Posts Tagged ‘Oil’

16 Mar 2011

Skimmers, Skimmers, Skimmers—Where are all the Skimmers???

What was the ABSOLUTE WORST decision made in the Gulf oil crises? And, what is a skimmer? “A skimmer is a machine that separates a liquid from particles floating on it . . . . These technologies are commonly used for oil spill remediation . . . . They were used to great effect to assist the remediation of the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.”

Skimmers are nothing new. Over 21 years ago, they were a frontline remediation device in the then largest oil spill in our territorial waters, Prince William Sound in Alaska. But, until recently, we could hardly find them in the oily waters of the Gulf of Mexico where the Deepwater Horizon wreckage is belching forth anywhere from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of crude oil a day over 5,000 feet below the water’s surface.

Offsetting this discharge of oil are the following recovery systems:

On July 5, about 74 days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, British Petroleum reported that “the total volume of oil collected or flared by the containment systems is approximately 585,400 barrels” of crude oil in about 74 days.

On July 3, it was reported that a Taiwanese oil super skimmer (a 1,000 foot long ore and oil tanker dubbed “A Whale”), arrived in the Gulf of Mexico. It can collect 500,000 barrels a day of contaminated water.

For the complete prior period going back to the April 20th explosion, all other “skimmers in use” averaged approximately 9,523 barrels (28,000,000 gallons/42 gallons per barrel=666,666/70 days) on average of oily mix a day. If 20% of the mix is oil, the daily oil recovery would be 1,905 barrels.

On June 16, we find out that “three days after the Gulf oil rig explosion, the Netherlands offered to send in oil skimmers to pump oil off the surface of the oceans. The Obama administration TURNED THEM DOWN because they were not 100% efficient and small amounts of oil would be pumped back into the Gulf with the excess water. EPA regulations do not allow for residue water to contain any oil. So rather than use equipment that was not 100% efficient, the Obama Administration chose to let ALL of the crude oil run into the Gulf.” (emphasis added).

On July 6, the Obama Administration had a change of heart about the Dutch offer.

[t]he U.S. Government has apparently reconsidered a Dutch offer to supply 4 oil skimmers. These are larges arms that are attached to oil tankers that pump oil and water from the surface of the ocean into the tanker. Water pumped into the tanker will settle to the bottom of the tanker and is then pumped back into the ocean to make room for more oil. Each system will collect 5,000 tons of oil a day.

One ton of oil is about 7.3 barrels. 5,000 tons per day is 36,500 barrels a day. 4 skimmers have a capacity of 146,000 barrels per day. That is much greater than the high end estimate of the leak. The skimmers work best in calm water, which is the usual condition this time of year in the gulf . . . .

Using the Dutch skimmers should have prevented most of the oil from ever getting even close to shore. The Dutch skimmers work best close to the source of the spill where the oil is more concentrated. Outside of that circle, dispersants could be used. Additional smaller skimmers could be used closer to shore to pick up patches that might get through the first 2 rings. The less oil that reaches shore, the less there is to clean up. The less oil that reaches shore, the faster the environment will (be) restored by natural cleaning processes. (sic)

So let’s calculate what oil recovery has occurred, and what could have occurred if the Obama Administration had made different decisions about oil skimmers. Using this information we can now calculate what approximate amounts of oil were or were not picked up by the various “skimmers” during the recovery operations to date and pro forma to the end of August


Spreadsheet calculating the amount of oil left in the gulf by not allowing all available skimmers to work

Click to Enlarge (PDF)

By the end of the June, the cumulative discharge of oil was 3,884,500 barrels of oil after the effects of the oil capture at the Blow-Out Preventer. But the reality of the fleet of smaller vessels performing skimming operations is a completely inadequate performance. For the entire period, from April 30 to today, they could only manage to capture 9,523 barrels of oily mix per day. If you assume that 20% of it is oil, the result is a net collection of just over 1,905 barrels of oil recovery per day. As we used to say in the Navy, this is just like spitting upward in a hurricane. And, so, at the end of June, the net cumulative discharge is 3,739,720 barrels of oil because all the skimmers had only skimmed 144,780 barrels of oil.

At this point, we discover the “A Whale” skimmer. It can process 500,000 barrels of oily mix a day. Assuming a 20% recovery of oil for every 500,000 barrels of oily mix, “A Whale” would capture 100,000 barrels of oil a day. Even if the oil recovery fell below 20% per 500,000 barrels of oily mix, this total would still be much more than the 1,905 barrels of oil a day the entire smaller skimming fleet collectively.

As to the Netherlands’ skimmers, on June 16th, almost two months after the accident, we discovered that the federal government rejected the offer to use the Netherland’s skimmers on or about April 23 or 24. Assuming the Netherlands’ skimmers will show up and be on the job in 1 ½ months, August 1, these skimmers will collect about 146,000 barrels of oil per day.

My analysis presumes that all discharged oil rises to the surface, which would be the worst case scenario. And to the extent that all of the oil does not rise to the surface, the actual recovery should be better than our worst case.

From June 30 to the end of July (pro forma), the cumulative discharge of oil has increased to 5,039,150 barrels of oil. But the presence of “A Whale” for all of July produces an enormous increase in oil recovered, 2,800,000 barrels. Yes, you are reading it correctly! 2,800,000 barrels of additional oil recovery from “A Whale”. So, the net cumulative discharge of oil at July 31 has declined to 2,035,315 barrels of oil.

Then in August (pro forma), the catastrophe receives a huge blessing. The Netherlands’ skimmers show up with their collective abilities to skim and separate out 146,000 barrels of oil a day, or an incredible 4,526,000 barrels of oil a month. This is the Rescue Squad! Even though the net cumulative discharge of oil has increased to 6,193,900 barrels of oil, it is wiped out by a monthly recovery of 59,055 barrels of small boat skimmers, plus 3,100,000 barrels of “A Whale” skimming plus the unbelievable collection of 4,526,000 barrels by the Netherlands’ skimmers. This is a total monthly recovery capacity of 7,685,055 barrels of oil, exceeding the cumulative monthly discharge of oil by 1,491,155 barrels of oil. This gives great hope that all the surface recovery could be immediately successful and thereafter in the future.

Buried in this data is a startling fact. It is the catastrophic cost of not having all the Netherlands’ skimming capacity at an earlier date.

If the Netherlands’ skimmers monthly oil recovery capacity of 4,380,000 barrels of oil had been available just two months earlier, at the beginning of June, would have resulted in a real and productive government response to the oil disaster. The cumulative skimming capacity of 59,055 barrels for the small skimmers plus the Netherlands’ skimmers capacity of 4,380,000 barrels of oil equals 4,439,055 barrels of oil recovered in a month when net discharged oil was only 1,364,400 barrels of oil.

Therefore, for the cumulative discharge at June 30th of 3,884,500 barrels, there would have been present a cumulative recovery capacity of 4,439,055 barrels. All the oil in theory would have been recovered by June 30. We would not have even needed the “A Whale”!

The federal government’s refusal in late April to accept the Netherlands’ skimmers was the worst decision made during the entire Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The prior successful experience of using skimmers in the Exxon Valdez spill and The Netherlands’ experience of using these skimmers to service their own offshore and tanker operations, provided an excellent background for accepting them the moment they were offered. Perhaps, the Netherlands’ skimmers could have been here even earlier than June resulting in the prevention of all surface oil originated pollution.

Was it incompetence? Indecision? Dithering? Or, was it a deliberate delay so the single party Democratically-controlled federal government could enhance its power? As we know from the Stimulus Bill and the Health Care Bill, there is nothing that this Democratic party will not do to enforce their will on the people.

When given a choice between protecting the environment or enhancing their political power to shake down BP and declare a deep water drilling moratorium, they had no problem in doing the latter.

The “Terrible” decision to refuse the Netherlands’ skimmers in April has resulted in an unprecedented environmental destruction of the Gulf Coast and caused untold economic harm to the surrounding region.

If Attorney General Eric Holder is looking for a case for federal prosecution, maybe he should start with this horribly failed decision-making process that first rejected The Netherlands’ skimmers with their huge daily skimming capacity of 146,000 barrels of oil. Every aspect of this decision should be unearthed and revealed and those responsible should be held accountable.

Unfortunately, such an investigation is highly unlikely for America today is held in vise of single party government by a radical Democratic party. As single party government consolidates its power, it tends to make more and more decisions that are adverse to its citizens. Who in this government would expose this executive branch to a real investigation? If not the Justice Department, how about Congress?? Good Luck! Residents of the affected areas of the Gulf region have no recourse.

If you want to explore in more detail a complete inventory of the techniques that radical liberals have been using to acquire single party government and unleash horror on people, you will enjoy reading my “Simple Guide: How Liberalism Destroys Peoples and Nations.”

  1. Skimmers (machine), Wikipedia,, sourced July 13, 2010.
  2. Tasker, Fred, “New Well Cap Could Halt All Oil Flow, Says Admiral,” The St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 3, 2010, page A6.
  3. British Petroleum Press Release, “Update on Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill-05 July”, 07/05/10, sourced July 07/06/10.
  4. Bigg, Matt, “Taiwanese Oil ‘Super Skimmer’ Arrives in Gulf of Mexico,” The China Post,, sourced 07/02/2010.
  5. Id.
  6. Hoft, Jim, “CHANGE! 53 Days Later Obama Administration Decides to Accept Dutch Offer To Help With Spill,” Web,, sourced 06/16/10.
  7. Ryden, John, “U.S. Reconsiders Dutch Offer To Supply Oil Skimmers,” Web,, sourced 07/06/10.