BP Gulf oil disaster

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BP Gulf oil disaster

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Mayo 31, 2010, 4:40pm

I started a thread in the Science group on the BP disaster before I thought to look for an environmentally oriented group. There are not a lot of contributions yet in science but I could cross post here if that is acceptable or just express your opinion in science if your are so inclined. It looks like both groups have infrequent {but high quality!} posts.

Jun 1, 2010, 6:14pm

I had to clean up (well, watch people who knew what they were doing clean up) 20 quarts of automatic transmission fluid in downtown Boulder, Colorado today. I feel 0.00000000004% of BP's pain.

Jun 9, 2010, 5:16am

There are already several books being written about it, some of which will soon be in the bookstores. For those interested, let's be ahead of the game, accurately knowledgeable about the topic.

James Cameron, for all the courageous things he's said recently, said tonight (June 7) on Larry King that "This is not as bad as it could be" i.e. it could get worse. Fact is: IT IS GETTING WORSE HOUR BY HOUR, DAY BY DAY.

Currently there are. according to BP, 20K barrels being released per day while 11K are being captured by the cap. Thad Allen puts it at 25K per day, while others make it a lot higher.

A few points:

1. BP is paying Google to put their website first in any search. OK, it is highlighted but reports are that they are lobbying other non-highlighted sites to appear high in searches. I wonder if the Wikipedia reports are written by BP people.

2. Dispersing does not mean disappearing. The tiny particles remain in the water and we do not know how this will affect the environment. It is most likely it will kill off the micro-organisms which in turn will have a domino effect on the food chain.

3. There are petroleum eating bacteria. Why aren't more, much more, being put in the water?

4. Let's not forget that 11 people were killed in this blow-out. Their families are going a hellish grief experience. They need to be remembered by the country at large.

Jun 9, 2010, 11:54am

"Why aren't more, much more, being put in the water?

One reason might be algal bloom - massive bacteria growth on the oil, which uses up all the oxygen in the water, releases toxins of their own and if you're really unlucky also blocks out the sunlight. Hence maybe causing more damage than it solves.

(note the cavets)

Life if complicated.

4- very true.

Jun 9, 2010, 1:43pm

3> (items 2 & 3): I have a little experience in the matter, although all my cleanups have been on land - you don't get very many oceanic spills in Colorado.

1. Yes, there are petroleum-eating bacteria; there are bacteria that eat just about anything, including nylon and pentachlorophenol. However, unless it's really early in a spill (which it isn't) or unless the spilled material is really exotic (which it isn't) you are better off just letting naturally existing bacteria reproduce. There are natural petroleum leaks in the ocean, so there are always a few hopeful bacteria floating around looking for one. They increase exponentially, which means that there will be far more than you can reasonably deliver in a few days anyway. Once and a while it does make sense to add some additional nutrient, if the bacteria are short of it; when you are cleaning up spills on land, the stuff in short supply is almost always oxygen so blowing a lot of air through your spill plume will be useful. Not the case here, though.

2. Even petroleum-eating bacteria can't take on straight crude oil; it's toxic to them, just less so than to other organisms. Therefore what they do is "nibble around the edges"; get in where the oil has diluted enough that they can survive but where it's still concentrated enough to kill all their competitors. The best time to use them, then, is where a spill is already stable - i.e., no new material added. This isn't the case with the BP spill.

That means dispersing the oil is not necessary a bad idea. Although it does break it up into droplets, and each droplet is potentially toxic, it also gives the petroleum-eating bacteria an astronomical increase in surface area to work on. They can grow on the edge of each of those drops and eat their way toward the center. We use surfactants and detergents on land for the same reason; there's always a little water even in dry soil and breaking up droplets helps things out. A potential problem, though; those surfactants can interfere with standard tests for petroleum concentration, maiking it look like oil is all gone even when there is still a lot there.

The bottom line is using surfactants is pretty much the only thing that can be done at this point, until the well gets capped. It's not a very good solution but it's better than nothing.

Jun 9, 2010, 1:49pm

3.1 BP is paying Google to put their website first in any search. OK, it is highlighted but reports are that they are lobbying other non-highlighted sites to appear high in searches.

Yes, that's called advertising. Google has always had advertising, indicated by "highlighted results", it's how they make their money. I'm sure BP has done it for long before this spill, and it's a very odd thing to highlight as evidence of shady dealings. Note that the ads don't appear if you include words like "spill" or "disaster" in your search, again, because they wouldn't want to advertise on such pages.

Jun 10, 2010, 12:03am

#6 So true. I've tried "spill" and numerous other search words. I wonder how they do it.

Editado: Jun 10, 2010, 5:22am

>7 bookmonk8888: July 4th isn't far away. We threw the Brits out (and achieved Independence ). Time to throw BP out. I heard on TV, whether it is true or not, that most of their American oil is exported. So, apart from tax, they are not contributing much to the USA

edited for typo

Jun 28, 2010, 10:41pm

While not about spills, "The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World" by Paul Roberts is related, in that it discusses peak oil and serves as yet another reminder of why we need to get off fossil fuels ASAP.

Editado: Jul 1, 2010, 3:58am

Do you know that putting the square brackets around a title or author gives a link that takes you there immediately? They won't come up in this post but they're 2nd add 3rd on second key row from the right. e.g.
The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World

Jul 1, 2010, 3:52am

Recently I read that Oil from sea can be cleared with cotton cloth way. I don't knowhow US Government reached/acted on it. Can someone give me details on it. Rajni Kant Mudgal

Jul 1, 2010, 4:02am

Don't know. But hair, including human hair, does. There are some groups putting hair in booms made of panties (because of their porous nature) and it's quite effective. Several barbers are contributing.

Jul 5, 2010, 10:28pm

Hmmm. I didn't realize barbers wore panties.

Jul 7, 2010, 8:32pm


It's a requirement for all barbers, male and female. You didn't know that!!! As for the hair, they also contribute their own, including their pubic hair. After all it was Bush who accelerated deregulation of the oil industry. The Republicans should contribute all their body hair by starting a Bush Parting movement. Should be a good competitor to the Tea Party people.

Editado: Jul 8, 2010, 11:13pm

I can't believe the courts overturned the government's appeal to have a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf-I thought it was a no brainer. That the courts could not see the logic in at least pausing the deep well drilling in the gulf until the current situation is evaluated seems on the surface to be nonsensical.

From a quick glance at various articles the Feds say the proposed moratorium would only affect 33 current deep wells being drilled.

A cut n paste of the first over turn of the Fed's moratorium from allvoices.com

"""U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans granted a preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit challenging the ban and “immediately prohibited” the government from enforcing it.

“The court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between findings presented by the government and the immense scope of the moratorium,” Judge Feldman wrote, one day after hearing arguments in the case. “The blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.” """"

The Fed's contention before the first ruling from Surfwax link.

""At the same time, the federal government's lawyers argued that the moratorium targets only a small number of deepwater operations that present safety concerns, affecting less than 1 percent of the existing structures in the Gulf dedicated to oil exploration and production. The companies that succeeded in blocking the moratorium "exaggerate by contending that the 'viability of the entire Gulf of Mexico deepwater industry' turns on six months' worth of continued operations at a small fraction of... (ABC News -- Wire) ""

offshore247.com posts :

""Norway's Oil Minister Terje Riis-Johansen has effectively suspended future deepwater drilling offshore Norway in the 21st Licensing Round until is more is known about the cause of the Deepwater Horizon rig blowout and loss which led to the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill.""

I am going to try to find more specifics, a lot of the protest over the ban seems to be couched in political rhetoric aimed at Obama. The oil industry corps all banded together to oppose the action of course but BP was still in denial as the rig was sinking so I take the "categorically against since the wells pose no threat" attitude as a negotiation point.

Jul 9, 2010, 11:25am

>15 DugsBooks: It's immensely expensive to let an oil rig sit idle, plus the oil drilling industry provides a lot of high-paying jobs (a rig that's actively drilling needs a lot more crew than one that's just sitting there). Since high-paying jobs are in short supply along the Gulf Coast, I imagine the judge thought that the benefits outweighed the risks. I am personally neutral; no oil is likely to wash ashore in Colorado.

Editado: Jul 9, 2010, 5:23pm

#16 Yep, I have read about the rigs and the companies/people who supply them and I am sure the Fed guv knows about that. The BP specialized deep sea rig that blew up and sank was costing over $500,000 a day in fees - one reason that apparently BP hurried through the process and thus personified the "hurry up and f--k up" expression.

I have read only 33 riigs would be affected, which is probably a few hundred people each rig but the employees would get some compensation in the interim at least and companies would keep the skilled employees close. I invested in a deep drill company a couple of years ago after an ipo, it was taken over by biz people, a good many highly skilled employees laid off and soon after was defunct.

In light of the existing gulf oil mess it is just difficult to understand how many times the judges have to put their fingers in an electrical socket before they realize it shocks them.

Jul 9, 2010, 6:23pm

>17 DugsBooks: One article I read suggested that if the rigs are going to site idle too long, they will just up and go - be towed to Brazil or Nigeria or Indonesia and drill there. I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds plausible. That would mean not just temporary layoffs but permanent, or at least long-term, job losses in the Gulf. And the oil companies would be spending maintenace money elsewhere too; again I read it costs $500K a day to maintain a rig, even if it's just sitting there. Hard to say; I'm one of the few geologists that never worked for an oil company and thus I don't know too much about it.

Jul 9, 2010, 7:32pm

Yep, NBC news just announced that one rig was moving to Egypt from the Gulf. The bit of reading I did while holding the deep drill company stock lead me to believe that a lot of the rig workers are global workers- they travel to the job world wide.

That is a loss of income for the area but the risk of another "blow out" before an assessment of the accident is a huge folly IMOHO and the Guvments evidently. Another major spill could end the commercial seafood productivity of the gulf for decades, if that is not the case already. Of course you also have the obvious comparisons of pollution ended jobs and cautionary caused layoffs.

Parenthetically, I took a few geology courses back in the 1970's and ironically my Oceanography professor was one of the worlds foremost experts on Caribbean geology at that time { I didn't know that until later!}. The prof. , if I remember correctly mentioned a large body of specific {and closely held?} knowledge held by oil geologists. Not that any of that makes me a knowledgeable expert but a lot of the concepts are familiar.

Ago 26, 2010, 3:21pm

3, 4> Last week's Science (only abstract available online unless you are AAAS):


had a news story about the use of surfactants in the BP release. I was surprised to find that they were injecting the stuff right at the wellhead; I had just assumed it was being sprayed on the surface. The decision to use surfactants was quite controversial but appears to have been successful (Science uses the expression "cautious praise"). The possibility of oxygen depletion was considered, and was a major worry, but did not happen. The bottom line expressed in the article was that BP and the regulatory agencies decided that the mix of crude oil and surfactant would be less toxic that crude oil alone and therefore went ahead with the plan.

Editado: Sep 13, 2010, 3:50pm

Click on the below for an article describing the discovery of a big layer of
oil at the gulf bottom, evidently treated with surfactants, from the BP/Mercado oil leak.

in on oil.

By Samantha
| Published:
6, 2010 8:55am

A photo of some of the stuff found.

Sep 13, 2010, 6:21pm

>21 DugsBooks: really interesting; obviously requires more research. The thing that comes to mind is that oil's lighter than water but whatever this stuff is, is settling to the sea floor. Have bacteria already eaten lighter weight crude oil components? When the surfactants combine with oil do they make it heavier than water? Lots of possibilities; thanks for the link.