Exxon Mobil pipeline problems are back in the news and this time it’s in Arkansas.
From InsideClimate News: A pipeline that ruptured and leaked at least 80,000 gallons of oil into central Arkansas on Friday was transporting a heavy form of crude from the Canadian tar sands region, ExxonMobil told InsideClimate News.
Local police said the line gushed oil for 45 minutes before being stopped, according to media reports.
Crude oil ran through a subdivision of Mayflower, Ark., about 20 miles north of Little Rock. Twenty-two homes were evacuated, but no one was hospitalized, Exxon spokesman Charlie Engelmann said on Saturday.
In an interview with InsideClimate News, Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said emergency crews prevented the oil from entering waterways. The judge issued an emergency declaration following the spill and is involved in coordinating clean-up efforts among federal, state and local agencies and Exxon.
Last week’s Dutch court ruling in the case brought by four Nigerian farmers against Shell for oil pollution damage is being reported as a “victory” for both the plaintiffs and for Shell.
So, who really won? It depends how you look at things. Live Wire, Amnesty International’s blog, has a an excellent summary of the case and the ongoing challenges facing those who want Shell to clean up its mess in the Niger Delta. The court ruled in favor of one plaintiff and that is significant. Shell will have to pay compensation to the farmer and, according to Amnesty International, “This week’s ruling means Shell can no longer point to sabotage as if the company has no responsibility for this problem, and it should have wider ramifications for Shell’s Nigeria operations.”
A team of assessors from the U.K. has just returned from a fact-finding mission to the Niger Delta and has slammed Shell for failing to clean-up pollution resulting from two 2008 spills. “Next to nothing has happened and where work has commenced it has been totally amateurish,” said said Martyn Day of the London-based law firm Leigh Day, speaking to John Vidal, environment editor at The Guardian.
You can read the article, Shell attacked over four-year delay in Niger Delta oil spill clean-up, for more details on Shell’s failure to get serious about cleaning up the extensive damage from the spills.
This is merely the latest in a series of damning critiques of Shell’s failure to clean up its pollution. Shell initially denied responsibility for the spills and when the company did accept responsibility it “dramatically underestimated the quantities” of oil spilled.
SweetCrude reports that an ExxonMobil spill off the coast of Nigeria is worsening:
THE oil spill near ExxonMobil oilfield off the coast of Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State, southeast of Nigeria has spread along the shore for about 15 miles, and locals said it was killing fish they depend on to live.
Mobil Producing Nigeria, a joint venture between ExxonMobil and the state oil firm, said this month it was helping clean up an oil spill near its Ibeno field in Akwa Ibom state, though it did not know the source of the oil.
If you are concerned in the least about the environmental risks of drilling, don’t miss Al Jazeera’s latest feature report from the Gulf of Mexico, “Gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists.”
This reporting is so scary — it paints a picture of devastation that flies in the face of the feel good, everything is fine, BP-sponsored “My Gulf” ad campaign. Mutant shrimp and crabs. Dead dolphins. Strange lesions and tumors on fish. Missing eyes and oil-soaked gills. Dramatic declines in catch levels since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It’s a nightmare and it appears that this is only just beginning.
The two year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion is just a days away, and as Bryan Walsh from Time magazine puts it, the “oil spill seems to divide people into two categories: those who can’t forget, and those who refuse to remember. In the first camp are Gulf Coast residents and environmentalists who say the region still hasn’t recovered from the worst oil spill in U.S. history, and who are still waiting to be made whole—as BP once promised. In the second is much of the oil industry and many Republicans, who like to complain that offshore drilling has slowed under President Obama, yet seem to forget the multi-billion dollar damage that the oil spill left, and the months it took to repair the Macondo blowout.”
You can read more in his article, Nearly two years on, did the BP oil spill have to happen to BP?
And while we’re wondering about the inevitability of BP’s spill, Total’s North Sea gas leak appears to be much worse than originally reported:
Sitting on a powder keg of highly flammable natural gas and gas condensate, the French oil major’s rig could be one of the worst oil disasters in the North Sea. A gas cloud, made mostly of methane, has essentially enveloped the rig after attempts to shut a troubled production failed and caused a leak. If this cloud — which is growing by roughly 200,000 cubic meters a day — ignites, it could be catastrophic.
Clearly, the potential for human and environmental tragedy is the paramount concern here, much as it was with BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster.
…And rightly so.
Yesterday I wrote that Ghana has been producing oil from its offshore Jubilee field since December 2010, yet still lacks monitoring vessels, equipment and personnel.
Something else that’s missing: funds to compensate fishing communities in the event of a spill.
This video recounts the fears of the residents of Abuesi, a small fishing community near Sekondi-Takorad (a.k.a. “Oil City”). Travel up and down the coast, and you’ll hear the same fears echoed again and again.
What will happen when a village that is entirely dependent on its fishing operations for its survival is shut down by an oil spill?
Is Ghana ready for an oil disaster? It’s difficult to find officials who want to talk about the subject. Most prefer saying things like, “We learned many lessons from the Deepwater Horizon spill,” and, “It can’t happen here.” Truth is (and everyone knows this), a disaster can strike anywhere.
Ghana has been producing oil from its offshore Jubilee field since December 2010, yet still lacks monitoring vessels, equipment and personnel. The country has an “oil spill response plan” — on paper — but could Ghana actually respond to and deal with a significant oil spill?
This video and a new article published today on iwatch news explore the state of Ghana’s environmental regulation and emergency preparedness.
LAGOS, Nigeria — Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s Nigerian subsidiary says it has resumed production at a 200,000 barrel-per-day oil field after containing the worst Nigeria offshore spill in more than a decade.
Spokesman Tony Okonedo said in a statement Thursday that steps had first been taken to ensure it was safe to restart production at the Bonga deep-water oil field.
Nigerian villagers say oil from the spill at Bonga, 120 km offshore, had washed up on the coast, blackening stretches of it and killing fish, but Shell has denied that the oil could be from the Bonga facility.
The 40,000 barrel (1.68 million gallon) oil spill that occured sometime around December 20th at Shell’s Bonga facility 120 km off the coast of Nigeria has not been good for the new year.
Well, I should qualify: it hasn’t been good for Nigerians. Nigeria’s largest offshore spill (as opposed to onshore, where larger spills have certainly occurred) in more than a decade hasn’t made a dent in Shell’s stock price and is only getting minimal media coverage outside the country.
As I wrote a few days ago, Shell announced that clean up crews had “contained” the spill before it hit land. According to the company, clean-up crews, dispersants and nature worked together to prevent the spill from arriving onshore. At the same time Shell reported that clean-up crews had discovered a second spill — one that reached land — having nothing to do with the Bonga oil leak.
Shell continues to deny that the onshore mess has anything to do with the Bonga field spill, but many are doubting those claims. The amount of oil that has washed ashore looks substantial (Euronews has produced a short video report that includes villagers showing barrels of oil they’ve shoveled up: Coastal pollution fears after Nigeria oil spill). Could this really be the result of a passing tanker spill/dump? Shell said the company would analyze the oil on the beach to prove it has nothing to do with the Bonga facility.
As the spill offshore Nigeria works its way to shore, the lack of information about what is actually happening is depressingly familiar.
Shell reports that less than 40,000 barrels were spilled (at 42 gallons per barrel, that’s something like 1.6 million gallons), but there’s no way to verify that information. Shell posted a photo of the source of the spill, a rupture in the line that carries oil from the offshore storage facility (the FPSO) to oil tankers.
Nearly two weeks have passed since fishermen first spotted an oil slick offshore in the Jubilee field area. As they predicted when reporting what they had seen, the oil drifted to shore where it remained until local community members cleaned up the mess.
I’ve been trying to get more information on this spill, which according to someone at EPA, came from a tanker. There’s no way to know with any certainty that this is the case. All the information I have been able to get so far is unofficial. To date there has not been any official statement on the spill — either its source or the amount of oil spilled.
Meanwhile over in Accra, concerns are growing about the financial side of the oil business. I’m pasting an article from VOA below. The reporter writes that,”There remain serious risks the current boom will not be beneficial to most Ghanaians,” and continues with a description of ongoing problems.
Have you seen this? BP is out to win the hearts and minds of Gulf Coast residents with upbeat videos on YouTube. Everything is great! Based on the comments I’ve read so far, it doesn’t look like their campaign is having much success.
Recent news accounts also paint a more nuanced picture of Gulf Coast “recovery”: BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tar balls washed onto Gulf of Mexico beaches by Tropical Storm Lee earlier this month show that oil left over from last year’s BP spill isn’t breaking down as quickly as some scientists thought it would, university researchers said Tuesday.
The U.S. government has released its report of the federal investigation of the Macondo well blowout. Although the investigators hold BP, the well’s owner, responsible for the accident, Transocean and Halliburton share the blame for many of the mistakes that led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Both Transocean and Halliburton are active in Ghana. Transocean got a bit of (bad) publicity in June when its Marianas rig, operating in Ghana, had to be evacuated after it began taking on water.
Journalist and author Peter Maass has reviewed four recently published books on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Maass, whose book Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil is a searing indictment of the global oil industry, knows only too well that BP is hardly the bad apple. As he says in the review, “BP recklessly cut corners whenever it could, but so did Transocean, and so did—does—the rest of the fossil fuel industry.”
Understanding the Deepwater Horizon disaster is important then, because of what happened of course, but also because this can happen again, anywhere.
On July 1 an ExxonMobil underground pipeline ruptured near Laurel, Montana, spilling tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River. Montana is a long way from Africa, but this spill has me thinking about the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, another ExxonMobil underground pipeline that passes below several rivers where water pressure and erosion are real concerns.
Environmentalists in Cameroon and Chad have long been concerned about the safety of the 1070 km Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline and have stated repeatedly that COTCO (ExxonMobil pipeline operations in Cameroon) has not provided reliable information about its real capacity to respond in the event of an oil spill. Much of the pipeline crosses relatively remote and hard-to-access areas (few or no roads) and many question COTCO’s assertions that response teams could quickly travel to the scene of any incident.
I’ve been asking various officials in Ghana what they’re doing about regulation in light of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. I’m assured that the BP disaster is being studied. I hope to have an opportunity to ask similar questions to Tullow and other oil company executives sometime soon. In the meantime, I scan the trade press for news. Today, for instance, I found out that work is underway on a new well-capping device for the U.K.’s offshore industry. Continue reading . . .
How safe are Ghana’s offshore oil drilling operations? According to officials I’ve interviewed here so far, Ghana’s oil operations are safe, secure and pose no particular threats to people or the environment. An EPA official in Takoradi assured me that the waters off the coast of Ghana are much calmer than those in the Gulf of Mexico. He also reminded me that the Deepwater Horizon spill was due to human error and that Ghana is constantly verifying every aspect of the oil operations in order to avoid any mistakes. Spin. Of course. After all, what are officials going to tell me? That they’re worried? Continue reading . . .
Imagine a place where fishing is the only game in town. Then imagine just how nervous the residents must be about offshore oil drilling.
The place is Abuesi, a small town at the water’s edge about 30 minutes down the road from Takoradi.
Fish and oil: What’s at stake?
Here in Ghana, oil is expected to account for about 5% of the GNP when production gets up to speed. The fishing industry also contributes nearly 5% to the GNP. The number of jobs for Ghanaians that the oil industry may create is still unknown, but there’s no mystery about fishing. Approximately one-fifth of Ghana’s population depends on fishing. That’s huge, but in the Western Region fishing communities have to accommodate the oil industry. The oil industry meanwhile doesn’t have to do anything for the fishermen. Continue reading . . .
This morning I read Investigation into BP Spill Reveals Incompetence, Greed, Complacency and Cynicism — It’s Time for a New Energy Policy, by Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. The brief article discusses, Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, the final report from the Obama-appointed investigative commission. Although the report and its recommendations concern the U.S., it is easy to see the significance for Africa, where oil offshore drilling is on the rise.
I’ve recently posted information about the Scottish company, Bowleven, and its new oil finds off the coast of Cameroon. This is no small story: exploration over the past few months indicates that these discoveries are even more promising than initially thought. And Cameroon is not alone. There are new finds in Nigeria. Ghana is now pumping offshore oil. From Sierra Leone to Angola, the entire Gulf of Guinea region is poised for major, new offshore development. Africa, and in particular the Gulf of Guinea, is one of the new oil “hot spots” attracting both the major oil companies (American, European, Chinese and Brazilian) and the “minnows” or “wildcats,” the smaller, independent companies who used to “explore-discover-sell,” but are now getting in on the drilling action, too. Spend a few minutes reading the trade papers and you’ll quickly get a sense that this is the new Wild West.
There’s money, and lots of it, to be made offshore. I remember reading once that the oil business in Equatorial Guinea worked well for the Americans. With all the activity offshore, work crews could be helicoptered in every few weeks. No need to get too close to the abysmal situation on the ground in the country. Oil money fuels the corruption, repression, income inequality and political instability in the country, but the offshore drilling continues without a hitch.
So far, at least. What we hear little about are the environmental risks and dangerous lack of regulation, oversight and response capability that are unfortunately the norm for much of the offshore drilling in the Gulf of Guinea. As I mentioned in a post several weeks ago, I’m looking into the oil spill response plans of Cameroon and other countries in the region. I have yet to see anything reassuring.
More to follow.
Read this and think.
This excellent article details many of the “externalized” costs of oil production — costs that we pay through the myriad subsidies we provide to the oil companies. And one thing worth noting with this accounting: the costs of damage caused by drilling and spills in many developing countries can only be guesstimated. Standard operating procedure for oil companies working in locales far from prying journalists or vigilant authorities is to simply ignore environmental and economic damage.
Out of sight, out of mind.
We reached the edge of the oil spill near the Nigerian village of Otuegwe after a long hike through cassava plantations. Ahead of us lay swamp. We waded into the warm tropical water and began swimming, cameras and notebooks held above our heads. We could smell the oil long before we saw it – the stench of garage forecourts and rotting vegetation hanging thickly in the air.
The farther we travelled, the more nauseous it became. Soon we were swimming in pools of light Nigerian crude, the best-quality oil in the world. One of the many hundreds of 40-year-old pipelines that crisscross the Niger delta had corroded and spewed oil for several months.
Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. “We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots,” said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. “This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months.”
That was the Niger delta a few years ago, where, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.
In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP‘s Deepwater Horizon rig last month.