefings suggested that BP, which owned the well; Transocean, which owned the rig; and Halliburton, which made the cement casing for the well, ignored tests in the hours before the 20 April explosion that indicated faulty safety equipment.

    U.S. Coast Guard Led Big Oil Spill Exercise Prior to Rig Explosion 11 May 2010 Three weeks before the massive Gulf oil rig explosion, U.S. Coast Guard officials led an elaborate exercise in which they practiced their response to a major oil spill — one of four dry runs over the past decade that foreshadowed many of the weaknesses in coordination, communication, expertise and technology that are now hampering the federal response to the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. The video we picked up last night and they’re trumpeting all over the media…it’s clearly the sea floor break. It’s not the one over the BOP. Imagine what that must be like if they’re still getting gas and oil hundreds of feet down the line…?

    Some of the roughneckers are suggesting that the 16″ casing was inadequate to deal with the pressures coming out of that hole. I have a schematic of the well and it has made things pretty clear to the well engineers, at least. They’re were all being too gd cheap to be doing something that was akin to R&D.

    Not to counterpoint Mr. M, but their INTENT was to nick the backside of this field (which encompasses areas all the way north into Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, so as to MINIMIZE the chance that they would get the FULL 150,000psi estimated to be at the core of this field (which is mostly NG, not oil).

    7,000psi will send 140 million pounds of well bore back at its “sender,” so their “top hat” BS is idiotic, to say the least. Once they puncture the line going into the BOP, that pin is coming back at them like a bullet.

    All I can say is that what is shown on the video, while bad enough, is not enough to create the hurricane-like “swirl” we see in the satellite photos of the slick from above.

    They need a 3 foot wide pipe and a “top hat” big enough to swallow that BOP, whole. That means 60 feet tall. They don’t have anything to unfreeze the NG with that is 3 feet wide and they probably don’t have the pipe, at that width, to make it to the bottom of the sea floor.

    Perhaps they can use MULTIPLE expansion chambers to compensate for the lack of width.

    I dunno. I just know I’d like to “junk shot” this well with the human remains of the Bush and Cheney families and that whole administration. It’s the least they could do and we’re already accustomed to them giving their “least.”

  5. Oh, and btw, it’s the natural gas that we don’t have the AIR to burn off. The oil isn’t the biggest problem.

    They have crystallized gas all along the sea floor now. Any ships or planes sailing over that area when that gas heats up and it’s INSTANT “Bermuda Triangle” stuff. Not to mention if anything bursts into flame and all that gas goes off at once. Firestorm over the Gulf.

    “Lookie, boys n girls, saltwater actually BURNS! Can you say, ‘saltwater’?”

  6. Oh, another nugget!

    The Deep Horizon is a British-ly flagged “ship.” It had NO BUSINESS operating inside of US territorial waters (within 200 miles offshore).

    This could be an impeachable offense.

  7. Actually, MSNBC, Rachael Maddow discovered that, in order for BP, the operator, to skirt U.S. laws, Deep Horizon was actually flagged in the Marshall Islands.

    Now isn’t that something!?

    It doesn’t matter how many straws we poke through hide the of mother earth; unless we nationalize, or better yet, stop imbibing the black liquid, it all belongs to the multinational Oil Vampire. None of it belongs to, or necessarily returns to the thirsty American, it’s all sold on the open market, to the highest bidder.

    Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

    WikiLeaks—Collateral Murder

  8. we need to use less energy; that’s the ticket.

    And, I should add, biofuels are an equally poor substitute (see my GM Biofuels: Another Planned Disaster)

  9. amicus curiae

    heres a kicker, the chem used is made by?
    a company run by Exxon and BP execs and
    its rated less effective and more harmful than about 18 other brands.
    hmm? make the mess and use your product to make it worse.
    now thats business!
    suppose it shuffles the profit and income nicely, rather than really Pay for something that works better.

    • yeah, Oz! Isn’t that freakin amazingly corrupt?!? These goons need to be exiled off planet.

      just learned that BP paid each fishing crew a paltry $5,000 for the loss of their livelihood – another example of the depths of industry depravity:

  10. Pingback: Gulf Seafood Not Tested for Toxic Dispersants « COTO Report

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