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Blog item: Oil, Oil Everywhere: Not Just Another Oil Spill, And Far Worse Than Exxon Valdez

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4 comments, last: May-20-2010   Add a comment   Author:  PT (May-14-2010)    Play a Video
Categories: Peak Oil/Gas & Energy Demand, Pollution, Wildlife and Nature

Congressional hearing to investigate the Gulf oil disasterIndependent estimates are now indicating that the oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico may be spreading 70,000 barrels of oil per day, and likely in the 50,000 to 100,000 barrel per day range. Meanwhile, capping of the well, after the failed effort last week, is not an immediate prospect as BP officials outline plans that sound more like a children's game than a scientifically-founded effort.  More about these plans can be seen in the video.

After hearing the controversy about the actual size of the leak, US Congressman Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, has announced that he will be sending a letter shortly to BP asking them for details on how they arrived at the 5,000 barrels per day number that they have been repeating (after initially estimating 1,000 barrels per day as the rate of the leak).  The 5,000 barrels daily equates to 210,000 gallons daily, and is clearly far short of the independent estimates now offered by several scientists.

Most recently, Associate Professor Steve Wereley of Purdue University has predicted that 70,000 barrels of oil per day is much closer to the real number, and said he arrived at that number after spending two hours Thursday analyzing video of a spill using a technique called particle image velocimetry. He indicated that due to margins of error in the method used, the actual leak should be between 56,000 and 84,000 barrels daily.

"You can't say with precision, but you can see there's definitely more coming out of that pipe than people thought. It's definitely not 5,000 barrels a day," Wereley said.

According to CNN, "BP spokesman Mark Proegler said that the company stands by its 5,000 barrels per day estimate. He said the company reached that number using data, satellite images and consultation with the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But there is no way to calculate a definite amount, he said.  'We are focused on stopping the leak and not measuring it,' he said." 

Well, do they have one or two scientists on staff, or can they fund a team of expert outside scientists, who can also look into the size of the leak, since that will certainly affect the type of response that BP and other responsible parties need to offer?  Or is that asking too much of the oil giant and its partners?  According to many reports, BP has had a far higher rate of serious oil drilling accident than its colleague companies, although there is good evidence that the CEO of the last three years, Tony Hayward, has been trying to move the company in a better direction; apparently that effort had not reached this oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP said on Thursday, May 13th that it would attempt to insert a new section of pipe into the riser of its damaged undersea well to capture the leaking oil.  Meanwhile, every day there are sad revelations of the neglect visited upon all of us by the trio of BP, Halliburton, and Transocean.  In hearings and in media statements, they are busily pointing fingers at each other, while it has become clear that pervasive neglect by all three in both drilling and in safety equipment management, over a period of years, is the only way to explain this disastrous loss of life and damage to the ecosphere.

Aside from the errors made while drilling the well, which led to the methane gas explosion on April 20th, the list of malfunctions on the blowout preventer, the device intended to quickly stop oil leaks when accidents occur, is shocking.  These include a non-functioning battery (nobody bothered to check its voltage level until after the leak started), test equipment being used instead of live equipment, extra pipes being put in place that blocked a shear device meant to slide over a blowout, a control panel that had been rewired incorrectly, a long-term hydraulic fluid leak that weakened the potential response by the blowout preventer, and other failures in a system that has five levels of safety options, all of which have failed.

The oil leak started with a deadly explosion on April 20th, and certainly appears headed for a new world record oil spill, if it has not already reached that level based on the Purdue and other non-BP estimates of the leak.  The southern shore of the United States is most immediately at risk, but due to the highly toxic nature of raw oil, the ocean itself may be feeling the effects of this series of blunders and calculated safety omissions, for a long, long time.

I am saddened by these events and appalled at the theme of corporate negligence and impunity.  I can only hope that society as a whole and our government, all asleep at the switch, will now implement substantial consequences based on this tragic event, starting with a renewed ban on off-shore drilling and an increased and vigorous effort to develop domestic, renewable, and CLEAN energy sources.  I also ask whether it is demanding too much of our government to make these three corporations and others that have responsibility, truly and financially, and perhaps criminally, feel their responsibility for what has happened and what will happen to the people and wildlife of the southern United States and to the planet as a whole.

Related PlanetThoughts.org reading:
  Fukushima Disaster Contaminated Ocean With 50 Mi... (Dec-16-2011)
  Peak Oil - The Clear And Present Danger (Jul-3-2011)
  Up To 80% Of BP Oil Still In The Gulf, Say Scien... (Aug-19-2010)
  The Greening Of Labor Day (Jul-1-2010)
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  Apocalypse In The Gulf Now (Oil) & Next (Nukes) (Jun-9-2010)
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  A Lethal Concentration (Jun-2-2010)

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Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (May-20-2010)   Web site
It sounds like using talc would 1) require adding another kind of contamination, since millions of barrels of oil have escaped, and 2) might deplete the entire national talc supply.

Not all the oil is floating... it seems they could have tried a "top kill" weeks ago, but I don't know enough about why they delayed. Maybe to get their legal case in order...
  
Comment by: Jerome Goodwin (May-20-2010)   


I have a solution to the oil spill but have been unable to get any response from BP, the EPA or any branch of the Government (Louisiana State or Federal).

Step 1. For clean up
Spread powdered talc on the slick it will clump and sink. I have tried it and it works.

Step 2. To prevent further contamination.
Place a very large Cloth Teepee, weighted on the corners to hold it down, over the leak with room to work under it. Because oil floats it will collect the oil. A cloth tube out of the top would carry oil to a surface buoy valve where it can be collected and loaded on ships.

Step 3. Instead of placing a tube in the pipe, place a rubber lined sleeve around the pipe and clamp it in place. With a valve or controlled opening on the sleeve to control the amount of oil escaping until a permanent solution is in place.

These steps will stop the spread with out major expenditure and is easier than what they are trying now.
  
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (May-16-2010)   Web site

Good point. Maybe you or I should do some research and write an article on the fossil fuel industry as seen in other parts of the world.
  
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (May-15-2010)   Web site

If this is what oil companies are getting away with close to the Mississippi Delta, I wonder what more they may be doing (for example) in the Niger Delta. If public oversight of the oil industry in the United States is poor, how much worse could it be in Nigeria?

This oil spill has the capacity to become really huge if the well is not capped. It will affect the United States, Mexico, Cuba and probably other countries as well. But I think part of the reason for the huge publicity surrounding it is its location. Worse things happen elsewhere in the world and we barely even notice.

  
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About author/contributor Member: PT (David Alexander) PT (David Alexander)
   Web site: http://www.PlanetThoughts.org

Member: PT (David Alexander) In 2006 I started building the PlanetThoughts.org Web site to raise awareness of environmental issues, but I have been in the software field since 1978, working primarily on healthcare-related and not-for-profit organizations, but also for some general commercial companies. I have also long been a supporter of environmental causes.

I am an enthusiastic Tai Chi Chuan practitioner and teacher. This helps balance my brain after sitting at a screen for hours at a time, and lends some balance to life.

In early 2006 global warming and other environmental and energy challenges, as well as escalating wars in numerous locations, became central to my understanding of issues that our whole planet faces, and I wanted to do something with my skills to spread awareness and understanding of environment and energy issues, as well as discuss better philosophies of living, for greater satisfaction beyond consumerism.
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