Environmental Protection

Oil Estimates Rise; Navy, Private Companies Stay on the Job

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has positioned equipment and personnel while RAE Systems is providing technical expertise and Elastic/American Marine is supplying specialty booms to the oil response effort in the Gulf of Mexico.

Based on updated information and scientific assessments, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Chair of the National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group Marcia McNutt, Ph.D., announced an improved estimate of how much oil is flowing from the leaking BP well.

The federal authorities convened a group of federal and independent scientists on Monday to discuss new analyses and data points obtained over the weekend to produce updated flow rate estimates. Working together, they estimate that the most likely flow rate of oil is between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day. The improved estimate is based on more and better data that is now available and that helps increase the scientific confidence in the accuracy of the estimate.

BP's containment efforts include the Lower Marine Riser Package cap that is currently in place and can capture up to 18,000 barrels of oil per day and the Q4000, which could expand total leak containment capacity to 20,000-28,000 barrels per day.

According to a U.S. Navy press release, its pollution response experts have shipped 96,000 feet of oil containment boom to the Gulf of Mexico as part of the combined effort to reduce the environmental impact of the underwater oil spill.

NAVSEA's Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) has positioned equipment and personnel from Texas to Florida to support the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill response efforts led by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.

“With a single phone call from the U.S. Coast Guard, 66,000 feet of open ocean boom and nine self-contained skimming systems, and the professionals to install and operate them, were dispatched," said Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy, NAVSEA commander.

SUPSALV's Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System (VOSS) operates off Offshore Supply Vessel Vanguard to support the oil spill resulting from the April 20 explosion and fire on a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Navy oil booming equipment is designed to divert the oil spill from an identified area. According to Capt. Patrick Keenan, NAVSEA's director of Ocean Engineering, SUPSALV, the booming equipment was first deployed to the western tip of Ship Island, south of Gulfport, Miss. Keenan said the oil containment boom system is the primary containment equipment at an oil spill site, and consists of vans, boom, air compressors, and necessary equipment to support the various types of containment booms.

In addition to the boom systems, SUPSALV also shipped 23 oil skimming systems to the Gulf of Mexico, including the Vessel of Opportunity and Rapid Deployment Skimming Systems for oil spill cleanup. Skimming systems are outfitted with machinery that separates spilled oil from the water, stores the recovered oil, and then transfers it to an off-vessel storage facility. Additionally, more than 130 personnel and three contracted offshore supply vessels are supporting oil response efforts.

“A team of NAVSEA professionals are working around the clock to protect the sensitive coastline with oil booms and perform open-ocean skimming. NAVSEA's Chief Engineer for Underwater Salvage (Keenan) has been an integral member of BP's Engineering Command Cell that has assembled the best and brightest minds from around the world to try to stop the leak," said McCoy.

SUPSALV has been the Navy’s oil pollution experts since the 1970s, as required by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. SUPSALV provides technical, operational, and emergency support to the Navy and other federal agencies in several ocean engineering disciplines.

RAE Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., mobilized personnel to assist private companies and government agencies with the toxic gas and hazardous materials associated with the oil spill, the company said in a May press release.

The company placed personnel on scene and is providing 24/7 support to private, federal and state environmental management responders with technical experts to deal with the byproducts of the spill, including volatile organic compound detection and benzene monitoring.

“The oil and gas industry has long relied on RAE Systems for products to protect both personnel and the environment from hazardous threats. In anticipation of needed equipment, we have moved critical inventory into position to be prepared to respond,” said Ryan Watson, RAE Systems vice president of Americas’ sales. “We have already seen the deployment of AreaRAE wireless sensor networks, UltraRAE benzene monitors and handheld colorimetric detection tubes along the Gulf Coast.”

Elastec/American Marine is assisting the U.S. Coast Guard, BP PLC and other federal agencies to aid in preventing the spread of oil. The company has trained personnel to deploy its fire resistant containment boom, the Hydro-Fire® system. The boom is being passed to shrimp boats whose captains have been trained to tow it during an in-situ burn, according to an Elastec/American Marine press release.

More than 205 controlled burns have been conducted, removing more than 5 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife, according to the Deepwater Horizon Response Unified Command Website.

Elastec/American Marine has manufacturing facilities in Carmi, Ill., and Cocoa, Fla. All locations are ramping up production with multiple shifts working seven days a week to keep up with demand for oil spill response equipment.

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