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"This will go down in the history books as the Earth Day blowout"
April 26, 2010 3:02 PM   Subscribe

The fire is out on the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. But since the rig sank last Thursday, Coast Guard officials believe about 13,000 gallons (7,400 bbl) of crude oil per day is coming out of the exploratory hole drilled by the rig, about 41 miles offshore from Plaquemines Parish, LA. "An early suggestion that damage would be minimal because the fire was consuming most of the fuel 'does have the potential to change,' BP official David Rainey told the New York Times."

Only days ago, the spill from the rig's explosion was thought to be "minor" (less than 100,000 gallons). But with the collapse of the rig, and subsequent failures to plug the leak, officials are re-evaluating the scale of the disaster.
From CS Monitor, even without the environmental damage, the blowout and explosion would be the second-worst offshore oil rig disaster in U.S. history, with 11 rig workers missing and presumed dead. In 1964, 21 workers were killed in another Gulf platform blowout.
Photo gallery at the Christian Science Monitor;
Video from The Guardian;
Situation report from NOAA
posted by toodleydoodley (99 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why care . . .
posted by bearwife at 3:11 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is where I go fishing.

Correction. This is where I used to go fishing.
posted by ColdChef at 3:13 PM on April 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


An early suggestion that damage would be minimal because the fire was consuming most of the fuel 'does have the potential to change'

Translation: "Oh shit."
posted by Thorzdad at 3:18 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the plus side, sales of Dawn dish soap are bound to go up.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:20 PM on April 26, 2010


Oh, and, "Drill, baby, drill."
posted by Thorzdad at 3:20 PM on April 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


ColdChef, I've fished out there too. It's a shame. Wait till that sludge hits the shore (south of my location)in Plaquimines Parish. This is not good news.
posted by winks007 at 3:20 PM on April 26, 2010


I know the Gulf is big. But I eat out of it (and so do you) and I swim in it, dammit.

Fun (not so fun) facts about the Gulf of Mexico:

* The Gulf of Mexico yields more finfish, shrimp, and shellfish annually than the south and mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and New England areas combined.
* More than 400 species of shells can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf beaches are considered the best shelling beaches in North America.
* The world's longest man-made beach is located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast – 26 miles long.
* Bottlenose dolphins are the most common dolphin species in the Gulf and are estimated to number up to 45,000.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:25 PM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


13,000 gallons (7,400 bbl)

A bbl is less than two gallons?
posted by telstar at 3:32 PM on April 26, 2010


13,000 gallons (7,400 bbl)

A bbl is less than two gallons?
posted by telstar at 6:32 PM on April 26 [+] [!]


good catch - I just copied from the article and apparently copied two unrelated figures. sorry.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:33 PM on April 26, 2010


toodleydoodley, some minor corrections:

* yields -ed
* can could | are were
* beach oil slick
* are were | ,000. .
posted by maxwelton at 3:35 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by fixedgear at 3:40 PM on April 26, 2010


Sys Rq: Proctor and Gamble (usually) donate all the Dawn necessary for clean up.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 3:42 PM on April 26, 2010


41 miles is pretty far away, a circle with a 41 mile radius is about like 5200 square miles. 13,000 galons/day yields about 2.46 gallons per square mile.

Obviously, if the oil were dissolved evenly throughout the water it wouldn't be much at all, but of course oil is lighter then water, and insoluble, so it should end up mostly spread out on the surface.

But even if it's just on the surface, it's just an average accumulation of about 1.46 nanometers of oil per day. If it leaked that much oil all year you get 530 nanometers of accumulation per year. If we approximate this by imagining that the oil were going to spread evenly in a 41 mile circle.

If we were to take the whole gulf of Mexico, at 600,000 square miles, you end up with just about 4.5 nanometers of oil on average, on the surface over an entire year. (or about 12 picometers per day)
posted by delmoi at 3:45 PM on April 26, 2010


This is why I think we shouldn't drill for oil in the Gulf until the thought of burning such a precious resource is faintly horrifying. At that point, it'll be worth taking the environmental risk to get at it.
posted by Malor at 3:45 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we convince P&G to charge the oil company? Maybe some extra financial pain would make those idiots wise up.
posted by oddman at 3:46 PM on April 26, 2010


Not to minimize the size of the spill---it is large---but this is approximately the size of the natural seepage of oil from the Gulf floor. Oil seeps are dispersed over a wide area, but the volumes released from this event are absorbed by the environment every year. One advantage the Gulf ecosystem has is how pre-tuned it is to petroleum. Oil-eating bacteria are very abundant in the Gulf.

Still, this is a big spill and they don't yet have it under control.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 3:49 PM on April 26, 2010


Sys Rq: Proctor and Gamble (usually) donate all the Dawn necessary for clean up.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 6:42 PM on April 26 [+] [!]


and cleaning oiled birds/animals is labor-intensive as all hell
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:50 PM on April 26, 2010


The US uses a polluter-pay regime. BP is already paying for this, and will for years to come. BP is funding the immediate clean up, but also under the NRDA process, every shrimp affected will cost BP money.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 3:56 PM on April 26, 2010


One advantage the Gulf ecosystem has is how pre-tuned it is to petroleum. Oil-eating bacteria are very abundant in the Gulf.

Some areas, alas, may not be so pre-tuned. Thanks, Obama!
posted by chortly at 4:08 PM on April 26, 2010


it's just an average accumulation of about 1.46 nanometers of oil per day

I'm not sure this is a useful way to approach the problem. If we guesstimate 14 days of leakage and change (to include the initial blowout) we get around 250,000bbl, which is around 35,000 tonnes of crude -- or roughly the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. The problem isn't nearly so much the concentration on the surface as the sludge that ends up on the shoreline, contaminating ecosystems and -- perhaps much more here than in Alaska -- aquaculture.

In other words, it's just about as bad a spill as we've ever had in the US.
posted by dhartung at 4:10 PM on April 26, 2010


Damn it. This is awful. So depressing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:15 PM on April 26, 2010


It's a medium big spill right now, but it's still orders of magnitude smaller than Katrina, which was probably the biggest ever. Katrina was so big no one really knows how much was released.

Don't overestimate the oil by assuming it all ends up on the surface of the water, btw. There is dispersion, both natural and artificial, evaporation (South Louisiana crude evaporates about 30% in 48 hours) and sedimentation to consider too.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 4:16 PM on April 26, 2010


I'm not sure this is a useful way to approach the problem. If we guesstimate 14 days of leakage and change (to include the initial blowout) we get around 250,000bbl, which is around 35,000 tonnes of crude -- or roughly the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. The problem isn't nearly so much the concentration on the surface as the sludge that ends up on the shoreline, contaminating ecosystems and -- perhaps much more here than in Alaska -- aquaculture.

In other words, it's just about as bad a spill as we've ever had in the US.


1 oil barrel (bb) is 42 US gallons. So, it's more like 2.5 years to equal the Exxon Valdez oil spill— not 2 weeks (10.8 million / 42000.)
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:20 PM on April 26, 2010


The US uses a polluter-pay regime. BP is already paying for this, and will for years to come. BP is funding the immediate clean up, but also under the NRDA process, every shrimp affected will cost BP money.

Interesting. If this mechanism were strong enough, then everyone buying gas would be internalizing their own externalities. It obviously isn't -- single point pollution, like this disaster, is easy to assign blame for, but that mechanisms fails for bigger, more diffuse issues (eg climate change).
posted by Forktine at 4:21 PM on April 26, 2010


I hope all you BC mefites remember this and all the other oil spills during the next election. We've had an informal moratorium for a long time, and our provincial and federal governments are dying to lift it.
posted by klanawa at 4:28 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Drill, baby, drill."

More like "Spill, baby, spill!"
posted by fuq at 4:32 PM on April 26, 2010


dhartung I think the numbers copied above are incorrect, from an article I'll link below that quotes a higher figure for the leaking of 42,000 gallons a day I am coming up (loosely) with:
42,000 gallons a day over 14 days = 588,000 gallons
588,000 gallons * 7 pounds a gallon = 4,116,000 pounds
4,116,000 pounds divided by 2000/pounds a ton = 2,058 tons
Using the US bbl which is 42 US gallons would mean that there the well is leaking 1,000 bbl a day.
Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Of course this is not a good thing but:

“Crude oil seeps naturally into the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of about 1,500 to 4,000 barrels per day, most likely about 2,700 barrels per day,” Etkin said. “This also means that there are already extensive populations of naturally-occurring “oil-eating bacteria” in the Gulf that will help to break this down.”^

I lived in St. Bernard Parish adjacent to Plaquemines and there are producing wells (mostly natural gas) on otherwise vacant lots in towns. Lower LA is pretty much saturated.

OP what others have said.
posted by vapidave at 4:48 PM on April 26, 2010


Are you sure about the 13,000 gallons/day figure? The sources [2] that I've seen indicate that the rate is 42,000 gallons/day, or a little over 3 times the rate reported here. So, if it ends up taking several months to plug the gushing well, this could well meet or surpass the Exxon Valdez disaster *. Not only are the vast fisheries and wildlife habitats of the northern Gulf coast at risk; if this drifts east and washes up on Florida beaches, it'll be pretty much economic apocalypse for them.
posted by indubitable at 5:01 PM on April 26, 2010


From NOAA: preliminary estimates are that the well is leaking 1,000 barrels a day (1 barrel=42 gallons) at a depth of 5,000'.

NOAA also has trajectory maps of the spill posted at the bottom of that page. Direct link (PDF).

Also, that's Etkin-Schmidt, btw. The reporter got Dagmar's name wrong.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 5:02 PM on April 26, 2010


Picture of the spill from space:
posted by Runes at 5:16 PM on April 26, 2010


OK, that didn't work.
http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2010/04/tracking_the_gulf_rig_oil_slick_from_outer_space_1.html
posted by Runes at 5:18 PM on April 26, 2010


this is fucking big
posted by caddis at 5:28 PM on April 26, 2010


Just, yikes.
posted by Danf at 6:55 PM on April 26, 2010


The Christian Science Monitor link says it's 13,000 gallons per hour, not per day.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:13 PM on April 26, 2010


thank you for bailing me out L.P. Hatecraft
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:19 PM on April 26, 2010


Hmm, does anyone know how thick the slick actually is?
posted by delmoi at 7:36 PM on April 26, 2010


That should put paid to Obama's idiot plan to restart offshore oil leasing.

When I spent the summer in Santa Barbara about 10 years ago, there were still big clots of oil washing up on the beach from the 1969 spill. You could still see the rigs off in the distance pumping away on the same field that had squirted 200,000 gallons of oil into the ocean after an offshore rig blew.

It was a fairly nice beach, but the cakes of black goo were a little off-putting.

This one will pump out the Santa Barbara equivalent in less than 5 days.
posted by jackbrown at 7:36 PM on April 26, 2010


That's 5 days at the low end estimate of 42,000 per day. If it's really 13k an hour like the Monitor says, well, I guess we'll be able to light the bayous on fire.
posted by jackbrown at 7:38 PM on April 26, 2010


dhartung wrote: "In other words, it's just about as bad a spill as we've ever had in the US."

If the wind shifts and blows the oil towards shore instead of holding it 15 miles offshore before they get booms around it and break it up with the chemicals they use. This concerns me, also, but the alarmist nature of the response here is out of proportion to the current risk.
posted by wierdo at 7:51 PM on April 26, 2010


does anyone know how thick the slick actually is?

As it turns out, probably no. That's a very hard question to answer either using models or by observation. It's possible to make guesses for sheen based on visual appearances, but once you get past a few microns thick, oil just looks black. Because it rides low in the water, you can't do it by boat either (It's often not possible to see oil from a boat, even nearby). There is an airplane-based remote sensing system based on thermo-acoustics which has demonstrated thickness sensing under very controlled conditions, but no, measuring the thickness of an oil slick isn't really possible.

Models can give you an idea, but models don't account (well) for concentrations by wind (called windrows). Furthermore there hasn't been great correlation between lab- and meso-scale (swimming pool) studies and model results either.

I doubt anyone has a good idea how thick the slick is. That's not very important to predict behavior or effects though.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 7:57 PM on April 26, 2010


This incident is a big spill, probably the biggest this year, and is important, but it isn't close to the Valdez yet. At 1000 bbl/day, which is still the official estimate (confirmed by my contacts at NOAA), roughly 136 tonnes/day, this spill so far is about 800-900 tonnes. The Valdez was 37,000 tonnes. The Ixtoc blowout in the Mexican Gulf was 450,000 to 480,000 tonnes. Katrina was at least 8,000,000 tonnes (that we know about).

This is a large spill and it will have significant effects on the biota and the commercial fisheries. If it comes ashore, particularly in the wetlands or mangroves, it could be devastating. However, if it stays at sea and the IC continues to be able to use aggressive mechanical recovery while the oil is still fresh, and dispersant is used with some care, the overall impact may be mitigated quite a lot. In many ways these are ideal conditions for recovery operations: relatively calm seas, close to Mobil which houses a huge inventory of equipment, and deepwater so dispersants can be used.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 8:11 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know how much to trust the figures but in the interest of information I'll note that the CSM link was from the 22nd whereas a little more than an hour ago the LA Times as well as more recent articles put the flow at 1,000 bbl (42,000 gallons) a day which would match the size of the Exxon Valdez spill (10.9 million gallons) in 255 more days.
If the efforts to activate the blowout preventer fail then:
The company has filed permits with the federal government to drill new relief wells that could intersect with the original well and stop the leaking.
Construction has also begun on a dome-like collection device that could be positioned over the leak to capture the oil, then send it through pipes to a barge on the surface.
But oil company officials said that both of these solutions would take several weeks.
...
For the next 72 hours, wind should move the spill southeast, away from the closest stretch of shore on the tip of Louisiana, said Doug Helton of NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration.
OP I type and do math slowly.
posted by vapidave at 8:24 PM on April 26, 2010


People died when this went down. There are eleven still missing and presumed dead. Any of you all got any dots for them?
posted by bukvich at 8:39 PM on April 26, 2010


I personally never have a dot for anyone, however:
...........
posted by vapidave at 9:05 PM on April 26, 2010


vapidave & esprit, I now see where my errant conversion was. Around one year seems correct to match the Exxon Valdez. Like NASA I should stick to one system of measurement at a time. I do hope the faster fixes work, of course.

The workers on the oil rig should, of course, receive commensurate attention as the miners in West Virginia. In essence, it's the same job (resource extraction).
posted by dhartung at 10:26 PM on April 26, 2010


Yeah I had every unit of measurement except perhaps potrzebies and hogsheads in my first confusing pass through the numbers.
posted by vapidave at 10:53 PM on April 26, 2010


This Waterfall Represents The Amount of Oil We Use Every Second
posted by homunculus at 11:48 PM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


BP sending sub to cap the leak : bbc news report
posted by marienbad at 4:15 AM on April 27, 2010


The US uses a polluter-pay regime. BP is already paying for this, and will for years to come. BP is funding the immediate clean up, but also under the NRDA process, every shrimp affected will cost BP money.

hopefully, this polluter-pay regime is a little more closely monitored than strip mine reclamation was back in the 70s. at that point, companies were required to pay up front for reclamation efforts after they raped* the land. they found it was more cost-effective to default on the deposit than to actually pay for the reclamation, which was then left up to the state & federal governments. sorry, on my way out & don't have time to google around for links to support this.

regarding the size of the spill and potential damage to the coastline, i guess at least this way the next time a hurricane blows up through the gulf we can all sue bp to rebuild our houses instead of trying to squeeze the feds again.

*no, i don't use that word lightly.
posted by msconduct at 6:42 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


also, back in the late 90s when near-offshore drilling was proposed in the pensacola area, minerals management service, the nice people who regulate offshore drilling, set up a public relations office to educate the opposition as to why it should be a-ok! to drill within eyesight of a pristine beach. again, no time to find the reference, but i worked for mms at that point in time & remember talking to one of the folks who worked at that office about it.
posted by msconduct at 6:47 AM on April 27, 2010


BP's liability is governed by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. I'm not an expert on applying the act, but it looks like they're on the hook for $150 million of direct costs. The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a reserve that all of the oil companies and oil shippers pay into, has an additional $1 billion available for clean-up. That's the Federal liability. I don't think direct costs are going to exhaust the limits of the OSLT, but we'll have to see what the compensation claims are for this. If it makes landfall, all bets are off.

OPA 90 doesn't exclude or limit State liability requirements either. Again, if the spill hits land or a fishery resource, state claims could also be quite high.

Most of the clean-up claims will come out of this pot, BP first, then the OSLT as necessary. BP has contributed to the OSLT as well, it doesn't come out of tax dollars. Compensation to the families of the victims happens seperately, and is treated as would be the coal miner deaths earlier this year, as an industrial accident.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 7:08 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Relatively calm seas? I was reading over the weekend (I'm in New Orleans) that the seas were rough out there, keeping the clean-up crew from doing much work.
posted by raysmj at 8:41 AM on April 27, 2010


The unified command for the spill has a website devoted to the spill cleanup operations.

According to their updates on that site, it looks like they haven't been skimming since Sunday (the 25th). It looks like the last two days of on-water operations have been concentrated on booming and putting up protective barriers to shelter sensitive areas. They're also getting the submersible ROVs ready to cap the blowout.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 10:49 AM on April 27, 2010


to back up & provide a few links re strip mine reclamation areas from where i shot off my big fat fingers above.):

It has been 33 years since Montana passed its strip mine reclamation law, and 29 years since the federal law was passed. 216 acres of the > 62,000 acres permitted for strip mining & 31,000 acres actually mined have been deemed fully reclaimed.

An abandoned mine land inventory was done by ODNR, and according to the inventory, there is over $200 million worth of needed construction work in Ohio - not including the 1,300 miles of streams in Ohio that have had their water quality affected. the article says that most of the un-reclaimed area happened before legislation, but gives no clear numbers, and doesn't cite that legislation in ohio began in the 40s, not the 70s.

Across the Southern West Virginia coalfields, mountaintop removal mining is turning tens of thousands of acres of rugged hills and hollows - nobody knows how many - into flat pastures and rolling hayfields.

many more, but that's all i have time for now.
posted by msconduct at 11:32 AM on April 27, 2010


The robot.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on April 27, 2010


Feds may set Gulf oil slick ablaze
posted by Burhanistan at 2:52 PM on April 27, 2010


If we were to take the whole gulf of Mexico, at 600,000 square miles, you end up with just about 4.5 nanometers of oil on average, on the surface over an entire year. (or about 12 picometers per day)

Yeah, totally. And the cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- while it seemed like a lot of money -- is only costing each taxpayer 81 cents a day for a year. And the cost of Iraq is only a penny a minute for every man, woman and child in the U.S.
posted by one_bean at 4:07 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Relatively calm seas? I was reading over the weekend (I'm in New Orleans) that the seas were rough out there, keeping the clean-up crew from doing much work."

I took this to mean that although the water might be too rough at the moment the Gulf of Mexico is usually calm (occasional hurricane excepted) relative to say, the North Atlantic.
posted by vapidave at 6:33 AM on April 28, 2010


Right. It's not hurricane season. This would have been a much bigger problem later in the Year.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 7:29 AM on April 28, 2010


Worst thing if you love the Gulf (or any body of water, or other natural resource) is to realize the way it's been turned out. Until this 55+ mile wide oil spill, Florida was considering allowing rigs as close as 3 miles, and they'd have done it too, if it hadn't been for that meddling blowout.

Every decision is calculated strictly on ROI, or how bad can we let it get without destroying everything?

The Gulf of Mexico takes a crapload of abuse, and many (most) political decisions made in its regard are rooted in short-term economic interests, rather than long-term economic *and* ecological interests.

Even now many Gulf state politicians are still favor of offshore drilling - even though a major spill would destroy the beaches and torpedo their states' tourism dollars (a major part of Florida's economy) because their constituents want gas prices to stay low. Instead of, you know, getting behind public transportation, because that's for poor people.

Furthermore, decisions regarding Gulf fisheries seem common sense (net ban, etc) until examined more closely. I know a lot of former Gulf fishermen who are convinced that FWC passed the net ban solely to exclude them, because they were not a good enough revenue source compared to large fishing multinationals and wealthy sport fishermen. An examination of the state of Gulf fisheries (not so hot, thank you) reveals that they are taking as much or more of a beating now than they were under the old fishing families.

Finally, ag and sanitation failures in the region are killing the Gulf. The Gulf Dead Zone has been the size of New Jersey for several years now, and growing. Everyone knows livestock and fertilizer waste runoff is bad for waterways, but nobody wants to clean up or cut off the dairies, feedlots and (worst of all) lawn-loving homeowners.

Who's up for a pool on this year's Red Tide outbreak? Wagers on first appearance, duration, coverage area in square miles, days of critical air quality in affected areas and species pushed to threatened status on top of this winter's cold stress die-offs.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:34 PM on April 28, 2010


Feds may set Gulf oil slick ablaze

Finally, a solution to the massive carbon emissions deficit caused by the European airline groundings!
posted by Sys Rq at 6:37 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, right, not a problem at all given the calmer seas! Jesus. Five times as much oil spewing in Gulf of Mexico oil spill as first thought At least some major damage is going to occur to these wetlands, which are vastly more important to a major city (New Orleans) and the nation's seafood biz than anything from Prince William Sound.
posted by raysmj at 8:43 PM on April 28, 2010


Which is to say: The overall impact of the storm cannot be quantified merely in terms of gallons spilled--and it's spilling much faster than previously thought anyway.
posted by raysmj at 8:50 PM on April 28, 2010


Oh, right, not a problem at all given the calmer seas!

That's not at all what I meant. This is a big problem and looks to get bigger.

My point was simply that the weather has been much more of a friend right now than an enemy to the responders. Winds have been keeping the oil offshore. In addition, conditions have been calm enough to use skimmers which need low wave heights, apply dispersants which needs low winds and conduct burns, which also needs low winds. Also, the reason we have such good pictures of the spill (satellite even!) is because the skies have been relatively clear.

If the weather were being uncooperative, the oil could have grounded last Friday or Saturday and no on-water work (including the ROV operations) would have been possible. Things could have been much worse. Big storms mean that even booming isn't possible.

In short, so far they've been lucky with the weather. That's a good thing not a bad one.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 5:46 AM on April 29, 2010


If you say so. It doesn't seem to have made much difference. Hurricanes? No one would be out there working on the rig then. I just don't want to see the seriousness of thiz situation downplayed.
posted by raysmj at 7:19 AM on April 29, 2010


Louisiana opens shrimp season early to get the harvest in before oil comes ashore. New spill estimate up to 4.2 million gallons (contrast 11 million for Exxon Valdez) if the leak cannot be stopped. Two shrimpers lead the filing of a federal class action lawsuit against BP, Transocean, Halliburton Energy and Cameron International.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:25 AM on April 29, 2010


bobby jindal has now officially declared a state of emergency. as of the time of this post, "The slick covered some 600 square miles of water Thursday, state officials estimated. Ten wildlife refuges or management areas in Mississippi and Louisiana are in the oil's likely path ... ."
posted by msconduct at 12:34 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to the Miami Herald, it could be up to two or three months before the leak could be stopped, depending on whether responders have to use the method of last resort - drilling a relief well. The depth of the blown-out well (5,000 feet) is one of the biggest factors in the difficulty, and makes this spill different from other rig blowouts. There is also concern that the wellhead could come detached before a way is found to seal it, and experts fear this could lead to the release of up to 100,000 gallons per day.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:45 PM on April 29, 2010


side question: shouldn't companies like BP be required to have hazard mitgation/contingency plans? from everything i read & hear, they are *really* flying by the seats of their pants & hoping for a miracle, instead of having some pre-formed notion of how to handle something like this. what's up with that?
posted by msconduct at 1:15 PM on April 29, 2010


side question: shouldn't companies like BP be required to have hazard mitgation/contingency plans?

If we're getting into "should" territory with BP (one of the most reckless oil companies operating in the US), we might think about seizing their assets and installing massive oversight.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:19 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


side question: shouldn't companies like BP be required to have hazard mitgation/contingency plans?

If we're getting into "should" territory with BP (one of the most reckless oil companies operating in the US), we might think about seizing their assets and installing massive oversight.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:19 PM on April 29 [+] [!]


taking that extremely literally, it sounds like we'd be nationalizing their oil business.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:55 PM on April 29, 2010


Amen
posted by Burhanistan at 2:59 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I could smell their last refinery explosion from 60 miles away)
posted by Burhanistan at 3:00 PM on April 29, 2010


They certainly do have plans, they're required to by the MMS, the government department that licenses the drilling.

The problem is that an underwater blowout hasn't happened in many years, and deepwater one exactly like this never. The plan is a best guess at the optimal response strategy. Because it's impossible to get permission to make test releases, no one on the spill has direct experience with it.

Even more importantly, political and media pressures can throw the best plans out the window.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 3:20 PM on April 29, 2010


well, having worked for mms for 5 years, and currently contracting for dOd, i'd think that hazard mitigation/contingency plans would be something the feds would impose on people, companies, institutions, and any & all other entities that are engaged in businesses with potential far-reaching disasters in the event of human, mechanical, natural, or other unforeseen failures. instead of just bleeding money in the hopes that it will hit the right mark or buy off potential victims, i mean.

in my own experience, i'm going to get away with what i can get away with, dig? i don't dispute that bp has it's eye on the bottom line & is happy to maximize that at the expense of any kind of ethics or ideologies, but shouldn't our regulatory agencies be ... regulating?
posted by msconduct at 3:39 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


sorry, Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet, should have previewed.

i understand that it's all a crap shoot when you're working with theoretical events, but after 20 years of working for the feds, i can't shake the impression that they're more interested in kissing the asses of their charges than they are of 1) ensuring that they (the feds) have a thorough working knowledge of the industries they oversee and 2) employing some sort of far-reaching planning that might actually allow controlled growth and progress within the individual field. my opinion is that with mms, especially, they actually *make* money (a rarity for federal agencies), so the administration tends to let them do whatever the spirit moves them to do. i understand that you have to go along to get along sometimes, but these agencies were put in place for a reason, political and media pressure be damned. i think it's time they get back to their roots.
posted by msconduct at 3:49 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


NOLA (the news site, not the mefite) is reporting overpowering fuel smells throughout New Orleans; Gainesville Sun reporting the same in the Big Bend region and inland, Tuesday night.

I walked out of class Tuesday evening and *everything* smelled like solvent, but I just thought the flowering trees were blooming crazy and bugging my allergies. It's about 350 mi from the spill area to Gainesville-ish. That can't be good for air quality in the whole Gulf Region.

aaaaaand, the satellite view
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:56 PM on April 29, 2010


aaaaaand, the satellite view

Damn. That thing is big enough to have a seat at the UN. Freakin' BP jerkoffs.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:11 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is hard to overestimate the fecundity and resiliency of a swamp. Pebbles scraped aside 2200 years ago persist as the Nazca lines in the arid desert while the Louisiana oyster beds, destroyed 5 years ago by Katrina have recovered to pre-hurricane levels. Whether or not Louisiana suffers because of an association made between the oil spill and its seafood the wildlife will, I predict, recover easily from any damage if we let the swamp be the swamp. I lived south of New Orleans post-Katrina for 3 years and was amazed at how quickly an environment flushed with tidal oscillations and scrubbed by thunderstorms recovers.
A series of drastic modifications that people have made; MRGO*; the freshwater bypass network; the intercoastal waterway; channels for logging &c as well as the ongoing chemical abuse are the bigger issue. Lets not forget that while holes poked in the earth are not a natural occurrence, oil seeps which convey very large quantities of oil to the surface, are. Yet we don't see persistent oil.
What I am trying to get at here I guess is that I am frustrated that we (not metafilter we as much as America we) keep having these punctuated and in my opinion overwrought responses to events that are spectacular at the expense of applying steadier pressure over the long term. Well, that and the real root problem that our politicians are owned by corporations.
I know the president of the United Commercial Fishermen's Association (they have retained lawyers as of today) and a lot of his friends who I'll call tomorrow evening and post, in erm, a Friday evening state of mind if they tell me anything interesting.

*Mississippi River Gulf Outlet which has been decommissioned
posted by vapidave at 9:07 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pebbles scraped aside 2200 years ago persist as the Nazca lines in the arid desert

I'm not trying to undermine your point, but it would seem that the locals have been maintaining the Nazca lines for awhile now.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:11 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Walking the dog today, the smell of fresh blooming jasmine was wrestling with a subtle but distinct smell of crude.

I wrote it off as my imagination, but later I went to Casamento's for a plate of oysters.

What a fucking mess.
posted by gordie at 10:06 PM on April 29, 2010


"...it would seem that the locals have been maintaining the Nazca lines for awhile now."

Thanks for the info and saving me future embarrassment. My examples were a bit off now that I think of it. I should have used similar man made structures where the one in the arid climate persists and the one in the seaside jungle climate is more deteriorated. And/or a parallel example involving human environmental destruction where the damage persisted in the arid climate but nature recovered in the seaside jungle climate. Ok I'm just blabbering now. Off to bed.
posted by vapidave at 1:48 AM on April 30, 2010


http://spectregroup.wordpress.com/
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gingrich’s ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’ campaign continues as oil rig disaster grows.
posted by homunculus at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2010


Some amazing photos via the Big Picture

Sorry if this has already been posted...
posted by snapped at 11:52 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm so depressed that while my math was wrong, my conclusions were still right.

I'll have no shame using this to promote Bike to Work Week.
posted by dhartung at 12:26 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can Microbes Save The Gulf Beaches? The Challenges Are Myriad
posted by homunculus at 6:26 PM on April 30, 2010


To quote a Greenpeace ad from 1989:
"It wasn't his driving that caused the [fill in latest disaster] oil spill; it was yours."
Walk. Bike. Stay home. Please make it stop.
posted by crazylegs at 3:39 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Walk. Bike. Stay home. Please make it stop.

Pretty simplistic and unrealistic advice, there. I mean, hey, I'm with you on the sentiment and all. heck, I haven't driven a car in 15 years, and I'm only very, very occasionally even a passenger in them. But then, I live in Tokyo, which happens to have one of the most (the most?) extensive public transportation networks in the world. Telling people who live outside of most big cities to walk or bike is unrealistic in the extreme. And staying home? All well and good, I guess, if you're independently wealthy, but alas, most of us aren't, and usually have to get somewhere, daily, to make money. Unfortunately, those places are often too far to walk or bicycle to.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:57 AM on May 1, 2010


Telling people who live outside of most big cities to walk or bike is unrealistic in the extreme. And staying home? All well and good, I guess, if you're independently wealthy, but alas, most of us aren't, and usually have to get somewhere, daily, to make money. Unfortunately, those places are often too far to walk or bicycle to.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:57 AM on May 1 [+] [!]


Right! The problem is, many US states have had public transportation initiatives on the ballot over the last 20 years and voters have knocked them down again and again, for a variety of reasons: too expensive, too slow, too inconvenient, gas too cheap, buses are for poor people. It's not that we couldn't have had transit alternatives before now; we just kept choosing not to.

For example, I live in Gainesville, a small city in North Florida where the state's flagship university (UF) is located. The university has a year-round population of about 150,000, including students, faculty and staff. The students and faculty mostly live in town, but the staff (10,000 or more) mostly commute from surrounding areas, and mostly down a couple of major arteries.

Gainesville is also home to 4 major hospitals and the vast majority of the non-agricultural employers for 10 counties. Anyone in the surrounding counties who is not in farming is commuting to Gainesville, again, along a few major arteries. And yet, there is not even minimal public transit outside the city. Not even a commuter bus running twice a day to outlying county centers. More than 100,000 people are commuting 30+ miles each way to Gainesville, single drivers in passenger vehicles, pickup trucks and SUVs.

For some of them, if they thought of it, it might probably be cheaper to stay home, except that they would lose their health coverage. Their commuter costs eat most of their pay.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:49 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm back in Seattle now and standing at a bus stop here is fine and you can bike in winter but I lived in Iowa too where standing at a bus stop in winter (and I did it) is painful and occasionally dangerous and biking is laughably impossible.
My favorite idea for reducing fuel consumption that accommodates the reality of wherever anyone lives: higher federal mileage standards.
posted by vapidave at 2:41 PM on May 1, 2010


Meanwhile: MMS has postponed their 2010 Offshore Industry Safety Awards.
posted by marxchivist at 5:28 PM on May 1, 2010


New OMG reported by ABC News: when (not if) the spill gets into the Gulf Stream, it will be carried not only to Florida's Gulf Coast, but around the peninsula and up the Atlantic coast as well. Still some concern that the pipe inserted in the well opening could fail, leading to a completely uncontrolled outpouring. Anonymous BP source says that particular bed holds tens of millions of gallons.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:38 PM on May 1, 2010


Good lord, that ABC News article is just depressing as hell. Makes me wanna smack these "drill baby drill" people square in the jaw, I swear. This is a nightmare.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:17 PM on May 1, 2010


Leaking Oil Well Lacked Safeguard Device
posted by homunculus at 8:00 PM on May 1, 2010


Halliburton in spotlight in gulf spill probe: Investigators look at the company’s role in cementing the deepwater drill hole in the Gulf of Mexico. Transocean and BP also face questioning.
posted by homunculus at 8:40 PM on May 1, 2010


Is there a Feynman solution? (NYTdot.earth blog)
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:48 PM on May 1, 2010


NPR's analysts think far more oil could be spewing forth, up to 70kbbl/day
posted by delmoi at 4:10 PM on May 14, 2010


as far as I can tell, BP has nothing to lose by lying about the amount discharged; Transocean has already filed to have its total damages capped at $26.7M and BP is on the hook for the rest (theoretically). So they'll just go bankrupt and reorganize, no big deal.

Meanwhile, 15 years after the Gulf net ban was put into effect, Gulf Coast fishermen-cum-shellfish farmers are finally hearing the death knell of their lives and culture.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:21 PM on May 14, 2010


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