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news archives — oil 12

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03 IV-2004: 06
New translation, the Magna Carta


oil 12

getting new oil out of tired old wells

“Thousands of oil wells retain up to 60 % of their crude oil even after they are declared "sick" because conventional methods fail to pump it out. The bacteria are injected deep into the wells where they produce biochemicals and gases that build pressure inside and "force" the residual oil out...”

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“A funded project that my students and I are working on is an investigation of bacteria in subsurface hydrocarbon reservoirs. Over 50% of original oil in place in the United States is still in the ground and cannot be recovered economically with today's technology. Most of this is in economically vulnerable wells classified as marginal. Without economic enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technologies this resource is at risk of being abandoned forever. Waterflooding is by far the most widely used EOR technology, producing over half of U.S. oil. It is estimated that 50-75% of all fields have been or will be waterflooded.

“Microbial permeability profile modification (MPPM) involves adding nitrogen- and phosphorus-containing microbial nutrients to the injection water of a conventional waterflood operation. The nutrients stimulate growth of in situ microbes, not injected microbes, diverting water flow from more porous zones to unswept zones, increasing waterflood sweep efficiency. It is a reservoir process, not just treatment of individual wells. Since the nutrients are commonly used plant fertilizers and only microbes already present in the reservoir are involved, it is a very environmentally friendly process. Compared to other EOR technologies it is a relatively low cost method.”

References thanx to James Copeland.

the web address for the article above is





Reporting in progress - expect updates
the politics of irresponsibility—the Prestige

The Spanish Emperor has no clothes—facing up to reality

The reality is, of course, that it was the ‘decisions’ and actions of the Spanish government and its agents that were the cause of the break-up and sinking of the Prestige, and of the resulting environmental catastrophe.

Seven members of the EU Temporary Commission set up to make a “detailed analysis” of the “causes and consequences of the catastrophe of the Prestige” have visited Captain Scapegoat Mangouras in Barcelona.Under the ‘rules’ of the 3 million euro bail set by the Spanish authorities, Captain Scapegoat cannot leave Barcelona, being compelled to report daily to a Barcelona police station, like a political prisoner in a tin-pot dictatorship.

The captain of the 'Prestige' [1] related that the [Spanish] inspector [who boarded the ship] "did not make any in-situ analysis of the ship's structure and solely requested the engine to be started so as to move the vessel northwest more than 120 miles away from the coast". Nogueira [a Green/European Liberal Alliance eurodeputy] considers that the captain's declarations show that "the Government decided to move away the ship as far possible from the coast without objectively judging the state of the boat, or whether there were alternatives that could be less damaging".

“The eurodeputy, agreeing with Merchant navy experts consulted by his party, said "the normal thing would have been to put the ship into the Ria de Corcubión, because there was no reason why it should sink", which action, in his opinion, "could have avoided the disaster".

“..."the decision of the Spanish Government was the worst one that it was possible to take", maintained the eurodeputy, who that thought that the captain of the 'Prestige' "made decisions that did not suit the Spanish, but were not damaging", and this is why, in his opinion, "Mangouras should not have ended up in jail".”

And from a very different source:

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin highlighted the important contribution that GMES [Global Monitoring for Environment and Security] could have made at the time of the Prestige oil spill. It was known that the [later] sunken ship, the Prestige, was spilling oil into the Atlantic Ocean off Spain's Galician coast, and it was also known that moving the tanker would exacerbate the problem. However, it was not possible to combine this information quickly enough with data on tides, weather forecasts and sea beds. Had GMES been in operation and able to provide a more comprehensive picture of the situation, the ship could have been towed to an area where the oil spill could have been kept under control.”

Now when will someone else, in mainstream media, or in politics, dare to point out that the Spanish Emperor has no clothes, that it was Spanish irresponsibility that led directly to the Prestige disaster, not single-hulled tankers, not the type of cargo, not the master, nor the classification company, nor even the insurers or the owners. The causative agent for the worst ecological marine catastrophe ever is the Spanish government and their not-in-my-backyard knee-jerk response to a maritime problem.

the web address for the article above is


Jan & Feb 2004
December 2003
A year after
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003

the Prestige debacle (March 2003)

previous photos

more articles

greek justice minister requests return of captain scapegoat mangouras [5]

“The Greek Government has undertaken a diplomatic offensive so that the captain of the Prestige, Apostolos Mangouras, can reside in Greece while he waits for the court session where he gives evidence.

“Philippos Petsalnikos, Greek minister of Justice, has asked his Spanish counterpart, Jose Maria Michavila, for the captain, who currently resides in Barcelona and is obliged to appear every day at a police station, to have the same control, but in Greece. Petsalnikos recalls that Mangouras "lacks a criminal record, and notes that his efforts to the control the oil tanker contributed to reducing the consequences of the accident". ”

However, Madrid says that it is not up to them, they cannot interfer with the freedom of their judiciary.

But they have no compunction at interfering with the freedom of an innocent and heroic foreign national for over 14 months. After all, it is only a few more months until the Spanish general elections, which should enable all this mess be swept under a carpet of voting papers and manifestos.

the web address for the article above is


ashamed of their government, 30 spanish masters honour captain scapegoat mangouras [1]

“The captain was guest of honour yesterday in Barcelona for about thirty merchant navy masters at a dinner, considered by them to be "an act of apology for the bad treatment that the Spanish authorities have given him".

“Several masters present at the dinner explained that the performance of Mangouras exceeded that demanded of a good captain, he had even risked his life when trying to protect the ship and prevent the fuel spill.”

“According to these merchant navy captains, the attitude of goverment officials was to use him as a "scapegoat" and to even point to him as being the only person responsible for the [wreck], even though "he was the only one trying to avoid the sinking, risking his life".

“The next step for the dinner organisers is to write a letter to the Naval Institute, endorsing the candidancy of Mangouras. They hope that it will be signed by a large part of the [Spanish] merchant navy.

And the good captain himself?

“Mangouras had "a healthy" look, in spite of having begun to smoke again after stopping for 20 years, and on several occasions he showed his knowledge of Spanish.”

watch the spanish snake slither [1]

In Brussels, Ana Loyola de Palacio, Spanish vice-president of the European Commission [EC], and responsible for Energy and Transport, continues her attempts to make everyone ignore the root cause of the Prestige debacle – the Spanish irresponsibilty in ordering a damaged ship away from all hope of safe haven. She is now threatening court action for maritime European countries who have not yet designated safe-haven locations for ships in emergency situations. This is all of them because they are scared that, by publishing the location of safe havens, they will be used in any bad weather, instead just in emergencies. de Palicio says that safe haven locations will be sent to the EC.

Laudable as such measures might be,

“In her appearance before the parliamentary commission, de Palacio evaded an evaluation of the Spanish Government's decision to move the Prestige away from its coast, despite being asked to by the PSOE eurodeputy, Juan de Dios Izquierd, and the PNV eurodeputy, Josu Ortuondo.”

the web address for the article above is


A year after
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003

the Prestige debacle (March 2003)

previous photos

more articles


Captain Scapegoat Mangouras nominated to be Shipmaster of the Year

Below quoted is the final part of the nomination for the “prestigious nautical award, given for exceptional service in command at sea that some call the "Nautical Oscar". ”

“Many people in Galicia, Spain call this man a hero – something of particular significance as it comes from the people of Galicia themselves. No doubt seafarers around the world will have equal if not more sympathy for this courageous man whose name continues to feature in the headlines of Lloyd’s List more than 12 months after the incident. His heroic actions deserve recognition. I therefore nominate Captain Mangouras for the Lloyd’s List and Nautical Institute Shipmaster of the Year Award.”


“In Spain, local seamen planned a dinner in Barcelona on January 22 in the captain's honour, a union said.

“ "These people believe this man was not responsible. He has been badly treated," a spokesman for the Comisiones Obreras trade union said.”

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Spain blamed for oil spill

The nomination of Captain Mangouras [full text available here] directly blames the Spanish for this great evironmental disaster in Europe:

“ Had refuge been granted, the Prestige could have been safely tucked away in Corcubion Harbour within 6 hours (i.e. 1800 hours on 14 November), there would have been minimal and localised pollution in Spain, the vessel would have been saved and the coastline of France spared. Instead the authorities ordered the Prestige to proceed into the Atlantic in winter gale force weather. Some 6 days following the initial incident the Prestige broke into two on 19 November 2002 and sank with the loss of ship and substantial pollution along many hundreds of kilometres of coastline.”

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Prestige oil just keeps arriving, France [1]

“Beaches of the northwest and the west of France have been in the last days affected by [large numbers of] small fuel spots coming from the oil tanker Prestige, that sank off the coast of Galicia on 19 November 2002, according to the [French] minister of Ecology, Roselyne Bachelot.”

“The part of the Atlantic coast is most greatly affected is the island of Ré, in Charente-Maritime, but there are also beaches receiving oil in Gironde and Les Landes, more to the south, confirmed the minister.”

“Mme Bachelot indicated that analyses conducted on the oil collected from beaches at Brest and in Vendée show that “it is the same hydrocarbons as being carried by the Prestige".”

the web address for the article above is


  Spanish pantomime scene 1:
oil spill pollution persists

the Spanish government: oh no it doesn’t

“MADRID. - The Government [1] assures that "the consequences in the ecosystem" affected by the black tide of the Prestige "have been very small", with the only exception of the Coast of the Death (To Corunna). The Executive denies that their effects are going to last more than four years and that they have caused a fall of the fishing captures.”

reality—oh yes it does...

The environmental impact of the Exxon Valdez spill was more serious than previously believed. [A] report, published in the journal Science, shows that many animals and plants have suffered long-term damage.”

marker at news and comment

Crude oil continues to be detected in a variety of habitats in Prince William Sound, and chemical fingerprinting of the compounds has continued to identify the source as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

“ Chemical fingerprinting also has identified the persistent fractions of oil as predominantly the heaviest ringed aromatic components of crude oil and also the most toxic.”

The reader may recall that the Prestige’s cargo was highly toxic heavy residual fuel oil.

Spanish pantomime scene 2:
the Prestige’s course was changed for political reasons—

the Spanish government: oh no it wasn’t

Francisco Álvarez-Cascos [5] [Spanish Minister of Promotion] maintained that "the course of the Prestige was always chosen in response to technical criteria". And he attributed the radical turn direction change [from north-west to south] to the captain of the tanker, Apóstolos Mangouras.”

The first major course change made was to prevent the tanker from entering the French Economic Exclusion Zone [see below]. The second course change, to avoid Portuguese waters, took place after Captain Scapegoat Mangouras had been taken off the ship, which was then being towed under the control of the Spanish authorities.

reality—oh yes it was....

The Department of Promotion [5]permitted the Prestige to change its course of the previous two days, soon after receiving a fax from the French authorities demanding that the course be changed. The ocean-going tug pulling the tanker put to south, four hours after a fax originating in France was sent to the marine authorities at La Coruna. At that time, the tanker and tugs were heading north-westwards, which would take them into the French Economic Exclusion Zone.

“Until this French government protest, the Spanish authorities had ignored the advice of the captain of the tanker, Apostolos Mangouras, to veer south south in order to escape the storm-strength winds from the north.”

“On the 18th [November, 2002] the Prestige’s course was changed to the west, to avoid entering the Portuguese exclusive economic zone, since a Portuguese frigate communicated that the towed tanker lacked authorisation to enter those waters.”

Comment from
The Spanish attitude regarding this oil tanker in trouble was, “not in our back yard”, first trying to dump the Prestige into French waters, then into Portuguese waters. The result of this social and civic irresponsibility has been an ecological catastrophe of even greater dimensions than that of the Exxon Valdez.

the web address for the article above is

 oil 12

the politics of irresponsibility—the Prestige
Method for emptying Prestige wreck decided [1]
The Spanish government has confirmed that the 13,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil still in the two halves of the sunken tanker Prestige will be extracted, using the property that oil is less dense than water. The fuel oil will rise up into 600-cubic metre, rigid aluminium containers. Once filled, these containers will be taken up until 40 metres below the sea’s surface. Here, the hydrocarbon will be transferred by flexible pipe to a ship.

The experiments made by Repsol, the Spanish national petroleum company, using fabric bags which were hauled into the hold of a floating dock ship, showed problems with containers that were damaged and with manhandling the filled bags at sea [1], which resulted in oil being more of oil items

The technicians predict that the wreck will be emptied by the end of summer 2004. The total cost, including the leak-blocking work and experiments done so far, is estimated to be 99.3 million euros.

Spanish blame-shifting and obfuscation continues
During the last few weeks, lots of noise and fuss has been made about another heavy-fuel tanker, the Geroi Sevastopolya, that has sailed from the Balkans, down the European coast on its way to Singapore, just as the Prestige did last year. Much show was made, first of the Geroi Sevastopolya being checked as sea-worthy, and then of both the Spanish and Portuguese navies keeping the tanker more than 200 miles from their coasts, even though the captain had no intention of entering their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) . After all, it is now illegal for single-hulled tankers to enter European EEZs.

There were, in fact, no problems concerning this vessel, but the fuss, along with the concern in the European Parliament over single-hulled tankers, does much to help the unknowledgeable and the misinformed to forget the actual cause of the terrible Prestige oil spill. tomore of items

“When the Prestige attempted to sail into a safe harbor to find shelter from stormy winds and high waves and to have the oil pumped off, it was turned away by both Portuguese and Spanish ships. It took a Spanish tug 14 hours to hook a line to the Prestige, which was allowed to drift within five miles of the Spanish coast, leaking oil all the way. The tug then pulled it out to sea and directly into high waves that eventually broke the ship in two.”

From a Tankerworld article, dated November 20, 2002

“Spanish authorities ordered the vessel out to sea, as far away from the coastline as possible.”

“ The fact that the Prestige, already damaged, was ordered out to sea meant the vessel was being constantly pounded by heavy seas, and it offered no opportunity for safe transfer of the cargo. [...] if the authorities had allowed the Prestige into a port or a coastal inlet, [...] the vessel would probably not have broken up, and it would have been easier to surround the tanker with booms to control the leak. In effect, it might have meant sacrificing just a small coastal area to prevent a big-scale more of items

“Now, after the Prestige has gone down, more than 70,000 mt [2] fuel oil threatens the environment, twice the amount of oil leaked during the infamous Exxon Valdez Alaska crude oil spill. Fuel oil is a pollutant possibly worse [3] than crude because it is heavier, more sulphurous and a thick, sticky mess that does not tend not to dissolve in water or evaporate the way crude oil or lighter oil products can.”

Single-hull tankers, double-hulled tankers

Following The United States’ decision after the Exxon Valdez spill to prohibit single-hulled tankers in US waters, the Spanish Transport Commissioner, Ana Palacio, and the European Union announced a similar prohibition after the Prestige debacle. But banishing single-hulled tankers, while permitting only double-hulled ones is not the panacea for oil spills at sea it might seem.

“[...] a poorly maintained and badly run double-hull tanker poses a greater potential danger than a well maintained properly operated single-hull tanker.’

“[...] the prime causes of tanker casualties are not structural, but human. Grounding and collisions account for the almost 50% of incidents, while around 11% relate to hull failure.” [4]to more of items

“[...] there are strong grounds for having serious reservations about the introduction of double-hull requirements -- with ‘disturbing questions’ to be asked about the performance of double-hull structures over a ship’s commercial lifespan.

“[...] points to difficulties in surveying and maintenance and the increased potential for corrosion in underdeck cargo spaces and flat tank bottoms, as well as expressing concern over the potential explosion risks of cargo oil leaking into ballast tank spaces.”

From Comparison of single-hulled and double-hulled tankers, a report commissioned by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

“12. Double hull tankers have two distinct operational disadvantages in terms of stability (see also paragraphs 32-36) over single hull tankers. First, for a given depth of ship, adding a double bottom raises the ship’s centre of gravity and thereby reduces the ship’s reserves of stability. Second, free surface effects in cargo and ballast tanks during cargo operations may cause double hull tankers to lose stability and suffer an angle of loll, particularly if the design does not incorporate a longitudinal centreline bulkhead subdividing the cargo space. The necessary operational procedures to maintain stability in such cases may restrict cargo more of items

“13. The most obvious potential hazard which all operators of double hull tankers need to guard against is that of cargo leakage into the ballast spaces. Leakage can arise from small fractures in bulkhead plating between cargo and ballast tanks caused by unpredicted local stress concentration, fatigue, construction defects, or eventually corrosion through failure of the ballast spaces’ protective coating system. The structural design of double hull tankers renders them more susceptible to minor failures of this type than single hull ships.”

“double hull tankers operate with global stress levels some 30% higher than those with single hulls because of the uniform distribution of cargo and ballast over the length of the ship. In a single hull tanker, the ballast tanks can be positioned to minimise longitudinal bending and shear stresses, resulting in values well below the acceptable maximum.
30. The consequence is most likely to be small fatigue fractures in early years of service, especially in larger double hull tankers, unless great care is exercised in the design detail and supervision of workmanship during construction.” to more of items

And Captain Scapegoat Mangouras?

“[...] the master of the Prestige still under detention in Spain, despite risking his own life in attempts to save the ship, NUMAST [National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers] says there are too many examples of masters and officers becoming a convenient scapegoat for an accident in the absence of other accessible parties [...]”

the web address for the article above is

End notes

  1. News item in Spanish from El Mundo.
  2. mt – metric tonnes.
  3. Residual heavy fuel oil is a far more dangerous pollutant than crude oil.
  4. Unfortunately, there is no designation given for the remaining 39% of marine accidents.
  5. Report in Spanish from the Spanish Merchant Marine Association.



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