Archive for May, 2010

Emirates finance chief: Dubai can resolve new woes (AP)

Saturday, May 29th, 2010 | Finance News

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The finance minister of the United Arab Emirates is predicting Dubai will ride out its latest debt troubles without a bailout or major restructuring.

Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansoori says he believes Dubai International Capital, or DIC, will not need federal aid. Such aid was required after another Dubai investment engine, Dubai World, shook financial markets last year when it couldn't meet debt payments.

DIC said Thursday it is seeking a three-month extension on repaying some creditors. DIC is part of a holding company owned by Dubai's ruler.

Al-Mansoori said Saturday that the country expects 2.5 percent growth this year. That compares with 1.3 percent last year as the global economic crisis ended Dubai's boom years.

Follow Yahoo! News on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook


Americans wait to learn if top kill will stop oil (AP)

Saturday, May 29th, 2010 | Finance News

ROBERT, La. – Two days after BP began a risky effort to stop a gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, company officials said the operation was going as planned but offered few details, leaving the nation in suspense about whether its worst oil spill would end any time soon.

BP PLC warned that it could be Sunday or later before the outcome of its bid to plug the well through an effort known as a "top kill" would succeed.

Experts said they could see incremental progress at best from BP's "spillcam" of mud, gas and oil billowing from the seafloor. The hypnotic video has become an Internet sensation as Americans watch and try to fathom whether BP's efforts are working.

Scientists say the images may offer clues to whether BP is getting the upper hand in its struggle to contain the oil, said Tony Wood, director of the National Spill Control School at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. If the stuff coming out of the pipe is jet black, it is mostly oil and BP is losing. If it is whitish, it is mostly gas and BP is also losing.

If it is muddy brown, as it was much of Friday, that may be a sign that BP is starting to win, he said. That "may in fact mean that there's mud coming up and mud coming down as well," which is better than oil coming out, Wood said.

Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama, said the camera appeared to show mostly drilling mud leaking from the well Friday morning, and two of the leaks appeared a little smaller than in the past, suggesting the top kill "may have had a slight but not dramatic effect."

But Bob Bea, a professor of engineering at University of California at Berkeley who has studied offshore drilling for 55 years, said late Friday that what he saw didn't look promising.

He likened the effort to pushing food into a reluctant baby's mouth — it only works if the force of the stuff going down is more than the force of what's coming up.

"It's obvious that the baby's spitting the baby food back" because the pressure pushing up from the well is stronger, Bea said.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama visited the coast Friday to see the damage as he tried to emphasize that his administration was in control of the crisis, which began April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform blew up and killed 11 workers.

"I'm here to tell you that you are not alone, you will not be abandoned, you will not be left behind," he told people in Grand Isle, where the beach has been closed by gobs of oil and the frustration and anger are palpable. "The media may get tired of the story, but we will not. We will be on your side and we will see this through."

He also urged the public to volunteer to join the cleanup and for tourists to help by visiting the majority of the region's coastline that is untouched.

Hundreds of workers hit the beaches ahead of Obama's visit, cleaning debris from the shoreline before they hopped on buses and left soon after the president arrived.

"This is the cleanest I've ever seen the beach," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said. "We saw a surge of activity the last couple of days. Let's hope it continues now that he's gone."

The top kill operation began Wednesday, with BP pumping heavy drilling mud into the blown-out well in an effort to choke off the source of the spill which has released anywhere from 18 million gallons to 40 million of oil by the government's estimate.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said the denser-than-water mud had pushed down the oil and gas that's forcing its way up from underground, but the mud had not overwhelmed the gusher.

BP has brought in about 2.5 million gallons of drilling mud for the top kill. BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said Friday the procedure was going basically as planned, though the pumping has stopped several times.

"The fact that it's stopped and started is not unusual," Suttles said. "We're going to stay at this as long as we need to."

He said the company has also shot in assorted junk, including metal pieces and rubber balls, which seemed to be helping to counter pressure from the well. The first infusion of junk was Thursday evening.

A top kill has never been attempted 5,000 feet underwater, and public fascination is high.

BP, under pressure from Congress, made available a live video feed of what is going on underwater, and about 3,000 websites were showing a version of it that the PBS "Newshour" offered for free. On Thursday alone, show spokeswoman Anne Bell said, more than a million people watched it. Many found it hypnotic.

"It made me wonder how I use energy and if this situation could teach us how much energy we use ourselves," said Jeb Banner, 38, a web design and marketing company owner in Indianapolis who has been looking at the feed every hour or so since before the top kill started. "It felt like a historic moment."

BP says the best way to stop the oil for good is a relief well, but it won't be complete until August. The company had been drilling a second relief well as a backup — Obama said Thursday his administration pushed for it in case the first one did not stop the oil — but work on that has stopped while the rig that had been drilling it works on another option for stopping the oil.

"We actually started that well before this job started, so you shouldn't read that as any indication of anything about the top kill job," BP's Suttles said Friday.

Billy Ward, a developer who was building a gated fishing community that is now on hold because of the spill, said that Obama's visit was for show and that there was really nothing the president could do.

"It's the unknown that's killing us," said Ward, who comes to Grand Isle with his family every weekend to stay in their beach house. "We don't know if it's going to be six months or six years before we get back to normal, if ever. All we can do is pray."




Associated Press Writers Seth Borenstein, Jonathan Landrum, Brian Skoloff and David Bauder contributed to this report.

Follow Yahoo! News on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook


Alaska pipeline company restarts pipeline (AP)

Friday, May 28th, 2010 | Finance News

JUNEAU, Alaska – The operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline system said late Friday it has restarted the 800-mile line idled after a contained spill this week.

The pipeline was shut down for 79 hours and 40 minutes, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokeswoman Michelle Egan said. That's its longest shutdown in at least a decade, surpassing the more than 66 hours it was down in November 2002 due to an earthquake.

The line from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez has been down since Tuesday, when Alyeska said a power failure during a planned shutdown allowed about 5,000 barrels of oil to spill into a containment area at Pump Station 9, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks.

"New oil has successfully been pumped through Pump Station 9 and we're doing that now steadily," Egan said Friday night. "That's a significant milestone after a shutdown."

There were no injuries and no impact to the environment due to the spill or subsequent oil recovery and restart operations, she said.

Alyeska has so far recovered 1,000 barrels of pooled oil from the containment area, Egan said.

Alyeska got federal approval for the restart after addressing questions and concerns raised by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The agency on Thursday issued Alyeska a corrective action order, seeking documentation and other details surrounding its plans to restart and mandating specific steps — including having personnel present 24-7 at the pump station where power was lost — once the line was back up.

Egan said a crew "will staff the pump station 24 hours a day until normal operations resume," adding about 200 people remain involved in managing the incident, including 125 people at the site and a team in Fairbanks.

The spilled oil flowed into a storage tank at the pump station, then into the containment yard. The extra staffing will continue until that tank is back in service, Egan said, adding she had no estimate when that might be.

Alyeska had ordered production levels drastically cut — eventually to 8 percent of normal output — to keep from filling storage facilities before the line could be restarted safely. The company estimated that bought it time until noon Friday, but after that deadline passed, Egan said there remained a "little margin" and no immediate need to order further cutbacks. Oil producers have been told they can resume 100 percent production, she said.

Damon Hill, a spokesman for the pipeline agency, described the corrective action order as routine for these types of incidents.

The letter required certain actions surrounding the restart and mandated monitoring of and reporting on the spill area after the line is back up. An agency official, in issuing the order, found that a failure to require such steps, in light of factors such as the hazardous nature of oil, the age of the infrastructure and investigations into the cause "would result in likely serious harm to life, property and the environment."

Both the pipeline agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are investigating the cause of the spill.

The trans-Alaska pipeline carries oil from the state's North Slope to Valdez, where tankers pick it up and deliver it to refineries. Last month, the pipeline moved 645,113 barrels of oil per day, on average. Average crude oil production in the U.S. is about 5.5 million barrels a day.

The system is owned by a consortium of companies. The largest, with a nearly 47 percent stake, is BP Pipelines (Alaska) Inc. Its parent company, BP PLC, has been dealing with the massive oil slick that resulted when a rig it leased in the Gulf of Mexico exploded last month. BP's work in Alaska has drawn attention since 2006 when 200,000 gallons of oil spilled at Prudhoe Bay.

The other major owners of the pipeline are subsidiaries of the North Slope's other main players, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips.

Follow Yahoo! News on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook