Macondo Blowout

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In the Macondo Prospect on April 20, 2010, high-pressure gas forced its way into the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig where it exploded.  Eleven people were killed.  From then, until it was announced as sealed on September 19, 2010, some 210 million gallons of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico some 50 miles offshore from Louisiana.    This was the largest accidental oil spill in history.

 

The spill threatened the beautiful white sand beaches from Biloxi Mississippi to much of Florida’s panhandle and included the swamplands of Louisiana and shores of Texas.  For those of you familiar with the areas you may understand the plethora of wildlife and miles of condos threatened by this run-away spill.   I say run-away since this was an ongoing spill much of spring and summer of 2010.  There was even a camera with a live shot of the spill from 1600 meters down.  A disaster-cam if you will.  At one point the spill affected some 67,000 square miles; roughly the size of Oklahoma.

Skimmer ships, floating booms, controlled burns, and oil-eating bacteria were all employed to protect wetlands, beaches and estuaries from the spill.  In some cases, individuals were deployed to shovel tainted sands into containers to be hauled off.  In addition, attempts to stop the flow continued at the source of the leak.  According to many eye witnesses, though, most of the actually spilled was handled with Corexit.

 

Corexit is oil dispersant which breaks oil down to smaller drops.  This reduces the impact on the shore but impacts the aquatic life beneath the surface.  Much of the dispersed oil binds with sand and settles on the ocean’s bottom.  So using Corexit left the beaches in much better shape but it may have destroyed fisheries since all of the water from the surface to the bottom were polluted.  This too is where aquatic life feeds.

 

By hiding the problem under the waves did we trade pretty beaches for yet more dead zones in the gulf?   Dead zones are traditionally associated with nitrogen runoff from Midwestern farm belts.  But dispersed oil droplets can be fatal to plankton that many larger animals depend on.  This reverberates up the food chain.

 

Many would argue that BP has paid enough in fines and clean-up efforts while others would say that you can’t put a price on the environmental damage done. 

 

So do oceans heal or are they permanently scarred?  Are spills like this inevitable?  Where is the balance between the benefits of oil and its problems?

Comments

Autumn Cote Added Nov 27, 2018 - 11:24am
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The Burghal Hidage Added Nov 27, 2018 - 11:38am
Where ya been James? Good to hear from you.
 
Lets say for a minute that humans were not here. This oil came out of the earth, did it not? And even if we were never here there could have perhaps been an earthquake or meteor strike, any of a host of naturally occurring calamities that could have released this same amount of oil, or even more. The ecosystem would eventually balance to where it needed to be, not because of us, not for us, just because that is how it has always worked and all of our protestations to the contrary, that is how it will ever be.
 
The surface or cosmetic solution seems to fit the mold for our planet's dreaded "fixers"....everything's cool as long as they can't see it from their house
James E. Unekis Added Nov 27, 2018 - 11:43am
The Burghal Hidage,
 
Interesting point.  We humans may just not be that important.  
 
The fixers role - to hide, obfuscate and deny.  Allthe oil is gone - poof!
Bill Kamps Added Nov 27, 2018 - 11:51am
Oil has been seeping into the GOM for many thousands of years.  Granted not at the rate of the oil spill, but it is part of the environment.
 
Yes, to all your points.  Yes the actions mentioned helped clean up the beaches, yes it moved the problem around, yes probably some damage was done to the environment.  No way to know before hand what the impact would be, and no way to know now what exactly the impact was. 
 
However, we have had lots of oil spills over the decades, and the impact seems to be relatively minor, at least compared to the mine tailing dumps that exist throughout the mountain states.  These dump heavy  metals into the rivers and lakes.  Check out reports from Cour-de Lane Idaho, and the attempts to reopen the Broken Hill mine there.  That places continues to be a superfund site, and the lake there is extremely  contaminated with heavy metals.
James E. Unekis Added Nov 27, 2018 - 11:55am
Bill,
Out of Site - out of mind.  White sand beaches with emeralds waters that have been f-cked up by oil make a better story than heavy metals in a superfund site.  I'm not saying that the mining contamination isn't worse though.
Bill Kamps Added Nov 27, 2018 - 12:09pm
Im not sure what you are saying, what would you have done different?
 
Also, a greater impact on dead zones is the amount of fertilizer being washed down the Mississippi River, into the GOM.  This is causing an oxygen deprived area.   Google to see the maps.
 
James E. Unekis Added Nov 27, 2018 - 3:47pm
Bill, I'm not sure if I would have done differently.  I do wonder how this spill continues to impact the fisheries.  Just like sweeping something under the rug is not a good idea I wonder how smart it was to coat the bottom of the gulf with oil.
Even A Broken Clock Added Nov 27, 2018 - 6:44pm
James - good post. Essentially we have conducted an uncontrolled experiment upon the waters of the Gulf. I expect that the effects will last for a decade or two, but since as Bill noted, naturally occurring oil seeps have seeded the Gulf with bacteria and other species that have evolved to feed on the oil. The question then becomes whether the oil can be metabolized by these microscopic organisms while it is still bound to the dispersant (which I imagine is some sort of detergent).
 
Meanwhile, keep a sharp eye out for 3-eyed shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico.
James E. Unekis Added Nov 27, 2018 - 7:19pm
EABC,
I suppose we don't want the bacteria getting too good and invading the refineries :-)
Funny you should bring up the shrimp.  I saw a youtube of a Louisiana shrimper with a head 2 times normal size.
James Travil Added Nov 27, 2018 - 8:01pm
The small rate that oil naturally excapes into the gulf of Mexico is insignificant compared to the Deep Water Horizon spill (which equalled a full years equivalent of natural release oil every few hours). And no, an earthquake or asteroid strike could not have created the same effect as the drilling too place in DEEP WATER. The water would have dampened an asteroid impact and earthquakes don't affect where there are no tutonic plate faults as is the case of the ocean floor. Call it nature, God, or whatever but the natural design of the Deep ocean keeps this sort of thing from happening. The UNnatural act of drilling in the thin crust of a deep water site risks unleashing the high pressure oil in the earth's mantle. Which is VERY dangerous and VERY difficult to stop once started, as the catastrophe proved. The Russians found that out some time ago and know better than to risk killing all life on Earth for oil greed as BP did. They also know the fix which is a small nuclear device used to collapse the leak point. They suggested that to BP but BP didn't want to contaminate the oil with radiation (in other words, they didn't want to lose the find) so they refused the advice and let it continue to pollute the gulf. Had they not blundered into a fix the oil would have contaminated the entire world's oceans, killed off all the Plankton that produces our oxygen resulting in the extinction of the entire human species. So had BP been fined enough for letting their ignorant greed nearly murder us all? I say no way in hell. Their company should be dissolved and whoever was behind this should be tried for attempting to genocide the human species (treason in the very least). 
James E. Unekis Added Nov 27, 2018 - 8:05pm
James,
Thanks for your comment.  It certainly gets one angry with BP.
Lindsay Wheeler Added Nov 27, 2018 - 9:26pm
Well, we have to take the bad with the good. This country needs oil. It got cleaned up. All is good in the long run. 
 
James Travail seems a little like chicken little, scared of everything. 
James Travil Added Nov 28, 2018 - 12:21am
I'll take your punk ass Grizzly Adams any day of the week Wheeler Dealer you antisemitic assclown, then we'll see who's afraid of what. It figures a pure evil psychopath like you would support anything that could bring about human slavery or extinction. When you and your ilk are exterminated humanity will breathe a collective sigh of relief. 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Nov 28, 2018 - 12:43am
I saw a youtube of a Louisiana shrimper with a head 2 times normal size.
 
The shrimper or the shrimp? 
 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Nov 28, 2018 - 12:50am
Someone I once worked with got fined $25000 by the USCG for spilling a couple of tablespoons of diesel into the waterway and an additional $25000 for using Dawn dishwashing liquid to disperse it.
 
The USCG sprayed dispersant for weeks.
 
How's that whole "they hate us for our freedoms" thing working out for ya? 
James Travil Added Nov 28, 2018 - 1:57am
"The shrimper or the shrimp? "
It probably was the shrimper. Down there, well with the chemicals, radiation, and inbreeding and all you get what you get. Sorta like a human bobblehead! 
Flying Junior Added Nov 28, 2018 - 3:29am
I think you raise a valid point.  If Corexit merely precipitated the oil to the deep waters, it very likely was not the best environmental choice.  There was enormous political pressure to make this problem simply go away, which in the minds of the American people, it surely has.
 
There was one technology that deployed vessels which would actually take the contaminated seawater up out of the Gulf into a filtration system which could then return purer saltwater back into the Gulf.  I think it was simply too expensive and not widely available enough to make a significant difference.  The boats would take in a few thousand gallons of water at a time.  In a body of water like the Gulf of Mexico it would be like a big man pissing off of the side of the boat.





Jeffry Gilbert Added Nov 28, 2018 - 4:03am
probably was the shrimper. 
 
Yep. 
 
James E. Unekis Added Nov 29, 2018 - 12:21am
Jeffry,
 
Good catch - it WAS the shrimper ;-)
James E. Unekis Added Nov 29, 2018 - 12:24am
FJ,
 
Yea I think it was "brushed under the carpet".  I wonder what will happen if the Corexit stops clumping before the oil breaks down.
 
Maybe we haven't seen the end of that spill.

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