Photos: Oil At BP’s Deepwater Horizon Gulf Spill Site

BP Gulf Oil Spill: Leaking Again?

I noted on Thursday that billion dollar verdict winner trial attorney Stuart Smith alleges that his contacts say BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well is leaking again.

Smith notes today:

Hours after we posted our initial report on Wednesday, the Associated Press in London ran a story that BP admitted to “investigating a new sheen in the Gulf of Mexico,” but that it was not near “any existing BP operations.”

Only hours after the AP story hit, the Times-Picayune out of New Orleans (my home town) ran an article stating BP’s outright denial. From Mark Schleifstein’s article (posted Aug. 18 at 1:47 p.m.):

No oil is leaking from the capped Macondo well that blew out last year, destroying the Deepwater Horizon floating platform and killing 11 workers, a BP spokesman said Thursday.

BP also has not hired any vessels to clean up any oil in that area of the Gulf of Mexico, said spokesman Daren Beaudo.

A report in a blog written by trial lawyer Stuart Smith of New Orleans on Wednesday claimed that the well was leaking and that BP had hired 40 boats to clean the mess.

A flurry of allegations and denials ensued. “None of this is true,” BP said in a statement. “We inspected our operations and our assets and didn’t find anything,” said BP spokesman Daren Beaudo.

We knew better than to expect any sort of candid response from BP or the Coast Guard who after all denied oil was leaking for a full week after the DH rig sank last year, so we were very pleased when Bonny Schumaker from the California-based nonprofit On Wings of Care (see link to website below) agreed to do a flyover. She took a four-hour flight out to the Deepwater Horizon site yesterday (Aug. 19) with Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) photographers Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia.

They spotted oil – lots of it. So we now have damning photos of oil in the water at the “exact location” of the Deepwater Horizon. Clearly, BP has some explaining to do.

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Photos from Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network. The caption for the three photos reads: Oily substance on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. While there were no boats or other structures in the vicinity today, rainbow and brown tinted formations could be seen covering the area where BP’s Macondo well is located and the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded and sank in April of 2010. The coordinates are N28 44.20, 88 23.23W.

We will be sampling oil from the scene as soon as possible to establish a chemical fingerprint, which will determine the oil’s origin.

Gulf Restoration Network reports:

First, we spotted oil on the surface above the exact location where the Deepwater Horizon and Macondo well are located, in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. Take a look at the captions in the photos for coordinates. Obviously, from the air I cannot confirm that the oil is BP’s and from there Macondo well. I can only report that I spotted oil above that location. I reported this to the National Response Center and had a lengthy conversation with a Coast Guard official. Notice that the oil seems to be clustered in round formations. I have no idea why or how this could happen and neither could the USGC official. The formations are clearly rainbow in color and in some cases have also a brownish tint. Take a look:

Here’s the slideshow.

And see these videos and photos from Wings of Care.

Giant Oil Production Ship Back In Area

Also suspicious, a giant oil production ship is back at the scene of the oil spill.

Smith reports:

The Helix Producer I, a massive oil production vessel, is back in the area where the Deepwater Horizon rig sank to the sea floor – roughly 170 miles northeast of where BP officially lists its location. Perhaps you recall that the Helix, with the capacity to process 45,000 barrels of oil a day, helped capture oil spewing from the runaway Macondo Well last summer.

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So why is there an enormous oil production vessel currently parked atop the Macondo field? What’s it doing if there’s no leak and no oil?

On Wings of Care pilot Bonny Schumaker and two photographers, Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia, from the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) caught the Helix on film Friday (Aug. 19). From Schumaker’s Aug. 19 post-flight report (see link to full report below):

Heading toward the DH site (9111), we came across an interesting vessel known as “Helix”, and noted that their submerged equipment must have been about as deep as they could put it, for their cable was run out to the max. If you look at our gps map, the waypoint position for the “Helix” was number 9114 in the screen shot of our gps map below. (The gps file will tell you that the photo was taken from about 600′ above the water at lat/longs 28° 42.160′N, -088° 35.994′W.)

Photo credit to On Wings of Care and Jonathan Henderson at the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN).

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the Helix Producer I “is a ship-shaped monohull floating production and offloading vessel. …It has no storage capability.” At 530 feet long and 95 feet wide, it’s hard to hide – even in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

As of Aug. 17 (the most recent location date), MarineTraffic.com has the Helix stationary at Lat/Lon: 27.730009/-91.108063; Speed/Course: 0 kn/276°. Those coordinates put it roughly 170 miles southwest of where Bonny Schumaker and her team spotted it Aug. 19 – atop the Macondo field very close to where one of the relief wells was drilled by the vessel Development Driller III.

In the absence of any clue from BP or the Coast Guard, here are a few possible tasks the Helix could be performing:

1. Collecting oil from the sea floor and pumping it into barges at the surface;

2. Working to remotely seal a leak on the sea floor; or

3. Looking for the source of a leak with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

Our sources tell us, the Helix is most likely searching for the source of a leak with ROVs. That would explain why the submergence cable was run out nearly to the bare spool (as you can see in the photos). It seems plausible that the vessel is looking for the source of the oil that’s surfacing nearby.

Schumaker makes other curious observations in her report that further suggest something’s amiss:

We also saw some very strange expanses of greenish linear plumes, each maybe 300 feet wide and separated from the next one by about that same distance, running south to north (roughly). …We also came across an unusual ‘string’ of buoys, apparently anchored; some sort of sounding measurements? As we reached the DH site, we began to see numerous collections and lines of those strange-looking globules in what was otherwise smooth blue water (waypoints 9114-9117).

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