Stories tagged oil spill

May
11
2010

Assorted rubbish may be pumped into the leaking oil well: To make it more fun.
Assorted rubbish may be pumped into the leaking oil well: To make it more fun.Courtesy obiwanjr
You know, when that oil rig went down and started spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, I thought, “What a downer. My reruns of ‘Yes, Dear’ are going to be interrupted with news footage of crying beavers and stuff for months now.”

But then BP came up with that idea for the containment dome, and I thought, “This is so crazy… it just might work. This could be more entertaining than ‘Yes, Dear.’ If such a thing is possible.”

But, no. The dome failed. Petrochemicals and near-freezing ocean water combined to form crystals in the dome, and it didn’t work. And it was super far underwater, so the failure couldn’t even be set to Benny Hill music or anything. Not entertaining.

I was just resigning myself to the fact that such a horrible accident might not actually be funny, when the jokers at BP let slip that they might have another hilarious trick or two up their sleeves. The dome didn’t work? Let’s try a giant “top hat”!

Yes, BP will be sinking a giant top hat onto the leaking oil pipe. It’s not really a top hat, of course; it’s actually a smaller version of Friday’s giant failure. I’m guessing it’s a sort of a bonus joke. But BP claims that the smaller contraption should have better chance of success, except that even if it does work, it won’t work as well as the dome was supposed to. (The dome was supposed to capture something like 85% of the leaking oil. But it captured 0%, so that’s sort of academic. Or, again, a bonus joke.)

And BP even has another plan, a Plan C, if you will, in the works, in case this one flops. Sort of how they filmed the second and third Matrix movies at the same time. According to my sources, the discussion behind plan C went sort of like this:

“So… what does everyone hate?”
“Nazis.”
“Yes, for sure Nazis. What else?”
“Um… oil spills?”
“Correct! Oil spills.”
“Ooh! We should do one of those!”
“No, people hate them. Plus we already have one. So what does everyone like?”
“Top hats.”
“Top hats, obviously. So we should throw one of them in the mix. But, if someone doesn’t like top hats, what do they probably like?”
“Everybody likes… ball pits?”
“Ball pits! Exactly! Let’s do something like that!”
“And tires! Old tires!”
“Yes, old tires too!”

So, in case the top hat doesn’t work, BP is considering injecting the leaking system with golf balls. And old tires. And then they would cap it off with some cement. Oh, right, and there’s this part too:

“What should we call it?
“A ‘junk shot.’ Duh.”
“Oh, my God. Totes perfect.”

And then, I assume, everybody else in the room had to go wash their ears out after hearing the unfortunate term “junk shot.”

Others have warned that such a “junk shot” could have repercussions beyond the phrase appearing in print: damaging the huge valve system at the base of the well could result in oil leaking out even faster—as much as 12 times the current rate.

Performing a junk shot against the flow of oil and the under the pressure at that depth will be extremely challenging, too. According to an expert from Tulane University, such an operation would have to cope with 2,200 pounds per square inch of upward pressure, which would make pumping golf balls and tires down very tricky.

However it turns out, it’s sure to be a barrel of laughs. Or oil. Thousands and thousands of barrels of spilled oil.

(I don’t have any better ideas, by the way. Except not to have a leaking pipeline a mile underwater. But you know what they say about hindsight.)

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?

Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the April 20 explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible. The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana.
Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the April 20 explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible. The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana.Courtesy NASA

CNN's got a spill tracker - watch the slick spread. (You can also view satellite images of the oil spill and see a discussion of just how much oil we're talking about.)

Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the April 20 explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible. The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana.
Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the April 20 explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible. The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana.Courtesy NASA

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.

Here's a video that offers a pretty straightforward explanation of how the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico happened, why it has been so difficult to deal with, and some of the plans that have been proposed to take care of it.
(Good looking out, Matt Q.)

May
03
2010

All your official oil spill info in one place

One website, DeepWaterHorizonResponse.com, combines information from multiple official sources.
Gulf of Mexico  Deepwater Horizon Incident: Screen capture
Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Incident: Screen captureCourtesy 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.

Excellent resource for learning about oil spills

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.

Social Media links

Source

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.

May
02
2010

BP oil spill projection for May 3, 2010
BP oil spill projection for May 3, 2010Courtesy 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

How do chemicals disperse the oil?

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.

Are these chemicals safe?

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

Hard choices

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.

Apr
29
2010

Is deep water drilling worth the cost?

Oil spill advances toward Gulf coast: New overflight map updated 10:00 a.m. April 29, 2010 - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Oil spill advances toward Gulf coast: New overflight map updated 10:00 a.m. April 29, 2010 - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)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.

Ways to fight the 2010 Gulf oil spill

  • Stop the oil flow at the well head with remote-controlled submarines (unsuccessful so far)
  • Drop a dome over the leak and pipe oil to surface vessels (will take 2 to 4 weeks)
  • Drill relief wells to relieve pressure and plug up gushing cavity (will take months)
  • Burn the oil (oil quickly becomes too waterlogged to burn)
  • Stop the oil spill with floating booms and skim oil off surface
  • Use chemicals to make oil mix into the water

What do you think?

Please use our comments feature for news updates, ideas, or opinions.