Across the Pond – What we are up to over here.

This post is far too late for morning coffee, but a nice afternoon tea maybe?

What is going on over here in Europe? Not really much, politically, most parliaments are in recess and backbenchers crowd to the microphones to get their 15 minutes until business as usual in politics resumes again. So both major news are not from politics, but from the Love Parade in Germany and, what else, BP.

Germans are looking in horror at reports of the stampede that happened during yesterday’s Love Parade in Essen.

Der Spiegel: (for those who rather not torment themselves with details, I copied only the mere facts below, so please read on at your own discretion)

By early afternoon, the techno party was already “desperately overcrowded,” Tim says. “The only entrance was through the tunnel, there was no other way to get to the site.” At the beginning, he said, the shoving “was almost fun.” Everyone was singing and chanting together, it was a friendly and relaxed atmosphere,” he reports. “That’s the point of the Love Parade, isn’t it?”

But then, things began to get more aggressive. “It was tight, hot, unbearable. Everyone wanted to get to the party, or just out of the crowd.” Some tried to find their own way out, slithering up poles or climbing a narrow staircase out of the crowd. Dehydrated, exhausted partiers where handed out over the heads of the masses. Some of those trying to climb out fell back into the crowd. When that happened, say police, mass panic broke out. (read more)

The Love Parade is the biggest techno party worldwide, the Zurich Street Parade, scheduled for August 14th, is competing for the title of the biggest techno event. There are concerns about the safety of the partygoers here, too. Increased of course by yesterday’s events. The Love Parade has been cancelled for good after the tragedy. It makes me unspeakably sad to think about all those young people who were setting out for a night of fun and had to witness or even get hurt or died in that horror.

Other headlines include the F1 Grand Prix in Hockenheim and Ferrari (spoiler alert), Franck Ribéry’s return to Munich after the dismal French World Cup adventure and the hooker scandal and Bayreuth greets the Rich, the Powerful and the Ugly for their annual Wagner opera festival. I would love to have tickets for Jonas Kaufmann‘s debut in Bayreuth, but the great unwashed must stand in line, or better not show their faces in any case.

The BBC has today’s story for the UK:

BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward has been negotiating the terms of his exit, with a formal announcement likely within 24 hours, the BBC has learned.

Mr Hayward has been widely criticised over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BBC business editor Robert Peston said it was likely he would be replaced by his US colleague Bob Dudley, now in charge of the clean-up operation. (read more)

Now, what does “negotiate” mean? Huh? We’re not talking golden parachutes, are we? What? A measly £ 10 millions ($ 15 million) package? Poor sod.

Hayward, 52, is today locked in meetings with the rest of the BP board about the final details of his financial leaving package, but he is expected to go under basic contractual terms. That means a one year’s £1m pay package but a giant pension pot of over £10m, capable of paying out more than half a million pounds a year from the formal retirement age of 60. (read more)

And, while we are talking about BP, the environment comes to mind. The Independent reports on the British water industry and what privatization means really:

Ofwat, the water industry watchdog, faces calls for it to be overhauled amid accusations that it is not doing enough to remedy leaking drinking water while privatised water companies enjoy soaring profits and consumers face high bills (read more)

So, enjoy your reading and have a nice Sunday all of you!

Why is it the skeptics always have to be right?

source: NASA

I so wished this was over. The containment cap on the Deepwater Horizon well had stopped the leak finally and I was thinking about researching on what could be done to speed along the clean up process and help nature come into some kind of balance again. “Not so quick”, said some, they only say they plugged it. “Wait and see”. And now, instead of posting about the clean up efforts necessary, I am posting about the oil spill and yet another failure.

The Oildrum (who else?) were the first to report it.

Admiral Allen’s letter via The Oildrum:

Dear Mr. Dudley,

My letter to you on July 16, 2010 extended the Well Integrity Test period contingent upon the completion of seismic surveys, robust monitoring for indications of leakage, and acoustic testing by the NOAA vessel PISCES in the immediate vicinity of the well head. Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period. As a continued condition of the test, you are required to provide as a top priority access and coordination for the monitoring systems, which include seismic and sonar surface ships and subsea ROV and acoustic systems. When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed. (read more)

AP reports:

NEW ORLEANS — A federal official says scientists are concerned about a seep and possible methane near BP’s busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico

Both could be signs there are leaks in the well that’s been capped off for three days.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because an announcement about the next steps had not been made yet.

The official is familiar with the spill oversight but would not clarify what is seeping near the well. The official says BP is not complying with the government’s demand for more monitoring.

So it is not over yet and BP is obstructing again on the issue. Washington’s Blog has a post up on this. And read this discussion about the obstruction by BP , too:

There are 4 alternative explanations for the unexpectedly low oil pressure in the BP well: (1) A leak in the pipe in the well bore; (2) flow under the well between sand layers; (3) a blockage in the well; or (4) depletion of the oil reservoir.

This essay focuses on the fourth possibility: depletion of the oil reservoir. Specifically, BP claims that the oil well pressure is perhaps 1,200 pounds per square inch less than expected because the oil reservoir has been depleted.

The size of the reservoir is crucial in testing BP’s theory. While there are other factors which determine oil pressure, the size of the reservoir is probably the most important. (read more)

What makes me really nervous is the obvious unwillingness of BP to answer Congress’ questions about the geology at the drilling site. As one of our Zoosters (please forgive me, I can’t quite remember who it was) has pointed out a while ago, no drilling will even be considered without a doing geological survey first. So why is BP keeping mum about the findings of this survey? The geology is key to any efforts to shut down the well permanently and compromising the geological structures at the well site would finally make the spill permanent, if it isn’t permanent already.

For those of you, who don’t have the time to read all of the above, I’m reposting the video of Anderson Cooper’s interview with Ed Markey found at Washington’s blog:

Bring out the handcuffs for the BP management and jail them until they comply and then some!

The Watering Hole: June 16 – Calculations

Oil Spill Diver

picture source: http://www.recursosmarinos.net/?p=81

The damaged well of the Deepwater Horizon site issues up to 60’000 barrels of oil into the Gulf per day. This is ongoing for 57 days now, that makes a total of 3.4 million barrels. The worst oil spill ever caused by Iraqi forces during Gulf War I added up to 8 million barrels leaked into the environment. If the relief well is in place and stops the spill, say mid August, there will be 7 million barrels in the Gulf of Mexico. There is no reason to be that optimistic, however. The Ixtoc oil spill, which occurred 160 ft below surface and not 5000 ft, took nine months to plug. If we take this as a model, there will be 16 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico by January.

There is nothing BP, or all of the oil industry or your President can do about it now.

This time mankind has overreached itself and lost.

This is our open thread.

The Oil Spill: Nature’s Little Helpers

Pseudomonas

We have discussed the use of a nuclear device to kill the oil spill and I for my part have decided that’s too crazy to be considered. The cap is said to work, but I seriously doubt it. Remember when they cut the riser to put on the cap, the oil spill actually increased by some 20%. Some say the increase could be even 80%. As always, I can’t tell and I fear nobody really can and if they can, they won’t tell us. When they now claim they are funneling oil from the spill into a ship, is it really more than what the cutting of the riser caused in the first place? Are we really better off or only marginally so or even worse off now? This question remains unanswered.

I think what is obvious is: Oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico which is already reeling from what has been already issued into the ecosystem since the Deepwater Horizon exploded. We need to consider what is going to happen to the crude oil once it’s out of it’s lair.

Nature will take care of it. That’s actually true. There are microorganisms out there which live off crude oil:

some individual species (Pseudomonas) can use up to 1000 different carbon compounds. What do they do with the oil ? Well basically they eat it just like you eat cereal. They use enzymes to break it up (metabolize it) using O2 turning it into CO2 and more microorganisms.

The word here is O2. There’s huge amounts of C(arbon) in the oil but not so much O(xygen). Where are the little buggers getting it from? Likely from the surrounding waters and the solute oxygen. What with the dead zones that are already there and getting worse in warmer temperatures, incidentally the temperatures where Pseudomonas gets really hungry, this is not really encouraging. Some kinds are even causing severe skin infections. Nevertheless it’s worth to take a closer look. Because these microbes exist and they seem to even develop where there is an oil spill:

A recently published article in Environmental Microbiology reveals that indigenous microbiota of the Galician shore is readily able to degrade crude oil. Scientists from the Estación Experimental del Zaidín (Spanish Council for Research, CSIC) in Granada investigated in situ crude oil degradation after the Prestige oil spill in November 2002.(read more)

How about introducing oil eating microbes into the Gulf, the environment is favourable, the Gulf waters are warm enough for them to thrive.

HAVANA, Aug. 31, 2005 (IPS/GIN) — Scientists think a product used in Cuba since 1992 to clean up oil spills with marine bacteria could prove useful for other warm-weather countries.

Bioil-FC has proven effective in changing the toxic compounds in hydrocarbons into biodegradable substances, turning them back into carbon dioxide and water. This inexpensive “bioproduct” also compares favorably against other products used to clean up hydrocarbon spills, Cuban scientists say.

“We have achieved more than 90 percent remediation (clean up) in a maximum of 30 days of application,” chemical engineer Roberto Nunez, director of CEBIMAR, a marine biological research center, told Tierramerica.

Expert sources from various countries consider a satisfactory biological clean-up for spills of petroleum and its derivatives to be 55 percent in three to four months.

“Bioremediation” is a technique for environmental detoxification through microorganisms that break down dangerous organic waste and turn it into less harmful compounds.

This method, available for the past 25 years, exploits the ability of some bacteria, yeast or molds to incorporate part of the dangerous compounds into their metabolism, for growth or for energy of the organism itself. (read more)

I have already voiced my concerns about the dead zones and the effect more oxygen depletion could have, but this is a natural process and if the oxygen depletes too much, the microbae would die and stop using more oxygen. I don’t advocate miracle cures, there are too many out there who do so. I don’t believe in miracles anyway. But I believe in the strength of nature and I think it can be put to good use. It’s cheap, it certainly less toxic than Dispersit or Corexit and the microbes, like any population will die off and reduce in numbers when they’re running out of food. These microbes already exist and are not genetically engineered for the purpose. So why don’t we hear much more of this?

Not manufactured? Not engineered? No money to be made!

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Interview: Naomi Klein on Oil Leak

From CommonDreams.

Author and activist Naomi Klein speaks to the frustration and confusion being felt and expressed by the people living along the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana over the pace of efforts to combat the growing oil spill in the region.

Naomi Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine and a columnist for The Nation.

What about BP oil rig ‘Atlantis’?

This video is from a segment on 60 Minutes that was aired Sunday May 16, 2010. The discussion is mostly about what happened with Deep Horizen in the Gulf of Mexico, interviewing one of the survivors, but it also addresses another great concern which is an much larger oil rig owned by BP that is even further out in the Gulf and MUCH deeper (over 7,000 feet).

This video blew me away.

The whistleblower’s name is Kenneth Abbott, a former project control supervisor contracted by BP. He filed suit on May 17th “to force the federal government to halt operations at another massive BP oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, alleging that BP never reviewed critical engineering designs for the operation and is therefore risking another catastrophic accident that could “dwarf” the company’s Deepwater Horizon spill.” More:

Abbott alleged that BP failed to review thousands of final design documents for systems and equipment on the Atlantis platform — meaning BP management never confirmed the systems were built as they were intended – and didn’t properly file the documentation that functions as an instruction manual for rig workers to shut down operations in the case of a blowout or other emergency.

Abbott alleges that when he warned BP about the dangers presented by the missing documentation the company ignored his concerns and instead emphasized saving money.

“There were hundreds, if not thousands, of drawings that hadn’t been approved and to send drawings (to the rig) that hadn’t been approved could result in catastrophic operator errors,” Abbott told ProPublica. “They turned their eye away from their responsibility to make sure the overall design works. Instead they are having bits and pieces fabricated and they are just hoping that these contractors who make all these separate pieces can pull it together and make it safe. The truth is these contractors see a piece of the puzzle; they don’t see the whole thing.”

More from this same article:

Congress and the Minerals and Management Service have been investigating Abbott’s concerns since last year, when he and Food and Water Watch, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., first filed the complaints. But according to both Abbott and FWW, little has been done. After the Deepwater Horizon Gulf spill underscored their concerns, they decided to jointly file the lawsuit. Abbott was laid off shortly after he raised the concerns to BP management.

According to the lawsuit, by Nov. 28, 2008, when Abbott last had access to BP’s files, only half of the 7,176 drawings detailing Atlantis’ sub-sea equipment had been approved for design by an engineer and only 274 had been approved “as built,” meaning they were checked and confirmed to meet quality and design standards and the documentation made available to the rig crew. Ninety percent of the design documents, the suit alleges, had never been approved at all.

The Atlantis rig is even larger than the Deepwater Horizon rig that sank in April. It began producing oil in 2007 and can produce 8.4 million gallons a day.

The components include some of the critical infrastructure to protect against a spill. According the suit, none of the sub-sea risers – the pipelines and hoses that serve as a conduit for moving materials from the bottom of the ocean to the facility — had been “issued for design.” The suit also alleges that none of the wellhead documents were approved, and that none of the documents for the manifolds that combine multiple pipeline flows into a single line at the seafloor had been reviewed for final use.

Directions for how to use the piping and instrument systems that help shut down operations in the event of an emergency, as well as the computer software used to enact an emergency shutdown, had also not been approved, the lawsuit says. According to the lawsuit, 14 percent those documents had been approved for construction, and none received final approval to ensure they were built and functioning properly.

“BP’s worst-case scenario indicates that an oil spill from the BP Atlantis Facility could be many times larger than the current oil spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon,” the lawsuit states. “The catastrophic Horizon oil spill would be a mere drop in the bucket when compared to the potential size of a spill from the BP Atlantis facility.”

Can you even imagine…

If they don’t have the technology or safety features nailed down in order to be able to stop this massive leak from the Deep Horizon (which has been amply demonstrated), why would anyone allow drilling to continue with this other, larger rig—owned and run by the same people who are apparently skipping corners there as well—in much deeper water, with a MUCH greater output..

What are they thinking? (I know…, dollars). What are WE thinking by letting them!

As Gorette at The Daily Kos said, “Until regulators can “prove” that Atlantis, the Gulf’s second largest oil rig is safe, it should be shut down. “

Amen to that.

Other articles concerning Atlantis:

U.S. Should Shut BP Atlantis Platform, Lawmaker Says – Bloomberg

Why Obama Must Shut Down BP Atlantis – Huffington Post

BP’s Own Probe Finds Safety Issues on Atlantis Rig – ABC News

Lawmakers Call on Gov’t to Shut Down BP Atlantis – MotherJones

Top Kill failed – BP is running out of options

UPDATE: IT’S OFFICIAL, TOP KILL FAILED

The top kill effort to plug the well at the Deepwater Horizon disaster site has failed. Never mind what BP says or the question mark on the following story. Fact is:

Hope is dimming for the attempt by BP (NYSE:BP) to quickly plug the oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico through Top Kill, as BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles confirms they haven’t been able to stop the oil spill yet. (read more)

Robert L. Cavnar says:

I’m now hearing that BP determined the top kill failure sometime in the last 24 hours, but rather than announce it, have decided to just keep pumping until the next alternative is decided, either the LMRP (lower marine riser cap) cap to bring flow to the surface, or removing the LMRP and landing a new BOP on top of the failed one. (read more)

There is something more he says:

As a side note, I do find it interesting that the BP feed no longer includes the bent riser view of the last couple of days,and now looks like the end of the riser where the riser insertion tool had been used previously.

Interesting indeed. What’s more, to me it looks as if the leak they are showing now is in a cavity that keeps getting deeper. I fear there are significant geological shifts going on, too. It can be the angle of the camera, but those pictures scare me silly. If the ground ruptures some more there, Heaven help us.

So after the top kill the top hat is back in the equation. That has failed already. The only sure fire way, according to BP, is the relief drill, but that can take until August and happens to be the one solution that would keep the well available for exploitation. I was very reluctant to believe that buying time was the real driving force behind all the “failures”. I thought that was too cynical. Not anymore.

Cleanup crews are getting sick

From Raw Story:

Some cleanup crews have reported sickness and have been removed from duty. One witness who saw the sick crews called BP “liars and killers.”

More on the oil leak:

Live feeds of the ‘leak’: HERE and HERE and HERE.

Top BP official on oil rig takes the fifth; another says too sick to testify (Raw Story)

Document reveals BP chose riskier, cheaper option to seal oil well before blast (Raw Story)

Thad Allen says effort to stop Gulf of Mexico oil spill going according to plan (NOLA.COM)

BP: Appears only drilling mud flowing from well (Reuters – update 1)

BP oil well “top kill” bid continues, no update yet (Reuters – update 2)

Oh, and this should come as no surprise..

BP wants Houston judge with oil ties to hear spill cases (McClatchy)

Facing more than 100 lawsuits after its Gulf of Mexico oil spill killed 11 workers and threatened four coastal states, oil giant BP is asking the courts to place every pre-trial issue in the hands of a single federal judge in Houston.

That judge, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, has traveled the world giving lectures on ethics for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a professional association and research group that works with BP and other oil companies. The organization pays his travel expenses.

Hughes has also collected royalties from several energy companies, including ConocoPhillips and Devon Energy, from investments in mineral rights, his financial disclosure forms show.

Hughes, appointed to the bench in 1985 by then-President Ronald Reagan, declined to comment for this report. [...]

Also from McClatchy:

Chief drill regulator Birnbaum sacked, as feds increase estimate of spill

The director of the Minerals Management Service, Elizabeth Birnbaum, has been fired in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, a government official told McClatchy Newspapers today.

In another major development, the government said a new estimate of the size of the oil gusher is more than twice the original estimate and possibly much more.

The government’s newest estimate means between 18 million and 36 million gallons of crude oil have spewed into the Gulf since mid-April.

Birnbaum’s former agency, which manages offshore drilling for oil and gas on the outer continental shelf and collects revenue from drilling leases offshore and on federal land, has been roundly criticized for some time.

Among the allegations against it are its employees are too cozy with the industry they regulate and for lapses in oversight of deepwater drilling operations like BP’s ill-fated rig.

Reaction to the firing was swift and not all positive.

“The departure of Elizabeth Birnbaum from MMS does not address the root problem,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall, D-WV. “She has only been the public face of MMS for 11 months and the most serious allegations occurred prior to her tenure. This might on the surface be a good start but must not be the end game.”
(Continue reading..)

WORST SPILL IN U.S. HISTORY (TPM)

[..] Though the spill is now the biggest in U.S. history, it’s not the biggest ever in the Gulf. An offshore drilling rig in Mexican waters — the Ixtoc I — blew up in June 1979, releasing 140 million gallons of oil.

Rachel Maddow made the comparisons on MSNBC last night:

The more spills change, the more they stay the same…

Oil Spill Bad News Alert!

This needs to be spread around. I’m so sick and tired of all the lies and “we can fix this” lines we are fed from BP. There seem to be eruptions at the site of the leaking oil well, that are covered by the live cam.

Monkeyfister is live-blogging it and what I see there is bad news, very bad news.

HT: nakedcapitalism

Here’s the live feed from the spill (If  you can actually see something, the live feed is very often down or unavailable. They need to give it more bandwidth, so the server is not down all the time)

UPDATE: The Washington Post highlights the role of the MMS and their utter failure as an oversight agency.

Minerals Management Service officials, who receive cash bonuses for meeting federal deadlines on leasing offshore oil and gas exploration, frequently altered their own documents and bypassed legal requirements aimed at ensuring drilling does not imperil the marine environment, the documents show.

This is definitely criminal.

The Watering Hole: May 21 – Again. The oil spill.

The oil has reached the Louisiana marshes.

With thick patches of oil now flooding over coastal Louisiana marshes, a haven for migratory birds and rare wildlife that will be nigh-on impossible to clear up, local leaders were starting to despair.

“Twenty-four miles of Plaquemines Parish is destroyed. Everything in it is dead,” Billy Nungesser, head of the parish in southern Louisiana, told US cable news station MSNBC. “There is no life in that marsh. You won’t clean it up.”

“We’ve been begging BP to step up to the plate,” said Nungesser. The slick is “destroying our marsh, inch by inch,” and will keep on coming ashore for weeks and months, he said.

An increasingly desperate BP says a “top kill” operation to try to cap the leak for good by filling the well with heavy drilling fluids and then seal it with cement could begin as early as Sunday.

But for Louisiana’s fragile wetlands the measure may come too late. (read story)

May come too late? Replace that with will come too late.

Meanwhile dead fish are found as far north in the Atlantic as Palm beach FL, It can or cannot be a related incident. I tend to can. The Loop Current passes into the gulf stream and that passes there. And there’s more than oil now in that spill.

Still more disturbing news. Crooks&Liars had this story yesterday:

EPA Orders BP To Come Up With A Less Toxic Dispersal Agent in 24 Hours. Meanwhile, Fishermen Reporting Illness.

We will hear from this for a very long time to come.

This is our open thread. Feel free to comment on other topics as well.

The Watering Hole: May 18, Red Adair

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Am I the only one who keeps thinking Red Adair would know how to help? I don’t know if he would, but the gulf oil spill is huge enough and menacing enough to wish for a hero who just takes over and gets the situation under control like in the movies. Red Adair was one of the American Heroes we over here in Europe admired so much when I was a teenager. Quite a while ago.

The situation is indeed desperate. BP is celebrating the fact that they now syphon off 1’000 barrels a day from the leak, which spills at least 5’000 if not 26’000 per day. If that doesn’t make you wish for a hero, knight in shining armour, what would?

So what are the options?

For some days there is chatter out there, that BP is not considering the option of closing the leak by a controlled explosion, because it would finally seal the oilfield and thus their profits.This makes for good copy, bad corporations and all that, but I am more inclined to think all involved are at a complete loss for what to do.

I doubt there is someone out there who knows how to controlledly blow up an oil well in a deep sea level environment. Suggestions run from nuking the well, to a controlled explosion using plastic explosives. President Obama has involved the Pentagon right at the beginning of the catastrophy in April, and while this was initially to enlist the navy for oil spill containment, it would be naive to think, in a situation as desperate as this, they are not considering their options to stop the spill either. They have a huge arsenal of explosives from conventional to nuclear. I seriously doubt BP would get a say in whether the well was sealed by any explosion if this was really considered a viable way to do it.

The sad truth is: Nobody knows what to do really. Offshore drilling in such depths is a risk mankind took but has never assessed properly before the drilling started. (Like so many things we do.) Now we are out of our depth to find a solution to a self made problem.

So. Where’s Red? Red’s dead and heroes like the one we’d need now, really only exist in movies and books.

While I was writing this another 850 barrels (medium estimate)  of oil have spilled from the leak.

This is an open thread. Feel free to somment on this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Bobby Jindal discovers he’s really green.

That’s what he said in 2008:

Now he sings to a different tune:

“We’re concerned about the subsea application of dispersent. He asked that the entire column be tested. Asked BP to make a long-term commitment to monitoring the water. “You’re talking about an impact that could hurt multiple generations of wildlife. These are the ocean’s nurseries.”

I couldn’t agree more with Mr Jindal, but off shore drilling came first, then the spill and now his eco consciousness kicks in?

How about: “We made a huge mistake, by pushing offshore drilling to it’s limits. We will have to rethink our priorities.”?

He’s pro nuclear energy and coal, too. Can’t he remember Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and West Virginia?

Oil Spill Update – What I don’t know..

It is worse, much worse than I had imagined and there is no end in sight.

National Public Radio in the United States last night reported that the well is spewing up to 70,000 barrels of oil a day – the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez disaster every four days. Nearly 11 million barrels gallons of oil were spilled in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground, oiling beaches and poisoning marine life for generations. NPR said scientific analysis of newly released video footage from the ocean floor suggested the gusher was 12 times more powerful than estimates offered so far by the Coast Guard or BP. (read more)

The environmental impact of any oil spill is much more complicated than it appears on the surface, but the fact that this is a deep sea leak seem to make it even more complex. I definitely do not know what will come from it, I just expect the worst. But when I try to find information that sheds some light on the real environmental impact, I find: Next to nothing. The only answer I get is: Noone else knows much either.

I tried to find out what would happen with the oil at deep sea level. Reports are saying plumes of the oil were hovering at deeper sea levels. And noone seems to know what it means.

“It doesn’t float right up on top as you would think,” Raymond Highsmith of the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology tells AOL News. “Some of it floats right under the surface, and some of it now looks like it’s quite a ways down.”(read more)

So I tried looking for vertical exchange of deep sea water with surface waters and how long it takes until the oil still caught below will show up at the surface. And what would happen with all the particles made out of crude oil and that poisonous stuff they are spreading to dissolve the slick? I found this, but it definitely needs some serious dumbing down for me. What it seems to say is, particles from deep sea waters need ages to make it into the surface waters, nothing much happens in the deep sea environment:

The model was seeded below 2000 m with 19,105 inert particles that drift freely within the model domain in response to the velocity field. By tracking individual particles, it can be seen that the upward motion of particles from below 2000 m to above 1000 m occurs almost exclusively in the ring separation region in the eastern GOM. Individual particles are observed
to spiral upward with each separation of a new ring from the LC. An anticyclone-cyclone eddy pair develops in the deep eastern basin each time the LC reaches its northernmost extent and sheds a ring. The tracer particles are advected away from the Campeche Bank into the deep water of the eastern basin by the northward currents on the western side of the leading
anticyclone. A southward current associated with the western side of the trailing cyclonic eddy moves the particles back toward the Campeche Bank. The particles remain at nearly the same depth as they are advected away from the slope, but they move slightly upward in the water column as they are pushed back toward the slope. With each separation of a LC ring, the
particles experience a net upward motion.

What is does not say is, that particles never make it to the surface. Meaning, generations to come will have to do with what is currently issued into the gulf from this spill.

What I could not find either is: How will the ever present hurricanes (hurricane season starts in two weeks) in the gulf add to spreading the oil and the chemicals that are used to dissolve the spill. And mostly how deep, vertically, is the water affected by a major hurricane? Will the next big storm release another huge oil spill from the hovering plumes of oil?

What I don’t know is: How are temperatures and pressure affecting the chemical interaction between the oil and the chemicals that are used at deep sea levels to dissolve the spill. From my school years I remember that low temperatures are counteracting most chemical reactions like the ones desired here. High pressure may have a contrary effect.

There are microorganisms which are digesting naturally occuring oil seeps at deep sea level. They take how long? 50’000 years? I don’t know. Nature takes all the time she needs.

And, of course, I do not know: How long will it take for the oilfield to shed it’s entire lode into the gulf ? Because I don’t see any other end to it than that.

So, if I don’t know all this, this is hardly surprising. That BP didn’t know more is at least not surprising to me, they knew better than to ask. That drilling for oil in this environment is even allowed, judge for yourselves.

We don’t know a tiny fraction of what’s in store for the gulf and us from this but I do not expect anything less than the biggest man made environmental desaster next to Chernobyl.

You can find a series of heartbreaking and fascinating pictures of the oil spill here at the Boston Globe. And The Oildrum will be keeping you up to speed on all related developments. Yet more can be found at The NYT, The Examiner, Der Spiegel and if you can stomach it BP

Sarah’s Twitter – Todd’s Job

From Twitter:

From Wikipedia:

For eighteen years, he worked for BP in the North Slope oil fields of Alaska. In 2007, in order to avoid a conflict of interest relating to his wife’s position as governor, he took a leave[10] from his job as production supervisor when his employer became involved in natural gas pipeline negotiations with his wife’s administration.[3] Seven months later, because the family needed more income, Todd returned to BP. In order to avoid potential conflict of interest, this time he accepted a non-management position as a production operator.[1][10] He resigned from his job on September 18, 2009, with the stated reason of spending more time with his family.[11]

The family needed more income, that was before she got all those clothes?