NASA Satellite Tracking the Gulf Oil Spill

From NASA news:

satellite image of gulf oil spill

See inset view below.

satellite image of  gulf oil spill On April 29, the MODIS image on the Terra satellite captured a wide-view natural-color image of the oil slick (outlined in white) just off the Louisiana coast. The oil slick appears as dull gray interlocking comma shapes, one opaque and the other nearly transparent. Sunglint — the mirror-like reflection of the sun off the water — enhances the oil slick’s visibility. The northwestern tip of the oil slick almost touches the Mississippi Delta. Credit: NASA/Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center MODIS Direct Broadcast system.

› Larger image

NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites are helping the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keep tabs on the extent of the recent Gulf oil spill with satellite images from time to time. NOAA is the lead agency on oil spills and uses airplane fly-overs to assess oil spill extent.

A semisubmersible drilling platform called the Deepwater Horizon located about 50 miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta experienced a fire and explosion at approximately 11 p.m. CDT on April 20. Subsequently, oil began spilling out into the Gulf of Mexico and efforts to contain the spill continue today. NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellite imagery has captured the spill in between cloudy days.

NOAA used data from the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument from the Terra satellite on April 26, 27 and 29 to capture the extent of the oil spill, which measured 600-square-miles. The MODIS instrument flies aboard both the Terra and Aqua satellites.

satellite image of  gulf oil spill This satellite image from NASA’s Terra satellite on April 27 at 12:05 CDT shows the outline and extent of the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. The red dot represents the platform. The coasts of Mississippi and Alabama appear at the top of the image. Credit: NOAA/NASA

› Larger image In the satellite image from April 27 at 12:05 p.m. CDT the MODIS image showed that the oil slick was continuing to emanate from the spill location. Individual slicks lay just north of 29 degrees and zero minutes north, where they have been noted in the days before. Oil had spread further east and the edge of the slick passed 87 degrees and 30 minutes west compared to the MODIS image taken on April 26. The April 26 satellite image came from NASA’s Aqua satellite.

On April 29, the MODIS image on the Terra satellite captured a natural-color image of the oil slick just off the Louisiana coast. The oil slick appeared as dull gray interlocking comma shapes, one opaque and the other nearly transparent. The northwestern tip of the oil slick almost touches the Mississippi Delta.

Deepwater Horizon had more than120 crew aboard and contained an estimated to 17,000 barrels of oil (700,000 gallons) of number two fuel oil or marine diesel fuel.

Today, April 30, NOAA declared the Deepwater Horizon incident “a Spill of National Significance (SONS).” A SONS is defined as, “a spill that, due to its severity, size, location, actual or potential impact on the public health and welfare or the environment, or the necessary response effort, is so complex that it requires extraordinary coordination of federal, state, local, and responsible party resources to contain and clean up the discharge” and allows greater federal involvement. NOAA’s estimated release rate of oil spilling into the Gulf is estimated at 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day based on surface observations and reports of a newly discovered leak in the damaged piping on the sea floor.

NOAA reported on April 29 that dispersants are still being aggressively applied to the oil spill and over 100,000 gallons have been applied. NOAA’s test burn late yesterday was successful and approximately 100 barrels of oil were burned in about 45 minutes. NOAA is flying planes over the area and using NASA satellite imagery from the Terra and Aqua satellites to monitor the spill.

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131 thoughts on “NASA Satellite Tracking the Gulf Oil Spill

  1. The “greens” and “alternative energy” folks will be all over this like oil on a seagull.
    It is a terrible disaster. The drilling technology (which I have read some details about) is impressive, but it seems it was a matter of time before something would happen.
    As !#$%! Albertan with those despicable “tar sands” this will make us look good. Sort of kidding. And sort of not kidding.
    I sincerely hope this can be cleaned up with minimal loss of flora and fauna…one suspects that’s unlikely. Good luck.
    Clive

  2. The “greens” and “alternative energy” folks will be all over this like oil on a seagull.
    Right now, that seems like a strange thing to worry about.

  3. I knew the cries that there would be no leak was premature. I still what to know about the 11 men that have not been killed when the the thing started. I have not read but would not be surprised that the fail safes worked but when the platform sank it broke the cap.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Anthony. I’ve been following this story in the past couple of days with grim despond, given my interest in fisheries and marine life. How can this gusher be capped? I’m hoping to learn something from the engineers who frequent this site. The only bright side to this is that Obama now has a chance to screw up as badly as Bush did on the environmental disaster front. There’s something about Louisiana….

  5. I remember that after several past disasters of this sort (maybe in the 1970s?), safety gear was developed that would shut off the flow of oil at the ocean floor in the event of a break at the platform or on the way up to it. The idea of having the device at the ocean floor was that whatever happened to the platform could not affect it. I thought such precautions were required — perhaps even with redundancy — so the fact that a large spill occurred raises questions. Were the devices in use? Were they damaged somehow? But I have not seen any discussion of such questions in the news.

  6. I can see good reason to be concerned, but at the same time this image shows the media coverage to be more than hyperbolic.

  7. BOP (Blow Out Preventor) failed. Blowouts happen. They were a mile down, under tremendous pressure. It was BP. They mess up a lot. Especially at Depths. They’ve got half of Thunderhorse shut down, replacing one of the manifolds on the ocean floor. Bad welds, it seems. (Metallurgical Cracks.) They’ve been fined repeatedly, and are on probation in the North Sea. They messed up at Prudhoe Bay.
    A Lot of things can go wrong when you’re a mile down. Some are Catastrophic. This slick could end up shutting down all oil imports to the Gulf. That would mean tapping the SPR, and, quite possibly, “Rationing.”
    It “could” cost us a Trillion Dollars.

  8. This whole thing makes me sick. I love to fish for specs and red fish in the LA marsh, a truly unique habitat. For the most part oil exploration is beneficial to the fish. The shell beds and wrecks from old oil platforms are the best places to fish. They provide spawning areas and places for the fish to hang out just like an artificial reef. I also think the evidence is quite clear that oil is a bio-derived product of one sort or another and for the most part will be re-incorporated into the biosphere…..eventually. Most living things are after all sacs of hydrocarbons. In the mean time my fishing is wrecked. The locals who depend on shell fish and shrimp for their living will suffer. They are just now making a small come back after Katrina. To say nothing of the loss of life on the platform.
    It is amazing what an ecosystem can adapt to. Just visit Yellowstone if you don’t believe me. I saw an ecosystem that had adapted to effluent that the EPA would put you in jail for discharging from a mining operation. The difference is the Yellowstone ecosystem has had time to become sympatico with the discharge. Sudden shocks to an existing system are however, problematic. This oil spill is a sudden shock.
    As an engineer I find the absence of a sea bed shutoff puzzling. In many countries this is required. Was this a business decision based on cost? What is the cost of disrupting one of the most productive US fisheries and dumping oil all over major tourist areas? IMHO BP should bear the cost for this decision. What is the damage to all the property, fishing lease, and business owners along the gulf? How does that compare to the cost of a sea bed shutoff? What sort of insurance settlement is due…..what does the insurance company think of the lack of an existing technology that could prevent this? The gov will posture….but don’t they regulate this kind of thing? Why didn’t they require sea bed shutoffs? Who makes the most money off of a gallon of gas?
    The oil and gas industry makes a large effort at safety, and they have billions of dollars at risk in capital investment. I know for a fact this kind of thing is not taken lightly. Why at THIS time after decades of accident free operation (including massive hurricanes) did this happen? Why on a rig with no shutoff? Why in such a way as to cause such a mess when we were just about to open more domestic production? Lots of questions….timing is suspicious.
    I have not been able to have my usual winter mental health fishing trips, because the fish have not been biting this year due to the extreme cold water temp (caused I’m sure to global warming), now it could be many years before I get the opportunity to fish in this magnificent place again. I’ll also be joining you paying more than I should at the pump.
    Cui Bono?
    Not I, nor you.
    Monty

  9. Today they closed the Louisiana Capline offshore crude terminal (off of St. James) due to the spill (likely do not want tankers spreading the spill and fire risk on the water). This is where crude oil import tankers tie up to unload for the Louisiana area refineries. Gasoline is up another 5 cents today wholesale.

  10. “3. What is being done to stop the leak?
    For the last several days, BP has been trying to use sub-sea robots, operating at 5,000 feet below the surface, to engage the blowout preventer and turn off the flow, which seems to amount to about 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) per day. With each day that passes, the chance of this working would seem to go down. If the blow out preventer didn’t activate properly originally, and hasn’t engaged during past attempts by robots, why would a new attempt work any better?
    There are two alternative approaches BP is using to cutting off the flow. One approach is to drill a second well to intercept the first well, and inject a special heavy fluid to cut off the flow. Workers will then permanently seal the first well. This procedure is expected to take several months.
    The other approach is designing and fabricating an underwater collection device (dome) that would trap escaping oil near the sea floor and funnel it for collection. According to NOAA, this approach has been used successfully in shallower water but never at this depth (approximately 5,000 feet). NOAA reports construction of such a dome has already begun. ”
    from http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6407
    Note that this was from several days ago, when the volume of the leak was being underestimated. If the BOP can’t be triggered, this leak will continue for some time until one of the methods cited can be executed.

  11. As much as I support keeping us out of the Stone Age with intermediary hydrocarbons, this is a worst-case scenario, and the blame should be placed squarely on BP.
    If they have the technology to drill at 5000 feet, then they should have had mechanisms in place to immediately cap these wells at the depths and backup procedures beyond that.
    It is now revealed that no adequate such precautions were taken, apparently because an event like this is so rare.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_louisiana_oil_rig_explosion
    My point is “to much that has been given, much is required.”
    In other words, if a company is to profit off of mining hydrocarbons out of the oceans, then that same company must bear the risk and the responsibility for ensuring disaster prevention.
    And they must bear the responsibility for cleaning up and compensating for the disaster.
    It really is a shame…this event…because technology is available to provide for all contingencies in case of an emergency.
    And now whole ecosystems are going to suffer at the cheapskate lack of planning of one particular opportunistic species.
    This is not a proud day for homo sapiens.
    Chris
    Norfolk Virginia USA

  12. They showed today what apparently is a small sub working on the drill head safety device on the ocean floor.
    Why not go down there with a jaws device and pinch the pipe off?
    Turn the valve the other way. Attach a plug, cap, something onto the head.
    Do something.
    On the Media Side:
    We still have not heard a word about what happened out there.
    Where’s the interviews?
    When there’s an accident at a coal mine, they are all over it.
    On the command side of things:
    NOAA’s quip about ‘leaking faster than previously thought’ was not exaclty an in comand statement.
    The biggest shocker yesterday was watching the head of Homeland Security attempt to speak.
    Looked about ready to pass out. Hope not. If I were to read her expression as to cause of accident…
    Suffice to say the D.H.S. and Dept. of Interior are conducting a full investigation, which probably means
    we won’t catch a news break there.
    Too bad they can’t shut the leak down as fast as they shut the media down on what went on.
    The only person I have seen who appears to be in command of thier nerves is the Read Admiral.
    Everyone else looks lost or confused.
    I didn’t know we had Women Admirals.

  13. I have talked with engineers familiar with the situation. Right now, it is hard to fathom exactly what happened, given the operations that were going on. The media is giving the wrong impression that there were no safety precautions. That is not true. What was lacking was a remote shut off system- operated from off the platform with some sort of telemetry – a system that is generally not used in US waters & only required in Brazil & Norway, I believe. That lacking equipment is generally not deployed because there are already multiple redundant systems in place already. The fact that they all failed apparently is what has people I have talked to most puzzled. This includes something called a “dead man” switch – which is literally a panic button – hit it & run like hell & an automatic system is supposed to shut the well in. From what I have heard, the dead man switches were not even activated, so what ever happened, happened extremely quickly & probably without warning. That in & of itself is very odd. I have been involved in drilling a well which blew out ( see http://www.sjgs.com/gushers.html – lost hills section & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Hills_Oil_Field) & when things go wrong, you usually have warning. In the case of I was involved in, the crew has 12 hours between when problems were detected & the well blew out. Because of this, all the crew was kept safe – thank God. Clearly, what ever happened here, happened so fast that no one could react to set any of the safety devices into action. That is why people I have talked to are scratching their heads – it just doesn’t fit with how these things generally unfold.
    For those not familiar with oilfield operations, you need to understand how seriously HSE (aka Health, Safety & Environment) is taken. Oilfield work is deadly serious & every company wants to do everything they can to prevent even minor incidents. Awards are given as major time anniversaries without incidents are made. No operation starts with out a safety briefing. Safety drills are run regularly. Safety equipment is tested regularly. And this is at no small cost. A rig like the one that blew up was probably running in the vicinity of $500,000 per day to run. So if you spend 4 hours or so doing a test of your safety equipment, you might be burning $50-100k. So, I cant emphasize enough how seriously safety is taken on rig operations. It is unfortunate that some in the media are characterizing this as the operator being negligent. There is nothing to suggest that at all.
    You can already see the makings on punative treatment of the industry coming. Unfortunately, it will be the public who will ultimately pay. If new drilling in the offshore is shut down indefinitely, this will have a significant impact on domestic production, which in general will equate to lower supply & higher costs. As significant though is that there are whole swaths of the industry which may be wiped out as they have built their entire businesses around the Gulf Of Mexico. This could put a lot of people with high paying jobs out on the street, which will be a drag on the overall economy.
    Someone asked about this thing can be capped – in the short term I have heard they may basically put a dome over it with a pipe to the surface, so that the flow of oil will be contained & could be put onto barges – basically keeping it from continuing to flow into the water. I have heard that could take up to 2 weeks. The most likely scenario for a long term solution is drilling a relief well, where they will drill a second well & intercept the blowout well & capture all it’s flow into the undamaged new well bore. This is amazing technology – but would probably take up to 3 months from what I understand to drill this well (reservoir is at 18,000 ft from what I have heard). I heard today that BP has already deployed a rig to the scene for that purpose.

  14. I want to re-emphasize to all here questioning the safety equipment involved here. The media is leading you astray (not unlike they do with AGW). The equipment was INDUSTRY STANDARD. They had blow preventers & multiple redundant systems to activate. They were running regular safety tests & drills. They were not being cheapskates as one poster suggested. What they lacked is non-standard remotely operated device which could be used in a situation like this. Again, this is non-industry standard equipment. But of course, that is all the media has focused on, giving many the impression that BP must be negligent or cheapskates or whatever other negative connotation you want to drum up.
    There also appears to be some confusion by some on the depth – the sea floor depth is at 5,000 ft (= water depth), but the hydrocarbons are coming from a reservoir at 18,000 ft (=13,000 ft below the sea floor)

  15. Oil is organic. It’s biodegradable; a natural product that contains no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. What’s the problem here? You would think the environments would love it!

  16. I heard a man that survived the explosion say today it could take 30 days to cap off the oil and gas leaks. It’s 5000 feet underwater where the work has to be done. It’s difficult working that deep.

  17. Nowhere in media reports is any mention of the largest spill in US waters – the 590,000 barrels spilled by German Uboats along the mid-Atlantic coast in 1942.
    If anyone is interested the National Academy’s Oil in the Sea, Inputs, Fates and Effects provides a good overview http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309084385
    Within this report is this caution -written in bold type- that every news agency should heed “The reader is therefore strongly cautioned against inferring impacts from the mass loading rates.”
    (Impacts are a function of the crude type, distance offshore, temperature, weather, habitat impacted etc, etc, etc.)
    The Valdez is also the absolutely wrong comparison— the Ixtoc blowout is a much better comparison. (Valdez was a heavier crude, cold water, near shore)
    Literature says Gulf marshes rebound in a few months to a few years from large spills. Keep that in mind when you hear some of the interviews.

  18. Monty, I believe they have a sea floor BOP and it has failed or has partly failed. I was talking to some of the people at Safety Boss in Calgary. They have lots of experience on land but not any at these water depths. What is puzzling to them and me was why they were so aggressive in trying to put the rig fire out in the first place. I appears they sunk the thing with water, trying to save the asset. On land, for example in H2S wells, we let it burn. At least the fall out from that is less damaging. The fuel and crude on the rig (and any subsequent leaks) were already on fire. I suspect the 11 missing are still on the rig, probably never got off.
    As far as I know this is the first time something this deep has gone bad. The BOP and wellhead technology is new, state of the art. I guess that state is not as advanced as thought. I wonder if the designs were developed from untested models?

  19. This comment by Salazar shows he has no clue what happens to oil following a spill.”We cannot rest, and we will not rest, until BP seals the wellhead, and until they clean up every drop of oil.” Leaving aside the fact that the largest fraction of oil evaporates and then is photochemically degraded– my big concern for the coast may be the government taking actions that look good politically but do far more harm than good. Many studies show the greatest damage of an oil spill in near shore habitats were the cleanup activities. Listening to some of the talk coming out of Washington they are going to turn the cleanup into a spectacle– and that could be worse than the spill.
    This comment instilled a lot of confidence: “It is of grave concern,” David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. “I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling.” Seems just the guy you want in charge.

  20. Why is the piping damaged on the sea floor?How does that happen?It couldn’t be pressure on the pipes because it seems like the oil has been flowing freely.Perhaps they cut corners building it?I guess it’s no good speculating,but I can’t believe any company is prepared to take that sort of risk these days.Seems like the shut off requirements were not good enough.Why?The computer models must have let them down on that one.

  21. It really bothers me the way folks get so upset about what is a minor leak of a single well. It is no different than accepting a certain number of car crashes as the cost of owning cars. We don’t talk about blaming Ford every time someone crashes one of their cars nor do we think Ford should be stopped from making cars. Accidents happen, in everything. Get some perspective, learn from this incident and keep moving forward.
    Oil has been leaking out of the ground naturally for tens of thousands of years at least, nature can handle it and nature recovers.

  22. rbateman says:
    April 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm
    “They showed today what apparently is a small sub working on the drill head safety device on the ocean floor.
    Why not go down there with a jaws device and pinch the pipe off?
    Turn the valve the other way. Attach a plug, cap, something onto the head.
    Do something.”
    Perhaps they should turn to you to enlighten them?
    Drill pipe, from memory, is about 4.5 inch diameter with .75 in wall thickness. A large work-class ROV has about 100 HP and a limited weight-carrying capacity. How are you going to get the “jaws” of sufficient size down there and into position? In addition, the oil will be coming up (at a rate of 145 USG per minute) from the conductor, which could be any of a variety of sizes up to 42″. How are you going to get “jaws” round that? And if you did, do you think a (say) 36″ steel conductor filled with concrete and drilled out to (say) 24″ is likely to form a reasonable seal?
    Like most of us, I too would like to read some details of exactly what went wrong, but I suspect most people on site have better things to do just at the moment. It does seem the BOP (Blowout Preventer Stack) must have failed in some way, since its purpose is to shear through the drill string and seal off the well and, AFAIK, it should fail safe.
    Anent the slick, it looks horrifying, but is mostly very thin and the net flow over the delta wetlands is, naturally, outwards. The currents in the Gulf are primarily to the East, gathering speed as they approach the choke point between Florida and Cuba and then squirting out into the Atlantic, where they could threaten the Bahamas and possibly Bermuda. Of rather greater importance for pollution is the wind, since that can blow the slick anywhere. All the time it is at sea the lighter fractions are evaporating and reducing the size of the slick.
    To my mind the greatest risk is twofold: the political desire to “Do Something” which causes the use of dispersants which as we have seen in Europe guarantees enormous damage to wildlife because the dispersants themselves are toxic and they cause the oil, otherwise confined to the surface, to mix downwards. The second is the shoals of lawyers already circling. The list of officials and organisations involved does not bode well, given that they are all trying to make their names and get on TV.
    The only cheering thought is that it will almost certainly not be nearly so bad as is being touted. I recall being in the Persian Gulf at the time of the first great US sales drive, when the late unlamented Saddam Hussein set fire to the Kuwaiti olifields. Newsweek had a graphic showing the entire gulf filled with a slick. Curiously, it only started about ten miles from the coasts, which accounted neatly for no-one on the ground being able to see anything. It turned out of course that the heavy crude had lost all its volatiles, absorbed sand blown off the land and sunk, to be gratefully received by sundry bacteria which ate it. Anyone tried dusting the slick with dry soil?

  23. I endorse JeffL’s points. I too have spent (too) much time moving rigs into position and HSE is the tightest and most keenly observed anywhere.

  24. Guys n Gals,
    A little subject matter expertise if I may, working for Evil Oil as I do, and being a driller as a technical discipline.
    The BOPs (Blow Out Preventers) failed to operate at seabed, which in itself is unusual and as others have speculated must have been because the blowout was so rapid – this in itself is also a very unusual occurrence because of the depth of investigation of the well at the time, it has been quoted as being 18k ft (not abnormally deep). However, this was an exploration well which entails that there may have been a modicum of unknown abut formation types/depths and more importantly, pressures.
    Even still, a major kick (where the formation invades the hole in an uncontrolled manner but hasn’t yet made it to surface) “normally” is seen at surface by multiple systems by the change in well characteristics e.g. displacement of drilling fluids back to surface caused by Bubble Equation type expansion over multiple minutes.
    The BOPs come with the rig and are the responsibility of the rig and the rig is on hire from Transocean. A BP insider has told me that this specific rig was the safest 6th generation rig in BPs fleet of hired-on drill rigs and of other operators in the GoM.
    A little geometrical analysis of a well to get some perspective:
    The well at blowout time was in the surface casing phase, this means that a section of shallow hole had been drilled, probably (and this is pure supposition at this moment) 18 5/8″ casing or even 13 3/8″ (the latter would be my guess at 18k ft total well depth) This would mean that there was no drill string anywhere near any open hole section where this hydrocarbon influx came from which immediately makes the well kill operation very difficult. The BOP system would however, been deigned to mitigate this.
    The BOPs are located over the wellbore at seabed and have at least three high pressure containment systems, the annular preventer, basically a big rubber sack that closes around the wellbore at approx 10-15k psi, a blind ram, two crushing elements that ” crimp” any metal inside the annulus or if none present provide a barrier and below them, the final and Armageddon option, the shear rams which do what it says on the tin. The BOPs are activated by pressurised control lines from the drill floor or automatically at seabed if communication to these are severed (this is the dead mans hand which is not a requirement in US water)
    There is one phase of casing operations where the BOPs are dismantled, when the previous open drilled hole section has been drilled to a set depth, cased in metal and cemented off successfully, but as we know they had pipe in the hole this phase had not been reached.
    From now on, and information even from a direct GoM BP source, data gets flaky. The well may have been running or tripping casing, we don’t know. From here we know several things. The well was in a casing event following closely on from drilling a section of well that apparently contained hydrocarbons. These may not have been present at the time the hole was drilled or may have communicated from one formation to another after drilling. The well kicked, the BOPs failed to close and are still failing even with direct seabed ROV intervention. The well was not shut in and a blow out occurred, wholly uncontrolled, at immense speed and deadly. Very unusual.
    Until we get more detail of phase, depth, hydrocarbon type, etc all we can go on is the information held above on what we do know the rig was doing and what happens in other wells. Let’s not speculate until we have the facts. WUWT readers have this quality in spades.

  25. One commenter questioned the media’s apparent lack of curiosity pertaining to specifics of the event. I have observed about the same thing and have a nagging back-of-the-brain speculation about it. Forgive me for dumping my wild imaginations here:
    Seems highly unlikely, but what are the chances that they’re holding back a story that doesn’t fit “the narrative”? This seems an increasing MSM behavior on various “politically sensitive” issues.
    As the story currently unfolds it fits nicely into the anti-carbon, anti-big-oil narrative. Given that this is the slant MSM would apparently prefer, one wonders why we are not deluged with detail. Could it be that the details are “inconvenient”, or that rumors are circulating among investigative reporters of another possible bad guy, and they don’t want to jump the gun with a story that will embarrass them later?
    I’m thinking, of course, of enviro-terrorists. Here in Canada we’ve seen numerous attempts or threats aimed at oil pipelines. One wonders why an environmentalist group might want to HARM the environment in the name of their cause. One wonders about a lot of things that go on in their heads. But “environmentalism” these days seems to not really be that much about the environment, and to some groups like Greenpeace it has transmogrified into a mortal battle against a perceived, definable enemy. I can’t see Greenpeace blowing up an oil platform, though they like to play high seas chicken and large-scale vandalism has become routine for them. But wasn’t it James Hansen a while ago speaking in approving terms about an ecoterrorist attack against a coal-fired power plant? I guess the thought is that if they can push the environmental damage of “evil big oil” far enough and in a dramatic enough way then they can win support for environmental constraints. (In their minds) a small disaster to forestall much larger apocalyptic disaster. Or if this turns out to be the case this time, I could see such a group believing in the failsafe mechanisms or believing there was a working BOP, and so underestimating the risk of catastrophe. Or a someone plotting a “little explosion”, to cripple the evil industrial monstrosity, not realising that it would trigger a much larger reaction. I can think of several plausible scenarios…

  26. Clive says: The “greens” and “alternative energy” folks will be all over this like oil on a seagull.
    Clive, if as I suspect, this refocuses the Greens on oil and not CO2 then I will feel I have achieved my objectives as a “sceptic”.
    For me the biggest lie of “manmade warming” was in the statement “if we continue consuming fossil fuels as we are” (i,e, at an exponentially increasing rate). For me this was the bizarrest statement anyone could make because, whilst we do not know exactly when (a huge crime in itself) we do know that the primary transportation fuel of oil is going to run out before even the worst predictions of warming gave us even mildly worrying warming.
    Basically the reason I’m so contemptuous of the Greens and climategate shamsters is that they were telling everyone: “there is so much fossil fuel that the biggest problem in the whole world is an insignificant bit of warming. Which is really saying: “the worst the future holds is less winter cold”.
    I remember the 1970s oil shock, and that was real. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see the typical “45micro-meters of sea level rise” type scare we have now is totally absolutely completely utterly ridiculous. An oil crisis would be catastrophic – indeed it is arguable the oil crisis has already started and the recent financial crisis was us entering the foothills triggered by an oil price rise over $100/barrel.
    Oil is literally the fuel of our western society. When it runs out (supply failing to meet demand and dramatic market instability), there will never again be such an easily low-cost energy-dense form of energy supply and storage for transportation. As we move to more and more difficult supplies for oil, the cost of oil will rise, that in turn will increase the cost of energy generally and because food production is so heavily dependant on fossil fuels (farm machinery, fertilisers, pesticides, transportation fuel) the cost of food worldwide will increase and worldwide food production will decrease.
    Now it doesn’t take a genius to work out that e.g. a 10% reduction in world food supply means around 10% of the world won’t be able to afford the cost of living … they will die. 6billion x 10% is 600million people facing death by starvation. As oil input is about 50% of the energy out from a typical western farm without external energy from fossil fuel, your typical farm will see a 50% reduction in output if it tries to grow its own energy to run the farm!
    So, not only will the “rich” nations be desperately nudging each other out the way to get their hands on the remaining oil supplies and getting pretty grumpy in the process, hundreds of millions of the poorest will be pretty upset with their lot and willing to help those who might e.g. see the “West” as a legitimate target.
    And, unlike global warming which is a “optional extra” which governments can “opt into” if and when they think their electorate might support it (i.e. never). The end of oil, isn’t an optional extra. When (or if) it happens, it happens whether or not the politicians sit down in Jokenhagen to discuss whether they want oil to end.
    So if this giant oil spill focusses the Greens on the real problem of oil and gets them off the imaginary problem of manmade warming. And if that then causes the politicians to seriously plan how our western economies are going to cope with reducing oil supplies and get them to face the fact that there is no magic bullet solution to energy and we have got to plan to live with the energy forms we have now and not imagine someone can “invent” us out of this problem and if that means we don’t end up going into another massive oil crisis with no realistic plan B except getting that oil by hook or (nuclear) crook, then this oil spill could be the best thing that has ever happened to the West!

  27. R Craigon, sudden explosions at sensitive sites does rather raise the specter of terrorism, but I haven’t heard that the FBI has come out and declared there is “No evidence of terroris” … which leads me to believe that terrorism is not, in fact, involved.

  28. Look, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy will be analysed to the nth degree in coming weeks.
    The important thing is the failure of numerous triple-redundancy shut-down systems on the rig, together with failure of the simplest OHS modules like the “dead man’s” switch.
    None of the safety measures were activated, which leads one to the conclusion that the catastrophic fireball (200″ high) was fatal towards any human intervention.
    We live and learn, and Rest in Peace and God-Speed the deceased missing crew of 11. This tragedy is far more serious than it should have been.

  29. R. Craigen
    Your idea of eco-terrorism fits in the same place as deliberate demolition of the twin towers. This is something that was always on the cards. All of us who have worked in the oil industry know the corners they cut. Yes, all safety measures are in place, but I remember the cheap, case-hardened, custard-core materials, poor knowledge of heat treatments and welding tech, minimal stress analysis, minimal testing in real-life situations and the hellish time pressure put on engineers by clueless managers, who all seem to get promoted by backstabbling, asslicking, authoritarian ignorance. Firefighting, ie fixing problems after rather than thinking about them before, is common . Despite all the pretense they routinely send stuff offshore that is not 100% right and just hope for the best. Blow out preventers have never been my favourite technology – they always seemed to have jutting bits of steel that cut through the seals of anything that went through them. You have to design shields especially to protect your seals and sometimes they get stuck too.

  30. The above comments are all speculation, in the drilling industry there are safety precautions upon safety precautions, it is the most safety regulated industry bar none, but, with 1,000 precautions in place, there is always 1.001.

  31. R Craigen : I also formulated this same conspiracy theory in my head, but I don’t think it does anyone any good to speculate like this without a shred of evidence, especially when men have already died. This looks like, and is being reported as, an accident on a drilling rig, which, as others have already posted, is a highly dangerous place to be in the first place. I think we should keep the conspiracy theories and eco-terrorists for books like “state of fear”, unless some real evidence of wrongdoers surfaces.

  32. R. Craigen says:
    May 1, 2010 at 12:32 am
    Sorry, but I have to say that the only part of that post I could accept was “Seems highly unlikely…”

  33. Mr Black says: (May 1, 2010 at 12:01 am) It really bothers me the way folks get so upset about what is a minor leak of a single well. It is no different than accepting a certain number of car crashes as the cost of owning cars. […] Accidents happen, in everything. Get some perspective, learn from this incident and keep moving forward.
    I agree, Mr Black, but doubt the “perspective” you suggest will prevail against the glorious doom so beloved by powerful vested interests to whom a bird in the oil is worth two in the air. (And that probably undervalues the oilybird by a factor of thousands.)
    This leak is a gift to weepers and wailers everywhere. It must not be wasted.
    (My sympathy to the families of those who died. R. I. P.)

  34. rbateman says:
    April 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    The only person I have seen who appears to be in command of thier nerves is the Read Admiral.
    Everyone else looks lost or confused.
    I didn’t know we had Women Admirals.

    You obviously did not meet Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper
    I actually listened to one of her talks. Quite a speaker.
    She was the second or third COBOL programmer in the world.
    She was there when the first “bug” in a computer was found.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_bug
    Maybe we need more female admirals?

  35. I’m going to throw this out there: how many of you have considered the possability that a militant enviro group like Earth First is responsible for this? The timing is unbelievably convenient. I have never heard of one of these things blowing up like this. Yes, they have accidents and fires, but I’ve never heard of one blowing up and sinking. And here we have one just days after Obama announces an expansion of off shore drilling. I, of course, have zero evidence to back this up, other than a healthy disdain for environmental terrorist groups…

  36. ScottR says:
    April 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm
    Scott. apparently they did have such safety gear at the bottom, but it didn’t work – possibly because the rig above blew up and sank before it could be activated. I await the investigation

  37. Thanks for posting Anthony, facts far out way the hysteria of the “volcano ash cloud” lame stream agenda driven media.
    It’s quite plausible that there is a reason there have been few ‘accidents’ of this magnitude — We know what the weather underground and Obama buddy Bill Ayers did to try and end the Vietnam war. Aren’t we now seeing plenty of people worldwide “try and end carbon based fuels”, using scientific scams, other nefarious ways, lies and obfuscation. Here is where I am at — I simply wonder why the FBI hasn’t launched a massive investigation, hasn’t called aside everyone involved with the drill rig, and ask some very pertinent questions. It would seem that if anything warranted a widescale complete criminal investigation, this is it. Surely it pales in comparison to the show trials of GS and the attempts to lay blame of the financial meltdown on anybody but the cause, the government, Fannie and Freddie.
    I do believe there was a time when we all felt al Qaeda had access to scuba gear, small drug subs. Billion dollar oil rigs and the economic chaos sinking a huge deep water rig would cause — Hey who thought the planes were coming, before 9/11.
    And surely we know governments everywhere wouldn’t be trying to scam people out of their access to energy resources, don’t we.
    History has taught us, disasters have uses, crisis mode clouds effective solutions and hysteria(think volcano) breeds false choices … Events have causes, stuff just doesn’t blow up, sometimes little bombs go bad, but companies aren’t in business to destroy billion dollar assets, you do your best to prevent such destruction. So put me in the category of suspicious until shown real proof what really happened. Even BP has gone quite. And Obama is sending in the troops, of lawyers.
    It all makes little sense, and that is what smells really bad. If it was an accident, the Titanic sank after all, then they can be prevented.
    Everything should be on the table, and if it’s not … you know the table is rigged.

  38. #
    R. Craigen says:
    May 1, 2010 at 12:32 am
    One commenter questioned the media’s apparent lack of curiosity pertaining to specifics of the event. I have observed about the same thing and have a nagging back-of-the-brain speculation about it. Forgive me for dumping my wild imaginations here:….
    I’m thinking, of course, of enviro-terrorists. Here in Canada we’ve seen numerous attempts or threats aimed at oil pipelines. One wonders why an environmentalist group might want to HARM the environment in the name of their cause. …..
    ______________________________________________________________________
    R. Craigen, you took the words out of my mouth. I hope the experts who have commented can tell us if sabotage is possible. Either by an employee or off rig.
    I have dealt with sabotage before. Eight times so it is not at all far fetched.
    First these people do not really care about the animals or environment, it is the “cause” that is all sacred. This is based on up close and personal observation. As one activist screamed at me “I rather see horses extinct than owned by humans.” On a second occasion, when they could not turn my animal loose college students intentionally blinded her by kicking her in the eye as she grazed. The sabotage I encountered was always a very well coordinated multi-person operation.
    I have also seen a very well coordinated media campaign used to shut down and blacken the name of an industry. I know the facts because my boss was head engineer. He would have become plant manager if the innovate new plant had been built. It was supposed to recycle post consumer polystyrene from McDonalds and the anti-polystyrene media campaign hit one month before the ground breaking and news media announcement. The campaign was allegedly started by a NH grade school teacher and made nationwide front page news immediately. The news campaign was highly successful and short down five plant in my state alone.
    Another incident with far reaching consequences and laws being passed was the e-coli petting farm incident at the NC state fair about five years ago. Very long story but the main points are. There were no illnesses at the week long county fair just before the state fair, the USDA agent who inspected the animals and took rectal thermometer reading in-beween gigs was a know animal rights activist and the CDC stated this was the first known incidence of that type of bacteria found in sheep and goats. Also extensive testing by the CDC showed no e-coli on the coats or in the mouths only in the feces. Most telling all attempts at sabotaging petting farms and pony rides (cut girths) that I know of ceased.
    To me the timing is just too convenient for those who want to curb use of oil especially here in the USA. I also stumbled across an article a few years ago where the animal rights activists responsible for bankrupting the Hallmark Meat packing plants mentioned getting PETA training.
    We will probably never know if it was sabotage, but after seeing these people in action over several years, that is the first thing that leapt into my mind.

  39. Can someone of expertise explain the type of oil being released? Most everyone tends to think of “crude oil” as heavy, thick, tar like goop. Is this different from refined oil spills and how so?

  40. In support of what ”AleaJactaEst” had to say and also provide relevant technical expertise, as I also work in the Oil and gas field, specifically on these type of rigs as a Senior Subsea Engineer; who is ultimately responsible for the correct operation and maintenance of the BOP (Blow Out Preventer)…..this event should never have happened.
    This class of rig (6th generation) has the most advanced BOP systems available, with multiple redundant control systems and features that is suppose to prevent this sort of uncontrolled blowout from ever happening. Besides the assumed fact that somehow the dead man system was not activated which would have automatically operated a variety of functions on the BOP including the annular, casing shear rams and blind shear rams in a sequential manner that would have shut off the well, the BOP is also equipped with an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) intervention system which should have allowed the ROV to so a variety of functions on the BOP.
    So far it has been reported that the ROV has been unsuccessful in operating the shear blind rams and shutting in the well. This can be either be because the shear rams have malfunctioned for some reason or because the rams have not be able to close sufficiently because there is something preventing them from doing so. The later is a more plausible cause especially if they were busy running casing when the well started to flow in an uncontrollable manner for some reason.
    I do not know what type of shear rams the BOP was equipped with but these 6th generation rigs usually have a set of casing shear rams that are supposedly capable of shearing casing, and another set of Blind shear rams on top that would be able to cut drill pipe and also seal the well off. If the casing shear rams did not cut the casing, or the cut casing above the casing shear rams was not cleared above the blind shear rams, then the blind shear rams would not close 100% and seal off the well.
    All these scenario’s would have been risk assessed when the drilling program was put together and at each phase of the operation, these risks would have been discussed at multiple levels and meetings before the specific job ever was started. So what ever happened it must have been really out of the ordinary and also happened very quickly, as to not have the time to implement any of the normal emergency drills that the crews should have discussed and practiced many times before.
    Like ”AleaJactaEst” eloquently put it….. Let’s not speculate until we have the facts. WUWT readers have this quality in spades…….and I have been guilty of just this.

  41. There is a good layman explanation here.
    http://blog.iongeo.com/?p=1961
    It is speculation but two major failures occurred. The first was the cement which is supposed to securely seal off the high pressure oil & gas zone behind a casing (at some 18,000 feet by all accounts). This failure appears to have occurred roughly 20 hours after the cement job. The second failure is the Blow Out Preventer, which sits on the sea floor and would have been activated by the crew or should have closed automatically (cutting any pipe in the hole and sealing the well) when hydraulic and electrical power was lost.
    It is too early to tell whether the crew did anything wrong or whether there was a mistake in the operating procedures.
    Following the accident, the biggest error may have been to pour water on the rig from the rescue boats. It is possible that the rig would not have sunk if water had not been poured continuously on the damaged/breached decks for 36 hours – likely filling the very ‘pontoons’ that allow the rig to remain afloat. As long as the rig floated it supported the string of pipe from the sea floor to surface and this allowed the oil & gas to exit without entering the sea and most importantly to burn. The environmental situation is much worse now that there are several leaks issuing from the 5000 feet of twisted pipe lying on the sea floor.

  42. Have there been any video’s released of the seafloor at the release point?

  43. R. Craigen,
    It’s a sad thing, but the same thoughts stir in the back of my mind. They are not my first thoughts, but they do occur.
    I’m not sure of the exact difference between parinoia and suspition, but I know I didn’t suffer from these thoughts as badly until I became aware of how much fudge was stirred into Hansen’s and Mann’s and Briffa’s data, and then watched in amazement as the MSM failed to cover Climategate.
    Now I’m turning into a suspitious old grouch.
    What has been in the news lately?
    Let’s see. Toyaota has all sorts of problems with its cars. How handy for GM.
    Then we have various coal mine accidents. How handy for Cap and Trade.
    And now an oil rig blows. Again, handy.
    If I was BP I’d be looking for the stern end of a torpedo, down in the mud at the bottom. That’s how suspitious I’ve become.

  44. AlanG says:
    April 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm
    Oil is organic. It’s biodegradable; a natural product that contains no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. What’s the problem here? You would think the environments would love it!
    Doug in Seattle says:
    April 30, 2010 at 11:43 pm
    I suspect phytoplankton in the gulf are having a feeding frenzy about now
    Mr Black says:
    May 1, 2010 at 12:01 am
    It really bothers me the way folks get so upset about what is a minor leak of a single well. …..
    Oil has been leaking out of the ground naturally for tens of thousands of years at least, nature can handle it and nature recovers.
    I can only say that oil has has been leaking probably for hundreds of million years..
    you guys here at WUWT are the best

  45. “in the drilling industry there are safety precautions upon safety precautions, it is the most safety regulated industry bar none”
    Maybe nuclear power.
    My issue with the coverage of this has been the lack of mention of the 11 workers. When I’d first heard about it I didn’t even know about that tragedy. I’ve read several articles about the event who don’t even mention them once. Oil is essential to our economy, why aren’t these men (any women?) considered brave heroes who risked their lives to bring us oil? I understand that this will negatively affect our environment, and I don’t like seeing birds covered in oil or hear that turtles may die, but eleven humans beings died already!

  46. The upcoming hurricane season is analogous to 2005. Should a cat 3 come slamming into the delta region, I wonder how the surge and wind effects would affect the residues?

  47. We all know that it could not have a natural disaster just sitting around waiting to happen. Because we all know that this kind of thing has never happened in the past. We are absolutely sure that some human mistake was the primary cause of the problem. This is a good example of Murphy’s Law. No matter how many Fail Safe systems are put in place at sometime all the systems will fail. The only fail safe option that is guaranteed to work is to eliminate all life on the planet. Anything less would insure the possibility of someone or something being accidentally being harmed in the future.
    STUFF HAPPENS! Learn from it and go on!

  48. Jeff L says:
    April 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm
    I want to re-emphasize to all here questioning the safety equipment involved here. The media is leading you astray (not unlike they do with AGW). The equipment was INDUSTRY STANDARD. They had blow preventers & multiple redundant systems to activate. They were running regular safety tests & drills. They were not being cheapskates as one poster suggested. What they lacked is non-standard remotely operated device which could be used in a situation like this. Again, this is non-industry standard equipment. But of course, that is all the media has focused on, giving many the impression that BP must be negligent or cheapskates or whatever other negative connotation you want to drum up.
    There also appears to be some confusion by some on the depth – the sea floor depth is at 5,000 ft (= water depth), but the hydrocarbons are coming from a reservoir at 18,000 ft (=13,000 ft below the sea floor)
    —————————————————————————————
    JEFF: At what depth does the cap have to be installed at…..5,000 Ft or 18,000 ft??

  49. If these wells are supposed to have true fail-safe mechanisms that require a continuous application of hydraulic pressure or electric current from above to keep the flow open, then I think only a major explosion or design deficiency would cause them to fail to shut off the flow. Perhaps these sites should have the equivalent of aircraft ‘black-boxes’ to record all important local events and activities.
    BTW, anyone remember the plot of the Roger Moore movie ‘ffolkes.’

  50. The puzzling mystery is why all the redundant BOP systems collectively failed to shut off the oil flow. In an article published in the WSJ a few days ago, an “acoustic” activation system to trigger the BOP was not incorporated into this platform. Some countries mandate this, the US doesn’t. From what I gather, the BOP’s primary mechanism for operation is a signal sent to it from an operator in the platform itself. Was the operator killed in the initial explosion? Secondly, the BOP also has sensory capabilities that automatically trigger a shutdown if it senses that there is a major problem that needs attention. Lastly, the “acoustic” activation, when equipped, is a failsafe mechanism designed to trigger the shutdown with a sound transmission signal from the surface to the BOP.
    The most alarming aspect of this disaster is that the BOP didn’t work. Will the inoperational BOP prevent a shut down or is there a mechanism that can override its primary function and effect a shutdown? We are at the mercy of the experts. As with all problems, an understanding of what is wrong is crucial to designing a solution that will work. The engineering experts can’t “see” what is happening down on the sea floor. They are blind.
    We need to hear from “experts” on the basic engineering and techniques and illustrated in graphic form so panic and fearful decision making doesn’t rule themake a catastrophe far worse than it already is.

  51. I would commend folks to get the Teaching Company Course “Critical Decision Making” it covers a number of things including the roles of complexity and backup being the enemy of robustness. Wait till it goes on sale.

  52. For “Tom in Florida”
    “Can someone of expertise explain the type of oil being released? Most everyone tends to think of “crude oil” as heavy, thick, tar like goop. Is this different from refined oil spills and how so?”
    As far as I know no description of the oil has been released but just guessing it might be a 35 API oil (0.85 sg at surface conditions). Reservoir oils typically contain a wide range of hydrocarbons going from methane (C1) and Ethane (C2) and going to C20+. The hypothetical oil at reservoir conditions would contain gas in solution C1, C2 which upon flashing at the surface or somewhere in the flow stream, would automatically shrink the “stable” liquid phase. So upon arrival on the surface the C1 and C2 would have bubbled out of the oil and probably the Propane C3 and Butane C4. The resulting liquid at the surface, which would be called stock tank oil, would be stripped of Methane, Ethane, Propane and Butane but the C5 (Pentane) and higher would be left floating as a liquid. Depending on the surface temperature, air and water, the remaining lighter chains, C5, C6, C7, C8 would begin to evaporate. This is the range where natural gasoline would fall. Over time when lighter components are all gone you have a heavier, thicker residue. Eventually you get to a point where the remaining hydrocarbon chains left have an sg greater than 1 and sink to the bottom as tar balls. What happens on the surface is exactly what happens in a refinery in that hydrocarbon fractions are separated. Any unrefined oil contains a wide range of hydrocarbons whose composition is not equally distributed. Also, what we are seeing at the surface might also be emulsified with water to a degree.
    Eventually the bugs will eat it all up.

  53. Obama did oil slick —
    http://iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/article/223908
    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/may2010/orig-m01.shtml
    “Obama buckled under BP + oil industry pressure, failed to implement new safety and environmental regulations . . .
    to block the inclusion on all oil rigs of a device called an acoustic switch—commonly used in other oil-producing nations—that sends impulses through the water that can trigger an underwater valve to shut down the well in the event of a blowback. BP found the costs of these units, about $500,000, excessive.”
    Who advised obama on this?
    How many billions environmental damage
    and INDUSTRIAL (and this oil will damage cargo ships)damage will this cause?
    Of course obama is the only one to blame–
    the businesses that own and bribed obama
    and his advisers are not
    to blame–
    they simply are doing business as usual in USA–
    –that sucker is still bubbling 5000 barrels a day into the gulf–
    If you want to make a buck or two –get yourself an old oil truck and cruise down to the Gulf coast and vacuum up
    some oily water–
    even at 20 percent oil a 20 barrel truckload
    of seawater oil mix (can be separated at certain facilities)–
    is worth 300 dollars.

  54. GSBono says:
    May 1, 2010 at 6:43 am
    “Eventually the bugs will eat it all up.”
    You offered a long good description. I just cite your last line.
    Will the bugs really eat the most toxic PAH’s also, in the tar etc? And
    if they will, it will get into the food chains. Better if they don’t, but then
    we would have polluted sediments to some extent.

  55. melinspain says:
    May 1, 2010 at 5:42 am
    AlanG says:
    April 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm
    Oil is organic. It’s biodegradable; a natural product that contains no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. What’s the problem here? You would think the environments would love it!
    Doug in Seattle says:
    April 30, 2010 at 11:43 pm
    I suspect phytoplankton in the gulf are having a feeding frenzy about now
    Mr Black says:
    May 1, 2010 at 12:01 am
    It really bothers me the way folks get so upset about what is a minor leak of a single well. …..
    Oil has been leaking out of the ground naturally for tens of thousands of years at least, nature can handle it and nature recovers.
    I can only say that oil has has been leaking probably for hundreds of million years..
    ____________________________________________________________________
    How true looks like Anthony’s article on Who says asphalt isn’t natural?
    Posted on April 26, 2010 was very timely: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/26/who-says-asphalt-isnt-natural/
    Some how if “man” touches something it instantly becomes “evil” yet if it is “natural” it is good even if it will kill you.
    That’s why the US government has started suppressing wild animal attacks when it became fashionable to start releasing them. Prior to the releases attacks were down to one every several years. see: List of Confirmed Cougar Attacks In the United States and Canada 1890 – 1990 http://www.cougarinfo.org/attacks.htm
    Injury Attacks in the United States and Canada have been as follows:
    1970’s 17 total attacks found including 4 fatalities (2 injurred in one attack)
    1980’s 18 total attacks found including 2 fatalities
    1990’s 43 total attacks found including 8 fatalities
    2000’s 36 1confirmed attacks to date including 3 fatalities found by my research (07/09/2009)
    [Foot note #]1 Recently, my contacts with many others in many states and provinces indicates that wildlife officials and others are under pressure to minimize cougar sightings and even cover up their aggression toward humans….” http://www.cougarinfo.org/stats.html

  56. This is how Mother Gaia will show nothing happends. She is a denialist too. Hope BP change drilling fields to Al Baby´s house shore front.
    Seriously, this oil field shows that Non Fossil Fuels fields keep on being found and only “Green policies” work to increase its price artificially. There were two big findings recently, one at the gulf and the other in fron of Rio de Janeiro (Petrobras). Considering these gigantic findings oild should be at a price of $20 per barrel, so the only way to keep it high is to enforce regulatory laws all over the world.

  57. I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  58. AlanG says:
    April 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm
    Oil is organic. It’s biodegradable; a natural product that contains no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. What’s the problem here? You would think the environments would love it!

    I do agree. All the rest is hysteria.

  59. melinspain says:
    May 1, 2010 at 5:42 am
    Mr Black says:
    May 1, 2010 at 12:01 am
    It really bothers me the way folks get so upset about what is a minor leak of a single well. …..
    Oil has been leaking out of the ground naturally for tens of thousands of years at least, nature can handle it and nature recovers.
    I can only say that oil has has been leaking probably for hundreds of million years..
    ——-
    Is the above skepticism or just utter thoughtlessness?
    – 11 dead
    – fisheries and livelihoods in danger
    – biodiversity effects
    – huge direct damage costs
    – in a rationale calculus these external costs become
    negatives on the balance sheet of fossil energy (remember also the
    Chinesse tanker and the Great Barrier Reef).

  60. So far, the biggest oil spill came compliments of PEMEX with Ixtoc 1 blowing out in June 1979. According to Wiki, the well was flowing an estimated 10,000 – 30,000 barrels/day (for the BP well we are estimating 5,000 bopd). It took them 7 months to shut it off by drilling a relief well. So when you hear this BP well is the worst catastrophe to date please remind and refer to the PEMEX Ixtoc 1 blowout.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ixtoc_I

  61. Anthony
    Thanks for this wonderful website! I am a ‘fish out of water’ here as a biologist/naturalist in my sunset years! I read everything here and watch Glenn Beck every day! Your site keeps my mind young and FREE!
    I developed agrichemical ‘weapons of mass destruction’ for many years, and watched nature rapidly adapt to every weapon, by using them as a tool! There were winners and losers.
    Nature LOVES this crude energy being released by man, trapped in the ground! Nature won’t wase it! Only man politicizes it!
    Many species will be the benefactors of this mishap, probably not humans, we don’t adapt fast enough. Last I checked nature is doing quite well at Chernoble, Mt. St Helens, Arctic. Prince Edward’s sound is currently devoid of life!
    Back to watching two beautiful bluebirds building thier future in a nestbox I provided!
    As long as humans can communicate, we can adapt!
    Thanks Anthony!

  62. “(remember also the
    Chinesse tanker and the Great Barrier Reef).”
    “The front fell off!”

  63. Enneagram says:
    May 1, 2010 at 7:34 am
    AlanG says:
    April 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm
    Oil is organic. It’s biodegradable; a natural product that contains no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. What’s the problem here? You would think the environments would love it!
    I do agree. All the rest is hysteria.
    —-
    Benzene, Toluene, PAH’s – yes, they are organic, persistent, carcinogenic …

  64. For Mikael Pihlström
    “Will the bugs really eat the most toxic PAH’s also, in the tar etc? And
    if they will, it will get into the food chains. Better if they don’t, but then
    we would have polluted sediments to some extent.”
    Mikael, I don’t have a clue. Actually, I had to Google “Toxic PAH” to know what it was as per below.
    –PolyAromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) may be released into the environment from hydrocarbon fuels, through the incomplete combustion of organic substances, or through natural decomposition processes. Lighter PAH compunds are generally more water soluble and therefore are more bioavailable to aquatic life and cause more acute effects. However breakdown times are much shorter than for heavier compounds. PAHs with more than four rings, being less volatile and soluble, favor adherence to solid particles.–
    I am a petroleum reservoir engineer not a chemical engineer or chemist. How an oil actually degrades or breaks down is not something I have had the pleasure of learning since it is not significant to my area of interest which is how fluids flow in reservoirs.

  65. johnnythelowery says:
    May 1, 2010 at 6:20 am
    “At what depth does the cap have to be installed at…..5,000 Ft or 18,000 ft?”
    It would be at the sea floor at 5000 ft

  66. Here are the Deepwater Rig Specifications!
    http://www.deepwater.com/fw/main/Deepwater-Horizon-56C77.html?LayoutID=17
    Though different in construction, the disaster looks like the 2001 PetroBas P36 rig disaster for the coast of Brazil!
    http://www.bluestarline.org/farstad/p36.html
    You can find an oversight of rigs, spills and disasters here:
    http://www.oilrigdisasters.co.uk/
    If you can read from the rig specifications Haliburton is the certified partner cementing the drill core! WSJ came up with the following article
    Drilling Process Attracts Scrutiny in Rig Explosion
    “The scrutiny on cementing will focus attention on Halliburton Co., the oilfield-services firm that was handling the cementing process on the rig, which burned and sank last week. The disaster, which killed 11, has left a gusher of oil streaming into the Gulf from a mile under the surface”.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703572504575214593564769072.html
    My personal opinion is that we have to wait for the official investigations of the accident before we draw any conclusions!
    Relevant to the current spill is this comment from Fresh Bilge:
    “The Gulf of Mexico is not the Gulf of Alaska. The water is warm, constantly churned by winds, and full of oil-eating microbes. Also the sun is high and fierce from now through August promoting evaporation. Oil will break up quickly, not persist for years and years as it did in the cold sheltered fjord where Exxon Valdez broke its back. However churning is one thing, raging another. One hopes we will be done with the Gulf spill before any hurricanes arrive. Gulf season starts earlier than the Atlantic, and tropical storms are not uncommon in the Gulf beginning in June. A storm could push oil much deeper into vulnerable coastal marshland.

  67. Accident? Sabotage? Industrial Espionage? Guess we’ll never know the way this thing is playing out. Deepwater Horizon Gate? BP-gate? Gulf-gate? Obama’s Katrina? And we just watched in childish wonder as the great and wonderous US Congress turned medical care into a Federal Program. “My Fellow Americans and Citizens of the World”, as Presidents love to say, me thinks we up a creek without a paddle.
    As for cleaning up this little mess, I understand there’s a bunch of nice coal dust on TVA property that’s just going to waste and doing nothing productive. Perhaps someone could load it onto a thousand barges and tow it down the Ol’Missasipp and out to sea and blow it on the oil to sink that nasty stuff in the gulf before it kills the tidal wetlands along the Gulf coast.
    PS: The problem with Lemmings is that they rarely know what to do. By the time they make up their minds its too late and they’re out of options.

  68. PJB says:
    Hurricanes while being bad for a lot of things generally diminish the impacts of an oil (see the East Timbalier Island Study and Hurricane Andrew). I believe the Scottish spill impact a number years back was mitigated by a storm. Hurricane Katrina released some 8 million gallons of oil and fuel form onshore facilities. Here is a quote on the impacts from the Times-Picayune: “There really was very little damage to the Mississippi and Louisiana coastlines from oil during those events,” said John Pine, director of the Appalachian State University Research Institute for Environment, Energy and Economics, who published a study on the Katrina and Rita releases for Oceanography magazine in 2006 while a researcher at Louisiana State University.
    It seems that weather at the extremes is good- calm we skim and burn– wind we break it up. Anyone know if one is “better” than another?

  69. I reject any theories about sabotage or Green conspiracies!
    All indications hint at a a very unfortunate accident and before any official accident report is published we should stick to the facts.
    Please don’t make this tragedy worse than it already is!
    Such speculation lacks any respect for the crew, the wounded and those who got killed doing their job.
    Thanks in advance!

  70. The best laid plans……
    5000 feet of casing and drillpipe collapsed around the BOP. It’s a mass of heavy spaghetti, and likely damaged the BOP when it fell. The spaghetti may make it difficult to position a collection device over the wellhead, but where there is will, there is a way.

  71. Richard Sharpe says:
    May 1, 2010 at 8:29 am
    Potential Nature article by physicist claims to show that CO2 responsible for only 5-10% of warming.
    http://alfin2100.blogspot.com/2010/04/science-journal-nature-opens-to-climate.html
    Do not expect too much out of this. As a resident in Finland we
    are a little puzzled by this professor who first says he will publish
    this sensational news in Nature, June 2010, then says the manuscript
    is not quite ready, and now seems to say that since Nature is biased
    agianst his article, which has not been submitted, since it is not
    ready, he will publish elsewhere.
    But, you never know. I will be very happy if CO2 is shown not to
    be an important GHG.
    —–
    Do not expect too much from this. As a resident of Finland we are
    a little bit ‘sceptic’ of this man who says he will publish in Nature
    June

  72. GSBono says:
    If you are worried about PAH- I would make sure you never close the windows in your house- cooking causes a ton of them- get rid of any mothballs, don’t use a fireplace and replace your driveway plus all dirt a hundred feet on either side of your driveway. PAH are also found in plastics cereals, bread, fruit meat etc . And whatever you do- do not let your home be weatherized! Sorry about the rant but the public never receives the necessary context to under a risk.
    PAH degrade by microbial action- faster in the prescence of O2, light and higher temps. It is complex. PAH bio-accumulation dynamics are also extremely complex. Of all the things that I worry about PAH is not one of them. Long term health studies of workers in the oil refining and drilling business – (who represent a population exposed to PAH at concentrations more than you or I will ever encounter) have shown no ill health effects compared to the general population.

  73. Another rig sank…….
    http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=125004&sectionid=3510203
    Timing is suspicious…….as I said.
    Thanks to all who gave first hand technical detail. To those unfamiliar with fail safe systems, they activate when the signal is LOST. So the Blowout valve should have activated when the rig went up in flames. I had thought the sinking was suspicious, the water pumped on board by fire fighting makes sense. Why they did that, rather than let it burn is hard to say in hindsight. Very easy to judge from a distance. If you are on scene trying to save people it is not so clear.
    We learn from our mistakes and all systems can fail. The one lesson I take from this is that there should be at least 3 domes in inventory along the gulf coast at all times. The companies doing the exploration and development should form a joint venture to build and store them. Anybody who has a problem deploys the one closest to the problem instantly rather than building it after the fact. The “dead man” switch that has been touted would not have any advantage over a properly designed BOP that goes active on loss of signal. I was misinformed by the media.
    Anybody who knows anything about rigs knows they are a floating complicated bomb. Sabotage by a properly trained and motivated outsider is possible. Sabotage by an insider would be easy. Our infrastructure is much more vulnerable than most people think and the advantage is on the offense….just facts. To dismiss the possibility is naive. That does not mean it is the case here but it is a possibility and the timing is suspicious.
    There are those who have stated as their purpose to shut down our modern way of life. I tend to take people at their word and not to underestimate them.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Liberation_Front
    As someone who does love nature, and the environment this event is disturbing. Keep in mind radical environmentalists do not so much love nature as hate themselves and others by extension. For understanding I suggest “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer.
    Monty

  74. Texas scientist has his eye on conditions of Gulf spill
    http://www.statesman.com/news/local/texas-scientist-has-his-eye-on-conditions-of-654950.html
    Doomsday scenario: current puts Gulf slick on Atlantic beaches
    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/doomsday-scenario-current-puts-gulf-slick-on-atlantic-653991.html
    Oil from the slick spreading through the Gulf of Mexico could wind up off of Palm Beach County’s beaches – perhaps even worming its way into the Lake Worth Lagoon – in a matter of weeks, Florida oceanographers say.
    We could see ugly brown patches as big as a football field or as small as a football.
    Or maybe just tar balls.
    Or there could be nothing at all.
    It all depends on the speed of the clean-up, the flow of the wind and the path of the currents, the scientists say.
    The fear is that, as the oil moves in coming weeks, it could be picked up by the Gulf Loop current, which itself shifts around the Gulf.
    No one knows if – or when – that will happen; probably in two or three weeks at the soonest.

  75. There are only a couple of buoys in that area that are reporting data on NOAA’s site. Many of the buoys in the area are owned and operated by energy companies.
    National Data Buoy Center
    http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/
    Station 42040
    NDBC
    Location: 29.212N 88.207W
    Conditions as of:
    Sat, 01 May 2010 16:50:00 UTC
    Winds: SSE (150°) at 19.4 kt gusting to 21.4 kt
    Significant Wave Height: 5.9 ft
    Dominant Wave Period: 8 sec
    Mean Wave Direction: SSE (155°)
    Atmospheric Pressure: 29.82 in and rising
    Air Temperature: 75.9 F
    Dew Point: 73.8 F
    Water Temperature: 72.5 F

  76. Is there National Preparedness for anything other then Taxation that actually works?
    Rough seas again thwart cleanup of oil catastrophe
    http://hosted2.ap.org/COGRA/d30f3f32e9d849979111e891380b64db/Article_2010-05-01-US-Gulf-Oil-Spill/id-baf72806c401455ea3988ee158a9d894
    On Thursday, the size of the slick was about 1,150 square miles, but by Friday’s end it was in the range of 3,850 square miles, said Hans Graber, executive director of the university’s Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing. That suggests the oil has started spilling from the well more quickly, Graber said.
    “The spill and the spreading is getting so much faster and expanding much quicker than they estimated,” Graber told The Associated Press on Saturday.
    Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanography professor at Florida State University, said his examination of Coast Guard charts and satellite images indicated that 8 million to 9 million gallons had already spilled by April 28.

  77. This is an excellent technical article about the well safety components from the Wall Street Journal:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704423504575212031417936798.html?mod=rss_Today's_Most_Popular
    I’m just amazed that we had this loss of life and SONS due to the lack of investment into a $500,000 sonic backup system, required by Norway, Brazil etc.
    If anything good comes out of this, it will be the stimulus to drill these deepwater wells better and safer. We need our domestic hydrocarbon resources badly, and I’m not worried a bit about the environmentalists….damn pity about the loss of life and ship!

  78. Don Worley said:
    The best laid plans……
    5000 feet of casing and drillpipe collapsed around the BOP. It’s a mass of heavy spaghetti, and likely damaged the BOP when it fell. The spaghetti may make it difficult to position a collection device over the wellhead, but where there is will, there is a way.
    WHAT A MESS!!
    I don’t think most people appreciate the technical challenges here. I wish the people working on this problem the best of luck. This would be a mess on land. Under 5000ft of water, a challenge to say the least. The armchair experts will no doubt find fault with anything they do, and none of them will give a second thought when they hop in their car to go out for a latte to bad mouth “BIG OIL” with their friends. Perhaps congress should just pass a law instructing the well head to stop leaking. The lawyers could sue it to comply. We could all talk it into submission…..
    Somewhere some poor people are working on an unimaginably complex and difficult task with tremendous pressure on them to succeed. The CYA types are hiding under their desks or running in circles screaming nonsense. Lets cheer for the people actually trying to solve the problem. Lord knows they will get no thanks from anybody else.
    And to those who don’t like speculation about possible sabotage… I expect ALL possibilities to be looked into. If it was an accident or otherwise let the evidence reveal the truth. Inquiry is not disrespectful to anyone. In fact to prevent a full inquiry into all possibilities is VERY disrespectful to everyone.
    Monty

  79. I agree CRS, Dr.P.H.
    Why wasn’t a plan in place for a worst case situation and a solution waiting in harbor to cover the entire Gulf field? This isn’t the only rig out there. So much for protection, where’s the EPA in all this?
    WSJ Interactive Timeline:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704302304575213791958270682.html#project%3DOILRIGS1004%26articleTabs%3Dinteractive
    9 days after the event:
    April 29 — Louisiana Governor “Bobby Jindal declares a state of emergency and the federal government sends in skimmers and booms to prevent environmental damage.”
    10 days after the event:
    Oil Slick Nears Coast as U.S. Escalates Response
    APRIL 30, 2010
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704302304575213791958270682.html
    “The Navy sent 66,000 feet of inflatable oil booms to the Gulf to help contain the spill, as well as seven towable skimming systems and 50 contractors with experience operating the equipment, according to military officials at the Pentagon.”

  80. This leak might have a significant economic effect. First, thousands of jobs in fisheries and tourism will be lost. Properties along 1000s of miles of coast line and bays will be damaged and reduced in value. Some of lost jobs will be replaced by temporary work on the clean up but who would look forward to such a job.
    You can be sure that even a conservative Republican govenor of Florida will do everything possible to reduce drilling in the Gulf and that all of the East states will be doing everything possible to prevent the newly proposed drilling there.
    There will probably be increased employment for environmental sciences whose research will help assess impacts and look to ways of reducing environmental damage.
    No doubt that any further drilling in US water will have to comply with safety features in place in Brazil and Norway, that were considered to costly in the US. My guess is that Oboma did not call for a weakeninf of the regulations already in place under the Bush-Chaney oilmen administration.
    The latest news from the Wall Street Journal is that the recent estimate of much higher leak rates may still be far too low. Losses/leakage may actually be 1 million gallons per day. A few more weeks or months of this, and comments about “why should we worry about this small leak” might need to be reconsidered.

  81. CRS states “I’m just amazed that we had this loss of life and SONS due to the lack of investment into a $500,000 sonic backup system, required by Norway, Brazil etc.”
    Hang on here. This is just pure ignorance. The systems used in GOM also have fail safes on the BOP. The BOP should have activated with the loss of power and hydraulics at surface – no need for an acoustic signal – it is all automatic. The ROV also should have been able to operate the BOP. There is NO indication that the Brazilian or Norwegian systems would have made any difference – if the BOP fails then it fails – no matter what button or trigger is pushed.
    Right now everything suggests that the primary loss of well control was a failed cement job. Possibly drill pipe, debris and even casing and the liner hanger may have flown out of the well at several 100 feet per second and wrecked the internal rams of the BOP as well as everything at surface on the rig in one enormous explosion. Think how a rifle works. A long barrel with gas propelling a heavy piece of metal. This is what you have when a well blows out – an enormous large bore rifle that ejects anything and everything that ain’t solidly cemented in place.
    Before we jump to conclusions please be aware that mother nature itself is incredibly powerful and it is likely that the BOP did not close because it was damaged in the blast.

  82. BillD says:
    You have made a number of claims and mights.
    “Thousands of jobs in fisheries and tourism” – the Commercial fishermen get federal aid but the poor fishing guides, marinas and tackle shops will get nothing (why it is good to be a subsidized industry.) We have no idea how many jobs will be lost. The number in tourism will be much higher than it has to be if the scare stories continue.
    You claim that property values will be reduced. This has not happen with any coastal property I am aware of– perhaps you could shed light on this.
    You have assumed that the remote cutoff switch would have worked and cost was the only reason it was not included.
    I would suggest you heed the warning from the National Academies of Science warning:
    “The reader is therefore strongly cautioned against inferring impacts from the mass loading rates.
    Impacts cannot be inferred by the amount of oil released– it is far more complicated an issue. Certainly this spill is not a good thing but the apocalyptic messages are just wrong.

  83. “BillD says:
    […]
    The latest news from the Wall Street Journal is that the recent estimate of much higher leak rates may still be far too low. Losses/leakage may actually be 1 million gallons per day.”

  84. DirkH says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    May 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm
    “BillD says:
    […]
    The latest news from the Wall Street Journal is that the recent estimate of much higher leak rates may still be far too low. Losses/leakage may actually be 1 million gallons per day.”
    1 million gallons…. Sounds much better than 23 809 barrels…
    I suggest you switch to liters.

  85. Disputin says:
    May 1, 2010 at 12:04 am
    They can get a mechanical advantage vise down there the same way they got the BOP and everything else down there.
    All the failsafes have failed.
    Got a better idea than waiting 2 months for the relief drill to arrive and seal it off?

  86. Gail Combs says:
    May 1, 2010 at 5:12 am
    The timing is the most disturbing part of this disaster.
    Everyone I have spoken to has noticed it.

  87. mikael pihlström:
    May 1, 2010 at 8:16 am
    is it not oxygen persistent and maybe just a little bit carcinogenic …?
    is it not all the rest maybe just a little bit hysteria…?

  88. How about this for a containment device?
    Lower 4 to 6 anchors surrounding the wellhead at a radius of 50 feet or so. Fabricate a 5000 foot long “sock” made of durable fabric similar to grain hauling bags. The sock should have a conical shape at the bottom and weighted. Slide the sock down around the anchor ropes (non binding synthetic). The oil will convect upward through the sock to the surface where it can be pumped into a tanker. Such a device could be stored and transported easily in the event of a similar disaster in the future.
    Any other bright ideas here?

  89. Knowing the vagueries of electronics and communication, a system which shuts the BOP upon loss of signal is probably not practical. When the BOP fires, it shears the drillpipe, basically trashing the hole. The device was probably tested and determined to be too likely to cause a false shut down and unnecessarily ruin a well.

  90. Is the above skepticism or just utter thoughtlessness?
    – 11 dead
    – fisheries and livelihoods in danger
    – biodiversity effects
    – huge direct damage costs
    – in a rationale calculus these external costs become
    negatives on the balance sheet of fossil energy (remember also the
    Chinesse tanker and the Great Barrier Reef).

    And these effects are somehow not applicable to car accidents or any other kind of industrial world accident? If you want oil, then you accept accidents with oil are going to occur. An oil leak, while ugly to look at is a relatively minor and temporary event. Once it is dissapated and cleaned up the area will return to normal quite quickly, just like every other area that has suffered an oil spill.

  91. To all those that make claims (concerns) of the timing of this event– remember it is exactly this kind of speculation that got us into the CO2 and global warming mess. There is no proof, there is no evidence, its been 40 years since a major event on a US platform. There are many ways this tragedy could have unfolded some we know some we don’t. Lets wait for some evidence before we speculate -or heaven help us- some one models this event.

  92. Valdez spilled 11 million gallons–which seems to be the total spilled
    to date in this latest
    Gulf tragedy–
    the oil is still there in the Alaska beaches 3 inches below the surface–
    20 years latter–
    something the Gulf can look forward to
    for at least the next twenty years
    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/03/24
    Of course more spills are likely over the next 20 years
    and already many oil producing structures in the Gulf are currently
    leaking smaller(unreported and minimized and discounted) amounts
    of oil.

  93. Mike Odin says:
    May 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm
    Valdez spilled 11 million gallons–which seems to be the total spilled
    to date in this latest
    Gulf tragedy–
    the oil is still there in the Alaska beaches 3 inches below the surface–
    20 years latter–
    something the Gulf can look forward to
    for at least the next twenty years
    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/03/24
    Of course more spills are likely over the next 20 years
    and already many oil producing structures in the Gulf are currently
    leaking smaller(unreported and minimized and discounted) amounts
    of oil.
    Your analogy to Valdez is way off the mark. Lets start again with the analogy warning from the National Academies:
    “The reader is therefore strongly cautioned against inferring impacts from the mass loading rates. For instance, one might be tempted to calculate the “Exxon Valdez-equivalence” by comparing the quantity of petroleum released from a specific source to that released during the Exxon Valdez spill and then concluding that the impact of the petroleum release will be a corresponding multiple of the Exxon Valdez impact. This is a flawed analysis. Ecotoxicological responses are driven by the dose of petroleum hydrocarbons available to an organism, not the amount of petroleum released into the environment. Because of the complex environmental processes acting on the released petroleum, dose is rarely directly proportional to the amount released. In addition, one must consider the type of petroleum released and the susceptibility of the target organisms.”
    Valdez was very near shore, heavy crude and catastrophic release. It meant that the oil hit the beach with very little weathering and spreading. The area where it hit was a cool water ecosystem and without the a base of seep biota that is found in the Gulf. The Valdez cleanup made some tragic mistakes in the zeal to cleanup – sterilizing much of the substrate with with steam and surfactants. The Gulf spill is 100 mi off shore a lighter crude, more spreading meaning lower concentration. It has the opportunity to skim and a lot of the oil is emulsified in deep water. The more toxic BTEX fraction will evaporate before it hits land and much of the oil will be removed from the water column by wind blown sand and plankton. The Gulf marshes have evolved in the face of natural oil seeps. The Ixtoc well Blow out recovered in months and the 8 million gallons released by Katrina couldn’t be found after the storm.
    If I took you by boat into 3 different Alaskan harbors you would not be able to tell me which one was hit by the oil (Yes there is some oil under the rocks but it certainly isn’t causing any problems to the bird or fisheries)
    National Academy report Oil in the Sea 2003 gives the impression that full recovery from a spill like this is 6 months to 3 years. Actually once the bacteria get going on the oil it will cause a boom phase for a few years in everything from invertebrates to birds. However this is not the type of information that brings in academic grants or sells newspapers. The perfect academic disaster is one that lasts an entire academic career– oil spill as annuity. My favorite was a Prof in Buzzard Bay? that claimed the marsh had not returned to normal because one species of crab made an unusual burrow shape compared to a non-impacted marsh
    Keep in mind that the natural oil seeps coming from the Gulf are 25 to 30% of all the oil entering marine waters in the US- say 25million gal/year
    Also understand if we don’t drill we then use super tankers and this risk is far greater than the platforms. Plus the drilling only moves a few miles into Mexican waters or off Cuba.
    German Uboat torpedoes spilled 180 million gallons of oil of the New Jersey coast in 1942. As a kid we dealt with tar balls from time to time leaking out of the sunken ship but there was no environmental disaster.

  94. During the 2008 election cycle, BP-linked donors gave $71,051 to Barack Obama’s senate campaign, more than they gave to any other senator that cycle.
    BO+BP=Destruction of our environment!

  95. rbateman says:
    May 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm
    Disputin says:
    May 1, 2010 at 12:04 am
    They can get a mechanical advantage vise down there the same way they got the BOP and everything else down there.
    All the failsafes have failed.
    Got a better idea than waiting 2 months for the relief drill to arrive and seal it off?
    Now why didn’t I think of that! Just lower the jaws down on drill pipe, the same way the BOP got there. The rig has… plenty… of… er, the rig is currently a tangled mass of scorched steel on the seabed, probably about a mile from the well. The sea surface where it was is occupied by a blazing mass of gas and oil. After you, Sir.

  96. Media seem to agree on a figure for the leakage of 200,000 gal/day
    which is 8333 gal/hour,
    which is 139 gal/min
    which is 2.3 gal per second.
    That’s about the rate of a man baling out his boat with a garden bucket. Less daunting a problem when seen in that perspective.

  97. Excelsior says:
    May 2, 2010 at 8:17 am
    Media seem to agree on a figure for the leakage of 200,000 gal/day
    Again the leakage rate is a meaningless figure outside the context of:
    -crude type
    -distance from shore
    -distance below the surface
    -weathering
    -weather
    -biota involved
    -etc etc etc

  98. This has been a truly informative blogpost for me, but I would like to offer a different perspective. I’m a native New Orleanian who, like most people in south Louisiana, likes to hunt and fish. If you’re not from here, you cannot comprehend the threat that this oil leak presents to our everyday way of life. In Louisiana, the average family still catches their own seafood or gets it from a family friend who does. A vast majority of the local population either owns their own fishing camp or visits regularly at a friend’s. These camps represent relatively huge investments of time, labor and money. Many people spend every weekend relaxing and/or working at their camps. It’s a labor of love that pays off in seafood and ducks. Oil in the marsh will ruin the fruits of our labor.
    A conservative estimate is that 70% of all camps were completely destroyed by Katrina. Since then, a considerable portion of the population has been steadily rebuilding our camps -that is, after we finished rebuilding our homes. Life in the city after Katrina has been like living in an indescribable alternate universe. It was very much like a frontier life in the 21st century, but that’s another story for another day. Suffice it to say that the one thing that kept us in tolerably good spirits was the easy availability of good food.
    It’s no exaggeration to say that the city was rebuilt by the local population, with a boost from immigrant laborers and volunteer workers. The government was virtually useless at every level, outside contractors ripped people off, the insurance companies screwed everybody at every turn, the media was bloated with misinformation and every so called savior turned out to be a snake oil salesman. Still, we persevered because we cling to this crazy notion that Louisiana is the best place to live in the whole world. Why? Because we have the best food in the world.
    Let me back up and say that most people here don’t have problems with oil companies and their drilling rigs because we have first hand knowledge about their relatively innocuous presence in the marsh and offshore. (Of course, their canal digging earlier in the 20th century was a huge cause of coastal erosion, but they can’t do that anymore.) But I will say that the level of skepticism in the general population here, toward the media, big corporations and the government, is probably unmatched in the civilized world.
    Since reading this blog, I have developed a slight hope about the dispersion rates of the oil, along with its ability to be consumed by microorganisms and by the environment in general. Burdened with only a slight understanding of the technical aspects of the drilling and capping procedures, I have a few questions for those who are defending BP’s operations with the ‘industry standards’ argument.
    Are these the same standards that were rewritten by the Bush (big oil) administration? Weren’t the existing standards relaxed in order to lower costs and encourage domestic drilling? Doesn’t BP have a history of poor quality control? Safety meetings really don’t count for much. How do they test their materials before installation and verify their installation procedures?
    Louisianaians are in general, a pretty unruly group. We never did quite accept American rule and that makes us the ones who rebelled against the rebellers. We just hunkered down and created our own little culture that doesn’t quite match anything found anywhere else in the world. There are as many strong, wild characters here, per capita, as anywhere in the world. We don’t have an independent streak, we take our independence for granted and pretty much ignore the rest of the world (of course, that’s not necessarily a completely good thing). However, there’s a very distinct object lesson about what happens when you get us working together on the same page.
    In the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson was able to unite the entire population against the British invaders- well trained invaders who had a huge numbers advantage. He assembled pirates, slaves, freed men of color, aristocrats, even women and children, to fight against one thing: an invader who threatens the New Orleans way of life. Take note of the result of that battle, BP.
    Katrina knocked our houses down and the federal levees flooded our city. We heard incessant blather from politicians, big corporations and the media about all the help we were going to get. It really didn’t happen. The levees have been rebuilt better than before, but it’s kind of after the fact. As for our homes and our fishing camps, we had to rebuild them ourselves. It was all a huge pain in the ass, but still we maintained a fairly cheerful attitude through all of it, because we still have spectacular fishing and hunting resources, and as a result, everyone here still eats like a king.
    Now, a multinational corporation comes to town and potentially ruins our food supply for a few years (maybe decades) because of slipshod safety practices? BP would be better off taking bones from dogs than taking shrimp and oysters from Cajuns and Creoles. They should be very afraid because I know my neighbors. You want to talk about ecoterrorism? Watch for terrorism against BP facilities. ( And I’m certainly not condoning it.)
    These guys can sneak up on a deer. They’ll shoot holes in tank batteries every chance they get. BP won’t have a safe pipeline anywhere. (You have to remember that the locals are the ones who know how to operate them. The BP workforce is already significantly infiltrated with them.) They will definitely have to leave Louisiana, if they can stay in business. I truly believe that almost every household here will have a viable lawsuit against them. Remember, we couldn’t sue the government for flooding our houses, and we couldn’t sue our insurance companies who just held our money until we were forced to accept their lowball offers. An awful lot of people are ready to get something back in exchange for all their troubles caused by outsiders. If our fisheries are severely damaged for any length of time, I see this as the end of BP Oil-either by an onslaught of lawsuits or by an army of shrimp deprived Cajuns, coupled with the crazies from the other Gulf states. They better hope they can clean this mess up before it does too much damage.

  99. Why does it take 8 to 10 days to build a dome.
    The SS Robert E. Peary was a Liberty ship which was built in the shortest time. Named after an American arctic explorer, she was launched just 4 days and 15 hours and 29 minutes after the keel was laid at a time when most ships of this type took around two months.

  100. Wait a minute boys and girls, you are all speculating ! When the truth come out there will be a lot of posters here wishing they where mature enough to THIMK !!!!
    I am a petroleum geologist and have worked the oilpatch for more than 20 years, I can give you hundreds of hypothesis but I would bet the cause is the one that I forgot to mention, have a little respect for those 11 men that have families and friends that have lost a father, husband, brother, son.

  101. Swamp Thing- My thoughts are with you and yours. As a person who lives to hunt and fish I understand your concerns. Fear and misinformation are actually the greatest threats. This oil will be broken down fast and will not do the damage as claimed. The great caution I have for LA sportsmen is to be on guard for well meaning but misguided onshore clean up activities. Study after study shows the real damage was caused by cleanup crews tramping the marshlands, using hot water and surfactant cleaning techniques. Your marshes have developed in a habitat influenced by natural oil seeps. They will heal themselves. The wrong type of clean up can double the time for recovery.
    My concerns go out to the fishing guides, outfitters and tackle dealers who will bear the true burden if the press scares away clients needlessly. The commercial fishermen will have access to Fed emergency disaster aid and in true political fashion the sport fishing industry will not.
    Keep in mind that the real long term threats to coastal resources are habitat loss and alteration, bycatch, the shell fish diseases of Dermo and MSX etc. Oil spills get the national attention, and its impacts are distorted to the public. Oil spill as doom is good for academics getting grants, clean up companies getting grants, lawyers suing, Bureaucrats getting bigger budgets, newspapers selling copy. Unfortunately the doom story is bad for the “little people” trying to attract clients to make a living off the Gulf’s resources.
    Stay hopeful-its never as bad as they say- Best thing to do is take another cast.
    Good luck to you all.

  102. I’m afraid Swamp Thing is selling an image of the “typical” Louisiana resident. This is how myths begin.
    Our economy and tax base is primarily the oil & gas industry.
    We are peace loving folk who are not prone to engage in ecoterrorism as ST implies.
    Many Cajuns with 5th grade (or less) education have invented/engineered valuable oilfield tools. Many of those same uneducated folk are now multi-millionaire owners of service companies as a result of their ingenuity.

  103. In earlier comments I noted the WSJ timeline which implied response times.
    Based on news releases and news coverage today, the response preparation began with notification of the initial event and Coast Guard response and planning was immediate.
    “7 towable skimming systems were sent” but wave heights are over 6′ for the past few days.
    Coastal and Offshore Multi-Purpose Oil Spill Recovery Vessels (OSRV)
    http://www.slickbar.com/JBF/coastal_offshore_vessels/#7000
    Recovery Rate Capacity: 172 m3/hr
    Recovery Efficiency: up to 99%
    Effective Oil Collection Speed: up to 3 knots
    Length 57 feet (17.4 meters)
    Displacement: 25m tons
    Draft: 1.8 feet (0.5 meters)
    Recoverd Oil Storage Capacity:
    4000 USG/15M3

  104. Its a significant engineering problem?
    Oil booms appear to be designed to manage spills in calm conditions. The booms they are deploying allow oil to wash under and over the booms in rough seas.
    Isn’t there a boom and skimmer designed for rough seas related to an oil field that’s frequently in the path of hurricanes?
    Since oil floats, can’t the boyancy be used in conjunction with a bubble wrap style envelope suspended from floating bouys to maintain a deeper boom for rough conditions?

  105. Sorry, s/b buoys in the last post.
    So many obvious questions come to mind. For instance:
    Supertankers, on average, can carry about 2 million barrels or 84 million gallons of crude oil. If 1 million gallons have been released so far, do the existing efforts require the skimmers to return to port to unload instead of unloading at sea to a tanker?
    Can they unload at sea in rough conditions and if not why were only 7 skimmers sent to cover over a thousand miles of spill? Where are they going to unload the muck and how are they going to dispose of it?
    I’m sure they have worked all this out, has anyone seen any press on it yet?

  106. That MODIS image gives the appearance that the slick is being contained somewhat by a loop current.

  107. As of last tThursday, REAR admiral Janet napolitano DHS didn’t know if the deprt of defense had equipment for cleanup. The next day the navy deployed a lot of equipment. The hiring of clueless people by Obama is paying off. Had he kept more technical people from Bush, we wouldn’t have the epidemic of cluelessness.
    The OSHA director comes from a teaching job and is published regarding teen transmission of std’s.
    Obama must be watched. He claimed the death toll of the Grensburg tornado was 10,000 people when the actual number was 12.

  108. So if I’m reading this correctly (and I’m hopefully missing important facts), plane loads of dispersants are being dropped on the Gulf oil spill to brake it down into droplets that currents can carry away. Do they understand the force of the currents in the Gulf Stream and the path to the North Atlantic current?
    TECH USED TO CLEAN UP OIL SPILLS
    http://news.discovery.com/tech/tech-used-clean-up-oil-spill.html
    “Chemical dispersants are specifically formulated liquid solvent that’s generally sprayed onto ocean slicks from airplanes. The solvents mix with oil and break it down into fine droplets that then disperse with natural water currents.”

  109. Anthony,
    You pointed out in a recent blog post that “Stupid is as stupid does”.
    Isn’t it a better solution to use the naturally occurring eddy in this area to contain the muck to an area until “help” arrives instead of breaking it down into fine droplets to disperse with “natural water currents” all over the Atlantic?
    See: Dave Worley says:
    May 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm
    I hope I’ve got this picture all wrong and someone can say with some certainty that the buoyancy of the oil isn’t changed by the dispersants to the degree that makes the droplets transportable by currents like the Gulf Stream.
    Atlantic currents:
    http://www.cruiserlog.com/wiki/images/3/37/Atlantic_Ocean_Currents.jpg

  110. Henry chance says:
    May 3, 2010 at 7:51 am
    “The hiring of clueless people by Obama is paying off. Had he kept more technical people from Bush, we wouldn’t have the epidemic of cluelessness.”
    You mean the ones who handled Hurricane Katrina so professionally?

  111. I had asked earlier about input on dispersants- I’ll add a little of what I know. First remember the oil is constantly undergoing weathering- the process by which it breaks down by physio-chemical, biological processes. Dispersants keep more of the oil in the water column rather than floating on the surface where wind can concentrate it push it to the relatively more oil sensitive shoreline. However not letting the oil float means we gets less evaporative loss of the more toxic BTEX fraction. (Its broken down in the air by photooxidation). Evaporation can be as much as 40% of the oil spilled so it is significant.
    Preventing the oil from floating also means less surface skimming and burning (which in this weather would be tough). Keep the oil in sub- surface suspension and you have more oxygen and surface area for better decomposition rates however you subject the the organisms that live in this realm to more of the oils impact.
    In fairness to those responding to this spill- the issues are complex and the answers not as clear cut as we would like.
    This oil is coming from very deep water under a lot pressure and mixed with gas. It is probably forming some come complex emulsions -the remediation consequences of which I haven’t a clue.
    I would not worry at all about this mid column oil once out in the open ocean especially far up the coast– too much dilution and too much weathering to be a significant issue. This oil is constantly being eaten and settling out by a number of mechanisms. Wind blown sands are also mixing with the oil and settling it out.
    Keep in mind that with most spills the long term problem was often the clean up. The ocean and coast will feel the effect of this oil. But not nearly to the extent as some press reports will have you believe. The Gulf ecosystem has evolved with the reality of natural oil seeps. It will take some time for the bacteria and fungi to gear up but they are naturally present and will break it down. The wetlands also have a remarkable ability to heal themselves.
    Remember the IXtoc blowout in 1979 was far larger (and the best spill comparison) and the ocean did not die. 170 million gallons of oil was spilled in 1942 along the mid Atlantic coast (NYC to Outer Banks) as the result of Uboat torpedos. 8 million gallons of oil was released by Katrina with little long term impact. This spill is not a good thing but it is not the apocalypse it is made out to be either.

  112. @ Excelsior says:
    May 2, 2010 at 8:17 am
    Media seem to agree on a figure for the leakage of 200,000 gal/day
    which is 8333 gal/hour,
    which is 139 gal/min
    which is 2.3 gal per second.
    That’s about the rate of a man baling out his boat with a garden bucket. Less daunting a problem when seen in that perspective.

    Good comparison. Speaking of perspective; you also won’t hear much about the natural seepage in the Gulf. Which is (according to USGS and others) approx. 150,000 metric tons/annually. Or to put it in terms folks can relate to; approx. 19,000 bbls/day. All of which is handled quite nicely by the natural processes at work in the Gulf: Evaporation, emulsification, biodegradation, etc.
    This is a far bigger political issue than it is a technical or environmental issue.

  113. Thanks Pat and Curiousgeorge for the comments.
    The issues are complex and its tough not to speculate without facts. Other then the fact that they are dumping dispersant chemicals on the spill, information related to the nature of the dispersants wasn’t widely released.
    Here’s a link posted on the other blog — White House Press release.
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/04/30/response-oil-spill-so-far

  114. §300.324 Requires the OSC to notify the National Strike Force Coordination Center (NSFCC) in the event of a worst case discharges, defined as the largest foreseeable discharge in adverse weather conditions. The NSFCC coordinates the acquisition of needed response personnel and equipment. The OSC also must require implementation of the worst case portion of the tank vessel and Facility Response Plans and the Area Contingency Plan.
    Overview
    The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, more commonly called the National Contingency Plan or NCP, is the federal government’s blueprint for responding to both oil spills and hazardous substance releases. The National Contingency Plan is the result of our country’s efforts to develop a national response capability and promote overall coordination among the hierarchy of responders and contingency plans.
    The first National Contingency Plan was developed and published in 1968 in response to a massive oil spill from the oil tanker Torrey Canyon off the coast of England the year before. More than 37 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the water, causing massive environmental damage. To avoid the problems faced by response officials involved in this incident, U.S. officials developed a coordinated approach to cope with potential spills in U.S. waters. The 1968 plan provided the first comprehensive system of accident reporting, spill containment, and cleanup, and established a response headquarters, a national reaction team, and regional reaction teams (precursors to the current National Response Team and Regional Response Teams).
    http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/lawsregs/ncpover.htm
    Someone tell the EPA that they can shut down porn surfing and do their work. The fund is near 2 billion dollars.

  115. First, I would like to thank the oil industry workers, for their insight into what might have happened re: the “failsafe” valve or valving that did not work. The press coverage and getting any real insight & feedback has been a farce! Back in 1985, in Canada, we had the Ocean Ranger disaster, where a rig capsized and sank. I don’t recall us having do deal with an oil spill of this magnitude. Can someone inform us as to the difference between the two events.

  116. this is all of our faults for not understanding how our planet works , how crude oil is used by this ship we call earth . all our hand are covered with oil. we should have put the oil pipe down when blood was spilled over it, we have other resources that are far more earth freindly. we are being used to destroy our own planet. look at the doc. the charcoal people how they used the natives of the rain forrest to destry thier own home . this is deeper then money, they dont need money ,they print it , please think !!!! please leave the oil pipe (crack pipe) alone . i know, they have us so dependent upon them. but we must walk away while we still can . peace and love creativesuns of earth , the stolen sistership

  117. University scientists from all along the Gulf Coast have reported findings of extensive plumes beneath the surface; Tony Hayward says they aren’t there. Cleanup workers are getting sick every day. Before they go to the hospital, BP gives them a couple of showers and keeps their clothing. Tony Hayward says it must be food poisoning, the dispersants are safe.
    In an earlier post, Pat Moffitt says that the dispersants are doing their job and that natural weathering will eliminate most of the adverse effects of the leak and the wetlands have an amazing ability to heal themselves. I’d love to believe that, but the oil is still leaking and the impact is just beginning to be felt. Those loop currents in the Gulf are almost as variable as the wind. The Gulf Loop itself is pretty constant (sort of like the jet stream), but its general shape and size vary constantly. The outer eddies and contact currents change daily. They will change direction, shape and size, even without a hurricane. I have to believe that this oil will eventually land on beaches all around the Gulf. It’s already been verified in some of the interior lakes and bays of Louisiana after one month of leaking.
    For the sake of argument, let’s say the oil stops spreading within six months after the leak is stopped. How long before the wetlands heal themselves? Ten years? Twenty years? By that time, I won’t be able to launch my flatboat without help.

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