30 April 2010

More Oil Seeps Naturally Than from Human Spills

Update 19 July 2010: The Macondo bore Gulf spill has spilled considerably more oil to this point, than the Exxon Valdez. It has certainly spilled more oil than a typical year of natural seeps in the Gulf. But warm waters recover from oil spills very quickly -- as was seen in the 1979 Ixtoc 1 spill -- which lasted 10 months. One more thing: Every year, rain runoff carries at least 3 or 4 times as much oil to the sea as the Transoceanic spill. (see graph at bottom of post) Let that cue your thinking as to whether the Gulf is naturally able to dispose of large quantities of oil.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound released 10.8 million gallons of oil -- or almost 250,000 barrels of oil. But natural oil seeps off California release up to 80 times that amount. And natural seeps in the Gulf of Mexico release twice the amount as the Exxon Valdez every year.

The Transocean oil spill may eventually match that of the Exxon Valdez -- if it continues leaking at the current rate for the next month or two or more. Politicians and environmentalists are already declaring states of emergency, but better technology may yet break up the oil spill and allow natural forces to dissipate it.

Curious claims are being made from various sources regarding the origin of the oil platform fire, explosion, and sinking. But even if the oil platform was deliberately destroyed, as some are claiming, the well itself should have had some type of inbuilt mechanism -- a blowout preventer -- to stop oil flow in case of a catastrophic disruption in continuity of the piping. [Update 1 May 2010: Apparently the blowout preventer at the site failed to operate. At this time no one knows why the blowout preventer failed. Certain automatic safety switches that were not included in the operation may have been able to trigger the blowout preventer.]

Other offshore wells incorporate such safety features, which would likely have stopped the oil spill very early in its course.

So the problem is not offshore drilling so much as it is making sure the best technology is utilised when drilling offshore. And, yes, try to maintain a sense of perspective.

This Denver Post article presents a bit of background
Causes of Oil Pollution

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you liveblogging the friggin' oil spill?

Monday, 03 May, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Well, at least you know that whoever posted that link at AoS probably got the link from here or Al Fin Energy.

Monday, 03 May, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know that the AoS commenter may have been an AF reader when I posted the comment. I started at the top of your page and after I posted the comment I discovered that your oil leak coverage extended downpage for many, many feet.

Monday, 03 May, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. This article was a response to a comment at AF Energy criticising my support for offshore drilling. The rest of it just naturally followed as events unfolded.

Monday, 03 May, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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