Tuesday, 8 June 2010

BP's crude oil plan fails

Stuart Hawkslee has been examining BP's unsuccessful attempt to create an environmentally friendly oil transportation system.

Stuart Hawkslee
The FET, Tuesday 8th June
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BP, Britain’s largest oil company and one of the world’s environmental thought-leaders, has suffered a major setback in their latest attempt to save the world from climate change.

Having been greatly concerned by the environmental cost of transporting crude oil via pipe lines, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward sought a more natural means to distribute fossil fuels. Inspired by BP’s recent sweeping changes and new large-scale commitments to renewable energy sources, Hayward turned to the natural power of the sea to revolutionise oil transportation.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was chosen as the site for BP’s first experiment, and on April 22 the rig was submerged to allow crude oil to flow into the surrounding waters. Hayward described the plan as “groundbreaking” and “very exciting” at a press conference the following day.

“We expect that the ocean currents in that area will direct several streams of oil to various points along the east coast of the USA, to Mexico and to Brazil.”

Hayward also indicated that BP, originally known as British Petroleum and more recently Beyond Petroleum, might change its name to Beyond Pipelines if the experiment proved to be successful.

However, BP’s faith in the environment’s ability to reliably organise the distribution of 500,000 gallons of crude oil per day appears to have been misplaced. Instead of sending neat streams to the required locations, the forces of nature have allocated the vast majority of the oil to the state of Louisiana. Hayward admitted to reporters yesterday that nature had “got it all wrong”.

“Louisiana simply doesn’t need that much oil. It’s a huge waste. There are shortages all along the east coast, while in Louisiana they have more than they could ever have dreamt. Even the wildlife is rolling in the stuff.”

BP and other environmentalist groups have now expressed fears that the failed operation could lead to a public backlash. Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, has been vocal about his concerns. “We worry that people will lose faith in the reliability of water. This distribution error on the part of nature could have serious repercussions for our hydroelectricity programme.”

Efforts are now being directed to the recapture of released oil in order to limit the damage done to nature’s reputation. Early reports suggest that the Lower Marine Riser Package Cap Containment System could be capturing as much as 462,000 gallons of oil per day.