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Archive for June 5th, 2010

[T]his is the seventh attempt to stop the well since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and burned … six weeks ago, and all the others have ended in disappointment.

What if nothing worked at all? What if the oil just kept coming out of the ground until it stopped naturally? How long would it take? What would be the consequences? …

[N]obody … is sure how much [oil] is down there. … The underground formation that the rig was probing has been estimated to hold anywhere from 50 million to a billion barrels of oil that could be extracted economically.

[I]f parts of the floating slick spread into the powerful Loop Current near Florida’s Gulf Coast … oil could be drawn around the Florida peninsula, up the Eastern Seaboard and out into the Atlantic Ocean … [and] wash ashore from … Florida … to the Carolinas.—Ned Potter


 

What if BP Never Stopped the Oil in the Gulf of Mexico?

Engineers Say Deepwater Horizon Well Could Leak for Years if Not Stopped

By Ned Potter

BP said today that its latest try to control the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico may be working. It has lowered a large cap over the blown-out well, 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf, in hopes of siphoning off the escaping oil.

“I am actually pretty confident this is going to work,” BP COO Doug Suttles said on “Good Morning America.” “It probably won’t capture all of the flow but it should capture the vast majority.”

But this is the seventh attempt to stop the well since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and burned on April 20, six weeks ago, and all the others have ended in disappointment.

Which raised a question: What if nothing worked at all? What if the oil just kept coming out of the ground until it stopped naturally? How long would it take? What would be the consequences?

The quick answer is that they would be severe — though nobody is quite sure how much oil might escape because nobody, even at BP, is sure how much is down there.

“It’s huge. It’s a big oil field,” said Roger Anderson, an oil geophysicist at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. “If 20,000 barrels a day are escaping, it could stay there for years, then drop off. It could flow at a small rate for a very, very long time.”

Calls to more than a dozen experts yielded similar answers: it might be years, not months, if nothing stops the gusher, but it would not stretch into a decade. Many engineers and agencies said they would prefer not to guess.

The theoretical question — what if the oil were allowed to stop on its own — is not something that the federal government, states along the Gulf Coast, or BP would even consider. The eyes of the world are on the ongoing disaster, and BP is drilling relief wells to divert the leaking oil if nothing else works. The company has said it should be done by August. The government said Thursday that 30,000 people are involved in the effort to control the oil and clean up the mess.

“People are pretty confident that the relief well(s) will work, if nothing else,” said Eric Adams of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an e-mail to ABC News. “Of course they won’t be finished until August, which is 2-plus months away. At 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil per day, that is, of course, a lot of oil.”

Vast Underwater Oil Field

The Deepwater Horizon was drilling a so-called exploratory well when the accident happened. Eleven workers on the platform never were seen again and are believed to have died. The underground formation that the rig was probing has been estimated to hold anywhere from 50 million to a billion barrels of oil that could be extracted economically.

“Not all the oil would flow out due to what the oil field types would call ‘natural bridging’ of the well — that means self-plugging,” said Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who has been studying the size of the spill. “Nonetheless, there is no immediate prospect of ‘running out’ of oil and gas that can get out if they can’t plug this damned thing.”

What if BP Never Stopped the Oil?

Where would the oil go? Computer models developed by the federally-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research showed that if parts of the floating slick spread into the powerful Loop Current near Florida’s Gulf Coast, oil could be drawn around the Florida peninsula, up the Eastern Seaboard and out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Some oil naturally would be consumed by microorganisms or degraded by sunlight and wave action, but oil might also wash ashore from Louisiana to Florida and up to the Carolinas.

Past experience in the Gulf of Mexico has been sobering. In 1979, a Mexican-owned rig called Ixtoc-1 suffered a blowout and collapsed, and 140 million gallons of oil escaped into the water. Pemex, the Mexican oil company, drilled two relief wells — and even then oil kept escaping for three months after the first one was finished.

Engineers say major oil accidents are relatively rare, considering the amount of crude that is pumped out of the ground around the world. But the technology to bring a blown well under control has not greatly advanced since the Ixtoc accident, which remains the world’s largest.

President Obama, on his third visit to Louisiana since the BP accident, said today, “It is way too early to be optimistic.”

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“Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honorable Gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon.”—Benjamin Disraeli, on the receiving end of an anti-Semitic slur in the British Parliament

A great piece! Hillyer nails it! Must reading for all fair-minded people.

Anti-Semites “never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”

I.M. Kane

Israel, Right and Long

By Quin Hillyer

To Will Barrett, the main character in Walker Percy’s The Second Coming, it was a perfectly reasonable statement and question: “The historical phenomenon of the Jews cannot be accounted for by historical or sociological theory. Accordingly, they may be said to be in some fashion or other a sign. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Their temple was destroyed by the Romans, and their remnants were routed by the Romans at Masada. They were spread to the four winds, persecuted by pagans and Christians and Muslims. Century after century saw pogroms carried out against them. They were preached against, marginalized, disdained, blamed, enslaved, murdered. Yet they endured. They were subjected to Holocaust, yet they endured. Finally given a small sliver of a land, they were attacked from all directions by a confederation of enemies. And attacked again. And attacked again. And, in wave after wave of smaller attacks, attacked yet again and again and again and again and again and again to this day.

And everything was portrayed as their fault. When terrorists killed their athletes, well, the surviving terrorists were mere political prisoners, willingly traded in return for the freeing of a hijacked airliner and given a heroes’ welcome when they touched down in Libya as free men. When Hamas fired rockets into Israel and the Israelis retaliated, well, it was the retaliation that was blasted by the United Nations and by feckless spineless bigoted Europeans. When they traded land for an Arafat promise of peace, only to have more war waged on them from the very land they had traded… well, wasn’t it obvious that they needed to give up more land still?

Feckless spineless bigoted Europeans continue to be the bane of their existence. So do hateful murderous Arabs and Muslims, fomenting murder masked as religion, claiming jihad when engaged in nothing more than bloody mayhem that dishonors any just and decent God and would make an evil ape of any Prophet that would actually bless such a cause. (As the Prophet is obviously no evil ape, it is the cause and not the Prophet who bears the blame, for it is a false cause that the Prophet could not bless. Good and decent Arabs and Muslims, meanwhile, are marginalized by the murderers.)

And now, in four days, two new outrages are perpetrated against the Israelis. First, the United States — itself led by a president too craven to call jihadist terrorism by its name, a president openly biased in favor of Islamists — for the first time ever joined an international conference that began a call for Israel to renounce nuclear weapons, while making nary a mention of Iran’s own nuke developments. Then, when operating in a blockade supported by Egypt — a blockade perfectly reasonable that merely asks that ships loaded for terrorist Gaza be inspected for weapons before being allowed to reach its destination, and while its soldiers are armed merely with paintball guns and a stray pistol or two — Israel rightfully defends its attacked personnel… and, of course, again finds itself treated as the pariah, the source of the fault, the instigator of the very mayhem it only seeks to avoid. Writing in the UK Spectator, Melanie Phillips rightly calls the developments “a global pogrom in the making.”

Yet in all of these dreadful developments, we should not make the mistake of thinking that the state of Israel or the Jewish people are victims. In truth, as a people they are too proud and strong to be victims. As always, there is something that keeps them going, that will not give up, that will persevere and survive and, yes, triumph. Yes: “The historical phenomenon of the Jews cannot be accounted for by historical or sociological theory.”

The fictional Will Barrett was marveling at their hardiness, and wondering what their survival signifies. Addled by an imbalance in brain chemicals, Barrett nevertheless was onto something approaching existential truth. One need not read the novel to understand where Barrett’s wonder comes from, and to understand why he thinks it must signify — “in some fashion or other” — something important and perhaps even transcendent. No mere theory, he thinks, could possibly account for so many, many, many centuries of achievement amidst unceasing strife. Achievements, yes: wondrous contributions in the arts, and in economics, and in medicine, and in commerce, and in science, and certainly in philanthropy. Only the mysteries of a particularly strong human character, backed perhaps in some wise by a covenantal God, can explain this “historical phenomenon” of a people so enduring and so often great and good.

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. Leaders arise who claim their own rise is “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and out planet began to heal.” But those leaders, like the kingdoms, likewise will fall prey to their own egomania and internal hollowness. Those leaders, failing to support Israel, will find that Israel survives every Ozymandias the millennia dare throw at it.

The 19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli had it right. “Yes, I am a Jew,” he said to a critic. “And when the ancestors of the Right Honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.” And Solomon, as we know, was wise.

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An open letter to Obama

by Dr. Carol Moreau at American Daughter

Re: Obama saying a “hurricane could be ‘helpful’ dispensing the oil in the Gulf”.

Funny you should mention it … I woke up this morning thinking about my college days (LONG ago!) when I learned about what I went on to teach, about oil spills. This spill in the Gulf IS particularly troubling to me, maybe because I “know too much”. Saying that it is “the worst environmental accident in the US” is, I’m afraid, an understatement, because I can see it having global impacts … none of them good. The type of oil spewing in the Gulf is “crude” composed mainly of hydrocarbons, sulpher, nitrogen, trace metals, and other components which all have potentially deadly effects.

The level of damage depends on three main factors. One is weather. Not only are we headed into temperatures in summer which have the worst potential effects, but hurricanes can be a major factor in spreading the damage, so NO, Mr. President, hurricanes do NOT “help” in any way. Maybe you would like to put it “out of sight, out of mind”, but that ainna gonna work! The other two are specific biological effects, one being short-term, and the other long-term. The effects of this spill will not “go away” in either our lifetime, nor our grandchildren’s. That REALLY pisses me off! Sorry about the graphics.

oil covered pelican

Short term biological effects cause direct kills at the site of the spill due to coating and asphyxiation, and contact poisoning. Away from the spill, water soluble toxins affect delicate larvae, and destroy these vulnerable food sources. Think about that.

Long term effects which are not necessarily “direct”, but are secondary, include the destruction of sensitive juveniles and their food sources, reduced resistance to disease and other stresses, the ingestion of carcinogens (cancer-causing substances), and interference with reproduction. Egg production is reduced and behavioral mechanisms change, causing the inability to locate a mate, throwing spawning time out of sync. There are many long term subtle changes that cause chronic long-term biological damage. Chemical controls by metabolites (metabolic waste products) can’t be sensed by veligers (immature free-swimming forms of many crustaceans, mollusks, and shellfish found in the water column). This will affect a myriad of species which humans depend upon for their livelihoods (food sources). Getting to spawning grounds is controlled by chemicals, as is predator avoidance for many species.

Factors that influence the impact of an oil spill include

  1. the type or toxicity of the oil spilled (crude=horrible),
  2. the volume spilled … over 45 days and counting??? Go figure…
  3. the physiography of the area which in this case includes waters a mile deep, as well as shorelines, tidal zones, mudflats, and many especially “sensitive” areas,
  4. weather conditions at the time of the spill (and counting Mr. President!),
  5. the life forms and community types in the area (how about ALL types?),
  6. the season, with spring and summer bringing about the worst impact because of the abundance of larvae and reproduction rates being at their highest,
  7. previous exposure of the area to oil which is “dumped” everyday by boats,
  8. exposure to other pollutants which can combine with the oil and intensify the negative effects, and
  9. how the spill is treated.

Some dispersants have effects which are worse than the oil itself. Have we been told what kind of dispersants were used? Do you, Mr. President, know about all the different dispersants available and which were used, and what their various effects might be? I don’t think so! It appears to be a national secret at this point in time.

Once oil is released, some is dissipated by evaporation, some constituents go into solution, and some is absorbed onto particle surfaces and then carried to the bottom to be incorporated into the sediment. This is where MUCH of the Valdez oil still sits many years later and continues to impact the sediment dwellers, many of which form the bottoms of food chains. And oh yes, we put much of the Valdez oil there by “cleaning” the shores with high pressure sprays that forced the oil “out of sight, out of mind”. Some is ingested by organisms including phytoplankton which ingest about 20% and form the bottom of food chains for organisms in the water column. Some get degraded by microbes, which is an aerobic process so increases oxygen demand. When I last checked, it took all the oxygen available in 350,000 gallons of water to degrade just one gallon of oil. How many gallons of oil have already spilled? The resulting lack of available oxygen in the water can lead to massive fish kills washing up on shore, just to mention one of MANY effects stemming from low oxygen levels in the water. Has this happened on any of our shores yet, Mr. President? Care to go for a swim or eat in the local seafood restaurants in Louisiana while you’re visiting?

Ocean currents, both deep and surface, and all in between, will mix with the oil and carry it EVERYWHERE eventually. Even if we had a way to cap the leak today, it would continue to haunt us socially, biologically, economically, aesthetically, and yes, I get very emotional about it. I had hoped that in my retirement, I could “forget” about knowing such things, but I find no such relief. I could go on upsetting myself, thinking about what it will do to my favorite playground, the coral reefs, and knowing that it was a human-induced disaster makes me all the more frustrated at this situation and the state of the environment, and our President’s lack of action has made this exponentially more disastrous by the minute.

Time to find some Kleenex…

Dr. Carol Moreau holds a doctorate in Marine Science, with specialty in Reefs.

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