Courtesy Lucas Vieira MoreinaFive months after the deadly accident that spilled five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the Macondo well of the Deepwater oil spill has been declared “dead.”
It’s like when that rabid dog got into your house, and, after a tense struggle, your dad finally pinned its neck under his foot, and, with an Arnold-esque quip like “Bad dog,” sent a 9 mm bullet into the still-thrashing animal’s brain. And then one more, for good measure.
It’s like that, except your house would have to be like a large, deep body of water. And the rabid dog would also have been uncontrollably vomiting flammable poison everywhere. And your dad wouldn’t really have shot it so much as drilled a couple of holes beneath its head, and then pumped it full of cement. And it was your dad’s fault that it started puking like crazy in the first place, because he was really excited to sell more rabid dog vomit to you. (Because who doesn’t love that stuff?)
In any case, the dog/well has been put down with extreme prejudice. Cement has been injected into the oil well through the intersecting relief wells, and the hardened cap has been pressure tested. The well seems to present “no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.”
That’s a good thing, obviously, but unfortunately it’s not the end of this human and environmental tragedy. Before the leaking well was finally capped, about 210 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf, some of it floating into slicks on the surface, some of it lurking in thick plumes deep in the Gulf. How the unrecovered oil will affect the Gulf’s ecosystems and its human population remains to be seen, and determining the extent of BP’s financial responsibility to the region’s inhabitants will likely be a lengthy and difficult process.
Still, though: Bad dog. Blam. That’s something, right?
Estimates of the amount of oil that spilled from the ruined Deepwater Horizon wellhead vary greatly, so it's tough to pin down a total amount. (The short answer is, "a LOT.") But that difficulty hasn't stopped a bunch of different sources from trying...
The official estimate is that some 50 million to 140 million gallons spilled.
Boston.com has a nice gallery of images to help visualize just how much oil has spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. (Unfortunately, the numbers and comparisons only reflect the amount spilled as of June 11, so it's a month out of date. But still fascinating.)
The Alaska Dispatch has a counter that estimates the total amount of oil spilled. (They figure some 92,240,117 gallons, or about 2,196,193 barrels, over 87 days.)
And, last, here's a map of the world's largest oil spills.
Courtesy National Center for Earth-surface DynamicsThe Mississippi River has turned out to be a big, muddy, silent hero in the fight to save Louisiana's wetlands from the oil spill.
It turns out that many scientists believe that the flow of fresh water from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico has thus far kept the oil slick offshore and out of wetlands.
Guerry Holm, a researcher with the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED) tells me that the flow of the Mississippi River has been at a relatively high stage for the past two months and that the river's high volume of freshwater has acted as a hydrologic barrier, keeping oil from moving into the Mississippi Delta wetlands from the sea. Holms is now studying how two river characteristics—the slope of the water surface from the river delta to the sea and the time it takes water to move through a wetland to the sea—help mitigate oil contamination of the wetlands.
Holm is collaborating on the research with NCED Principal Investigator Robert Twilley, who is also busy addressing an immediate concern: the flow of the Mississippi tends to drop seasonally, starting in June. If that happens and Mississippi water flow into the delta decreases, Twilley, Holm, and others worry that oil will reach more of the wetlands sooner.
To address these concerns, some area scientists are proposing to shift the flow of water between the Mississippi and a river in Louisiana it feeds called the Atchafalaya. Twilley supports the idea: "We've been in conversation with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state [of Louisiana] about how to manage the river as a protection system," Twilley reports.
Unfortunately, the river flow adjustments may be difficult to accomplish for political reasons. The diversion structure used to control flow between the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers is controlled by Congress. Earlier proposals to send more water down the Mississippi have been met with resistance.
Courtesy BP A 4-inch tube has been inserted into the 21-inch diameter pipe spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico per day. Rubber baffles should fill the space between the two pipes. By injecting methanol, it is hoped that hydrates won't freeze and plug up the pipe. This is what happened withing the large containment dome.
Oil and natural gas will hopefully continue to flow to flow up through a 5000 foot long tube to the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship where the oil, water, and gas will be separated. The Enterprise is capable of processing 15,000 barrels of oil per day and storing 139,000 barrels. A support barge will also be deployed with a capacity to store 137,000 barrels of oil.
Update - Monday, May 17 - 1000 barrels a day of the oil spill are being captured on the surface by the drill ship . Any natural gas that comes with is flared off and burned.
"This is just containing the flow, later this week, hopefully before the end of the week, we'll make our next attempt to actually fully stop the flow," BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said on NBC's "Today." Reuters
About a month ago I posted some fabulous photos of the Iceland volcano. Well, boston.com did it again: check out these awesome photos of the BP oil spill.
You can download a little application that will allow you, via Google Earth, to overlay the Deepwater Horizon oil spill onto the city of your choice. If that seems like too much work, you can just see some of the results. How does the spill compare to Tokyo? San Francisco? Washington, DC? Duluth?
BP is set to try out a never-before-used technique to capture some of the 210,000 gallons of oil spilling each day from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico. They've built a 4-story "containment dome," and are set to lower it over the punctured riser pipe. If the plan works, oil spewing from the well will collect inside the dome, where ships on the surface can pump it out.
Other crews are burning oil on the water's surface, or collecting it with giant skimmers. And remote operated vehicles near the ocean floor are trying to close valves on the broken wellhead.
A more permanent solution is to drill a relief well next to the damaged one, but that will take a few months.
One website, DeepWaterHorizonResponse.com, combines information from multiple official sources.
Courtesy ARTiFactor Social media techniques are being applied in response to the 2010 BP oil spill disaster. The site is being maintained by British Petroleum, Transocean, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Interior.
Front and center is a Flickr slideshow hosted by U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District External Affairs. In the right column is a list of "latest information" links to news items and also PDFs and Word documents describing dispersants, booms and skimmers, and many "how to ..." tasks like reporting oil soaked wildlife or submitting claims for damages.
I wish to thank ReadWriteWeb for pointing me toward this site.
The site allows you to register for updates. It also provides numbers to call for oiled wildlife, to report oil spill related damage, to report oiled shoreline, to request volunteer information or to submit alternative response technology, services or products.
Courtesy uscgd8 Chemicals known as dispersants are now being used against the ever increasing amount of oil leaking out of a deep water well head. Dispersants help break the larger masses of oil into smaller droplets which will mix into the water. These dispersants are being sprayed onto the surface slicks and are also being injected directly into the oil flowing out almost a mile under the surface.
Officials said that in two tests, that method appeared to be keeping crude oil from rising to the surface. They said that the procedure could be used more frequently once evaluations of its impact on the deepwater ecology were completed. New York Times
Dispersant chemicals contain solvents to assist it in dissolving into and throughout the oil mass and a surfactant which acts like soap. Surfactant molecules have one end that sticks to water and one end that sticks to oil. This, along with wave action, breaks masses of oil into droplets small enough that they stay suspended under water, rather than floating back to the surface.
Such cleanup products can only be used by public authorities responding to an emergency if they are individually listed on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule.
Many of the first dispersants used in the 70s and 80s did show high toxicity to marine organisms. However, today there is a wealth of laboratory data indicating that modern dispersants and oil/dispersant mixtures exhibit relatively low toxicity to marine organisms.
On occasions the benefit gained by using dispersants to protect coastal amenities, sea birds and intertidal marine life may far outweigh disadvantages such as the potential for temporary tainting of fish stocks. ITOPF
Here is a link to one product on their list (Oil Gone Easy Marine S200
According to National Geographic News, "Dispersants only alter the destination of the toxic compounds in the oil." Moving the oil off the surface protects the birds and animals along the shoreline but will increase the oil exposure for fish, shrimp, corals, and oysters. I hate to mention what hurricanes will do to this situation.
Courtesy uscgd8 The costs of a "Drill, Baby, Drill" policy are being measured this week in lives, money, business income, and environmental damage.
BP (British Petroleum) says it is spending $6 million a day to battle a growing oil spill which resulted from a deep water oil rig accident. The oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, worth $560 million, was destroyed. Eleven missing workers are presumed dead. Crude oil continues to flow into the Gulf at about 5000 barrels (210,000 gallons) a day. Fishing and tourism businesses are fearful upon hearing that the oil spill is only a day away.
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