Daily Archives: March 29, 2012
|This week the SubseaIQ team added 2 new projects and updated 35 projects. You can see all the updates made over any time period via the Project Update History search. The latest offshore field development news and activities are listed below for your convenience.|
- BG Group makes fourth gas discovery in Tanzania (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Recap: Worldwide Field Development News (Mar 16 – Mar 22, 2012) (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Recap: Worldwide Field Development News (Mar 9 – Mar 15, 2012) (mb50.wordpress.com)
- MODU Market Spending to Reach USD 48.1bn in 2012 (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Odfjell Offshore Raising up to $500M to Develop Fleet (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Oil leaders, GOP allies, downplay administration’s seismic plans (mb50.wordpress.com)
Helix ESG’s latest seabed trenching unit, the T1200, is in the final stages of construction at a Perry Slingsby Systems Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) plant in the UK.
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The company said the gas was originating thousands of meters below the sea bed, which engineers said might mean that a relief well – one possible option to stop the leak – could take months to drill.
“The leak is from a (gas) well that was plugged one year ago and from a rock formation in about 4,000 meters depth,” a company spokeswoman in Aberdeen said on Thursday.
A flare needed to relieve pressure in the platform by purging excess gas has continued to burn less than 100 meters from the leak, and engineers said changes in wind and weather could lead to an explosion.
“The wind is pushing the gas cloud in the opposite direction (from the platform). At this time, the circumstances are rather favorable,” Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier, head of communication at Total said in an interview published on Total’s website.
“A gas cloud is always a fire hazard,” he added.
Total kept two fire-fighting ships in a state of readiness outside a two-mile exclusion zone, which was set up to protect marine traffic, a Total spokeswoman said.
The company has also brought in a robot vessel, not yet deployed, to scan the sea bed for signs of spillage, she said.
Total has not yet found a way to stop the gas leak. A team of international engineers assembled by the embattled French oil company are drawing up plans to tackle the leak and prevent the flare from coming into contact with the gas cloud, the spokeswoman said.
The platform is currently off limits to the engineers, however, given the toxic and explosive plumes pumping out of the wellhead.
The leak started on Sunday and forced the evacuation of all 238 workers from the platform, which sits in waters less than 100 metres deep and 240 km (150 miles) off the east coast of Scotland.
PRESSSURE SEEN FOR RELIEF WELL
Total warned on Tuesday it could take six months to halt the flow of gas. The company previously stated it hoped the leak would die down from natural causes as reservoir pressure drops.
“What we know is that the leak is not coming from a well dug by Total but from a naturally occurring pocket of gas located just above one of our wells,” said Total’s Saulnier.
The depth of the non-producing reservoir that is feeding gas to the Elgin platform via compromised layers of piping suggests, however, there is more gas present rather than less, piling pressure on Total to drill a relief well, an engineer with knowledge of the matter said.
Relief drilling would require boring through 4 kilometers of rock with painstaking mathematical precision, because it must intercept the gas pocket at exactly the right point, requiring constant alterations in course, the engineer said.
The leak, one of the biggest in the North Sea for decades, could well inspire tougher safety regulation in due course, according to experts. Britain’s health and safety watchdog said it was considering launching an investigation into the incident, while union officials said the frequency of offshore safety lapses had become intolerable.
Memories are still raw in the North Sea industry of the Piper Alpha platform fire 24 years ago, which killed 167 people in the world’s deadliest offshore oil disaster and led to a major regulatory overhaul.
Total as well as UK authorities have described the expected environmental impact from the plume of gas and a spreading sheen of light oil on the water as “minimal”, although environmental experts said much of the gas “cocktail” would be either flammable or poisonous at close quarters.
Total’s shares have lost about 9 percent in the wake of the incident. They were trading at 37.63 euros at 1305 GMT.
Analysts said the French oil major could face costs of up to $10 billion if its North Sea gas leak leads to an explosion and nearly $3 billion if it takes months to fix.
However, Jefferies securities and investment bank said in a research note that data that had emerged on the spill, which “has further convinced us that the spill consequences should be less than the most pessimistic market estimates and hence that the US$9.7 billion sell-off in the stock since Monday is overdone”.
- Fitch: Total Gas Leak ‘Not Another Deepwater Horizon’ (mb50.wordpress.com)
The gas has been flowing since Sunday, March 25th, when Total evacuated all the personnel from the Elgin platform. The precise cause of the gas leak, that has been flowing approximately 240 km east of Aberdeen, is yet to be identified.
According to The Telegraph, experts have warned that the gas cloud which can be seen is very flammable and they described the situation as a disaster waiting to happen because the flare on the Elgin platform is still ongoing.
Total explains that the flare is an integral part of the platform’s safety system, and it is used to safely evacuate all the remaining gas from the platform. The company says that the flare does not pose a threat, because the winds are taking the gas cloud away from the open flame.
“The wind is forecast to remain in its current direction for the coming days. You can be assured that this is being reviewed on a constant basis and should this change any impact is being assessed. In parallel we are investigating solutions to extinguish the flare if it does not burn out by itself.”
Elgin and Franklin are two high pressure/high temperature gas and condensate fields in the Central Graben Area of North Sea. Total E&P UK Limited owns 46.17% and is operator of both fields through its wholly-owned subsidiary EFOG and its average share of production was around 60,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2011.
Elgin/Franklin facilities comprise two wellhead platforms, one on Elgin and one on Franklin and a Production/Utilities/Quarters (PUQ) platform. The PUQ is on the Elgin field and is linked to the Elgin wellhead platform by a 90-metre bridge.
- Fitch: Total Gas Leak ‘Not Another Deepwater Horizon’ (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Gas Leak at North Sea Elgin Platform (theoildrum.com)
- ‘One spark and another Piper Alpha on our hands’: Fears grow as explosive gas leak from ‘well from hell’ threatens repeat of Britain’s deadliest rig disaster (dailymail.co.uk)
- Total says finds source of North Sea gas leak (reuters.com)
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey
United States drug enforcement agents have broken up a ring involving former and current US military personnel attempting to work for Mexico’s brutal Zetas drug cartel, illustrating the group’s alarming potential to penetrate the US military.
On March 24, First Lt. Kevin Corley (pictured, at left) and arrived with a three-man team at a warehouse in the border city of Laredo, Texas, armed with two semiautomatic rifles, a combat knife and a .300-caliber bolt-action rifle equipped with a scope. The men believed they had been hired by the Zetas to carry out a contracted killing and raid of a rival drug trafficking group’s storehouse, and had been called to receive the final details of the assignment. What they didn’t know, however, was that they were targets of an elaborate sting operation organized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
For the past six months, Corley had been speaking with DEA agents posing as Zetas representatives, and had promised both to carry out “wet work” (a military euphemism for assassinations) for the cartel as well as equip and train Zetas members in military tactics. According to a federal indictment (.pdf), Corley claimed that his status as an active duty soldier made it easy for him to pilfer weaponry from his post in Colorado, and demonstrated this by providing the agents with bulletproof vests, training manuals and other stolen military equipment.
However, after receiving phony instructions from the undercover operatives in the warehouse, the four men found themselves surrounded by federal law enforcement officers. Although agents killed one of the suspects while attempting to make an arrest, the remaining three were taken into custody. Two other accomplices based in South Carolina were arrested in conjunction with the sting operation.
While the fact that six US citizens were so completely willing to work for the Zetas is disturbing, the most worrisome aspect of this case is the fact that all four members of the would-be “kill team” (with the exception of the individual killed by federal agents, who was a cousin of Corley’s) were either current or former members of the US military.
This is a troubling reminder that US military personnel are not immune to the kinds of incentives that lure their military counterparts in Mexico into joining the Zetas. The Zetas’ links to the Mexican military have been a trademark of the group since their early days working as the enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel. Their original 31 founders were all ex-members of the Mexican special forces, and today the group is thought to have deeply penetrated the military in the states of Hidalgo, Chihuahua and Tabasco, as well as other parts of the country. As the drug gang’s trafficking networks have grown, they have expanded their recruitment pool to include members of security forces in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Until now, however, there had been no hard proof evidence that the cartel was capable of hiring US-trained military professionals to carry out its work. These arrests show that there is a very real possibility of such a trend, no doubt sounding alarm bells for US drug enforcement agents already concerned about the prospect of “spillover violence” in the American southwest.
The case is especially relevant in light of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s recent warnings that the US military is facing “significant criminal threat” from gangs within its ranks. In the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment released in October, the FBI names some 50 criminal organizations that count both current and ex-soldiers among their members. The list includes the Zetas, as well as a handful of transnational street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Barrio 18 and Barrio Azteca. Although they represent only a tiny fraction of veterans and servicemen, the FBI cautions that many gang members enlist in order to “receive weapons and combat training that they may transfer back to their gang.” The report also notes an uptick in gang-related graffiti in military bases overseas.
This phenomenon is a threat not only to the US, but to other countries in the hemisphere as well. If enough members of transnational criminal organizations acquire military expertise in the US, there is a chance that they will share these skills with affiliate cells in other countries in the region, potentially giving them a leg up against local officials. As InSight Crime has pointed out, many gangs already have the organizational infrastructure in place to do so. Both of El Salvador’s largest “maras” (street gangs) got their start in US prisons, and still maintain a strong presence in major cities like Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
Despite these concerns, the US military is a long way from seeing the kind of criminal penetration that plagues the Mexican army. That all six members of the “Zetas” plot had been under surveillance for months and eventually apprehended is a testament to the success that US law enforcement has had in foiling such criminal endeavors. Even still, with the Zetas growing more and more sophisticated, the risk of infiltration grows greater, and the US military may need to step up its internal monitoring to prevent this.
- Soldier, ex-soldier accused of hired murder plot (foxnews.com)
- A cartel evolution (mysanantonio.com)
- Wave of violence in Nuevo Laredo prompts warning (mysanantonio.com)
- Trial exposed Zetas’ U.S. ties (mysanantonio.com)
- Police arrest 13 suspected Zetas cartel members in Guadalajara (pikapvs.wordpress.com)