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Earth Robotics News Science

Quantifying, and Dealing With, the Deepwater Spill 343

Gooseygoose writes with a link to this analysis by Boston University professor Cutler Cleveland. "Some reports in the media attempt to downplay the significance of the release of oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident by arguing that natural oil seeps release large volumes of oil to the ocean, so why worry? Let's look at the numbers." Read on for a few more stories on the topic of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
theodp writes with some information on the remote-controlled efforts to stanch the oil's flow: "The work Tito Collasius does sounds a little like science fiction: Men on ships flicking joysticks that control robots the size of trucks as they rove miles beneath the sea in near-freezing depths no man could hope to reach. But BP's spill efforts rest in the hands of underwater remote-operated vehicle (ROV) pilots, who 'fly' the ROVs from command centers aboard ships, joysticks in hand and large banks of screens in front of them offering a view of the challenges they confront in the waters below. ROVs are typically used for commercial (as in the oil industry), oceanographic (science research and exploration), and military (mine reconnaissance and recovery) missions. If you're interested in joining Tito, training's available." Even if BP were to effect a perfect block for the oil, though, there's still quite a bit of it swirling in the Gulf — you've probably seen some gut-wrenching pictures of the affected wildlife. Reader grrlscientist writes "Some people claim that we should euthanize all oiled birds immediately upon recovering them. But I argue it is our ethical responsibility to protect, clean, and save these birds, even after they've been oiled, just as we should preserve and clean their habitats."
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Quantifying, and Dealing With, the Deepwater Spill

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  • by vlueboy (1799360) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:01PM (#32472496)

    it may never burn out, like this fire that has been burning for 35+ years: The Door to Hell []

    We also have the Centralia mine fire [], going since 1961 in Pennsylvania, US (39 years.)

    With the possibility of more of this stuff happening (see the Guatemalan sinkholes trying to swallow buildings into huge underground caverns), I'm beginning to see a problem. If something happens in your town but I can't leave relocate for financial reasons, like the bad economy plaging us and how hard it is to find cheap housing or sell/buy another house, there could be a "calculated risk but I must live here anyway" trend as our environment breaks down all around.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:21PM (#32472570)

    why can't they be made so that they activate automatically with the loss of an electrical signal?

    They can and are, and this one was. Additionally, some can be remotely triggered by, in essence, sonar pings at a certain frequency. I've read conflicting reports on whether this particular BOP had that capability. None of this really matters, because the crew on the rig hit the button to trigger the ram shears while they still had contact to the BOP and they didn't activate, at least not completely.

  • Re: The Exon Valdez (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:24PM (#32472592) Homepage

    The heavy fraction does stick around.

    Some fishing has recovered at Valdez; others haven't. There is no exposed oil, but there is buried oil. Burial slows degradation.

    A good lesson can come from natural seeps. Life isn't adapted to intense releases of oil concentrated in a given location. It is adapted to oil coming into an ecosystem in small quantities. Hence, the oil will be devastating to the Mississippi River Delta, and to a lesser extent, regions adjacent (if winds and currents hit it just right, it could cause some problems in the Keys as well). But at the same time, the talk of heavy oil slicks covering the US east coast, or even more extreme, turning all of the world's oceans to poison (yes, I've heard people make that claim) are pure hyperbole.

    If the Mississippi River Delta responds in the same way that the BOC responded to Ixtoc 1, it could be largely back to normal in two years. But there are definitely differences this time (namely, the depth, the extensive use of dispersants, and the low-oxygen waters of the delta). How that will change the picture, who knows. I suspect they'll slow the recovery.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:52PM (#32472720) Homepage
    OK, all you armchair generals and Monday morning drilling engineers:

    Before you post your wonderfully insightful method for stopping the spill, read up on the several thousand other suggestions here [].

    The rest of you just read the various threads anyway. More signal to noise than anything I've seen so far. Even think of donating to help the servers keep afloat.
  • by Eryq (313869) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:53PM (#32472722) Homepage

    Millions of years of dead plant and animal life, plus shifting tectonic plates (and ever-changing coastlines), can give rise to vast undersea reservoirs of oil. Even the oil industry geologists know it: how do you think they find these reservoirs? []

    But we all see what you're trying to do there. Hmm, maybe oil isn't from dead plant life after all! Maybe it occurs naturally in the Earth's crust, where God put it! Gosh, maybe there's a practically infinite supply! Maybe it's even naturally renewed! Why, that would mean that all this talk about needing to find alternate energy sources is just a load of hooey! Ha ha, those environmentalist whackos sure are stupid, just like Rush said!"

    It's a story being advanced by people who either (1) have a vested interest in the continued profits of oil companies, (2) refuse to believe that the earth is more than 6000 years old, or (3) have a political axe to grind against environmentalists.

    And at this point, I've pretty much lost my patience with all of those camps.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:56PM (#32472744) Journal
    From what I understood the difference is that the limestone eating away process is a chemical thing. Water is dissolving the limestone. The Guatemala thing is more of a physical process, water is washing away the volcanic ash on which the city is built.
  • by rfuilrez (1213562) <rfuilrez AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:02PM (#32472782)

    2010 - 1961 = 49 years there buddy.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:11PM (#32472806) Journal

    My understanding is that a rubber bushing essential to the operation of the BOP was damaged a few days before during a test of it (or something related) and this damage contributed to the massive failure of the BOP.

  • by mbradmoody (732860) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:31PM (#32472894)
    Ah, the a-biogenic theory of hydrocarbons raises its ugly head again. Chief proponent was Professor Thomas Gold (Cornell but r.i.p.). Pretty much discredited but check out research of Dr. Roger Anderson of LDEO and Larry Cathles at Cornell. they got a DOE grant to drill offshore at EI 330 Field to explore for deeper "plumbing" that might be recharging that 1 billion BOE deposit. No joy however.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:47PM (#32472962) Journal

    Don't try and blow it up it may never burn out, like this fire that has been burning for 35+ years: The Door to Hell

    Hint #1: Oil/NG needs oxygen to burn.
    Hint #2: There is a serious lack of free oxygen 5,000 ft underwater.

    I'm pretty sure we don't have to worry about an underwater wellhead catching fire and never burning out.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:04PM (#32473010)

    mostly out of favor nowadays []

  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:10PM (#32473028) Journal
    This is slashdot; science and logic have no place here!
  • Re: The Exon Valdez (Score:5, Informative)

    by adolf (21054) <> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:19PM (#32473066) Journal

    It's been a lot closer to 20 years since the Valdez spill, which happened in early 1989.

    I otherwise have nothing of value to add to this discussion. :)

  • Re:Wow! (Score:4, Informative)

    by copponex (13876) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:33PM (#32473110) Homepage

    A University of Illinois research team is working on turning pig manure into a form of crude oil that could be refined to heat homes or generate electricity... Years of research and fine-tuning are ahead before the idea could be commercially viable -MSNBC

    circumstantial evidence strongly favors a [biogenic] origin for almost all found to date. -The Straight Dope

    Our findings illustrate that the abiotic synthesis of hydrocarbons in nature may occur in the presence of ultramafic rocks, water, and moderate amounts of heat. -WorldNetDaily

    Skeptics say that while traces of abiotic hydrocarbons may exist, little data support the idea of economically meaningful deposits. "Companies have been looking for oil for 100 years. If all this abiogenic stuff is there, why haven't they found it?" asks geochemist Geoffrey Glasby, who spent nine months investigating the matter for a 2006 review paper in Resource Geology. He concluded the totality of the evidence did not support the concept. -Forbes (my link) []

    You may want to read the articles before you cite them.

    PS: WorldNetDaily? Really? What's next, Mad Magazine and Star?

  • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:39PM (#32473132)

    How does one explain that

    The earth is very old and we are going through millions of years worth of dead organic matter in coal and oil. There is/was a huge amount of it but the easiest stuff to get is the oil. The deep stuff is there due to plate movement, it was probably a swamp on the shore of a continent once.

  • Re:Heh, (Score:5, Informative)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @01:39AM (#32473536)

    For the umpteenth time, only economic liability is capped to 75 million dollars. And that is only if BP cannot be found to be at fault for the spill. Even if it is found to be completely faultless though (rabid dolphins sabotaging the BOP, for example), BP is responsible for every cost associated with the clean-up.

    We can place the root of the blame on our congress for failing to allow for the free market to have prevented this.

    What? "failing to allow for the free market to have prevented this"? Ohhhh.... I get it. Even if the government regulation is a net positive, it's all because it's actually the free market at work. So if it's good, it's the free market working, and if it's bad, it's the government interfering. Got it.

  • Re: The Exon Valdez (Score:5, Informative)

    by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:30AM (#32474200)

    Certainly. I'll try my best.

    Info on two plugs instead of three, damage to BOP seal, pushing for work to be completed sooner, and partial control loss of BOP:;photovideo []
    Key findings from that are here: []

    Dead battery and other problems with BOP: []

    Skipping test of cement linings: []

    MMS letting BP fill out inspection reports: []

    Did I miss anything?

  • Re: All natural (Score:5, Informative)

    by jbengt (874751) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @09:16AM (#32475134)
    BP's individual company liability for civil damages is limited to $75 million because the oil companies contribute to a fund that is to pay the rest. Who knows what happens if the liability fund is depleted before all the liabilities are met?

    Also, liability for breaking laws, rules, and regulations are not limited. They are breaking a lot of laws, and could be fined a lot, including up to $4,300 per barrel spilled (that could be a couple of $billion) the killing of wildlife (that could cost at least a $billion), and more.

    IANAL, YMMV, etc.
  • Re:All natural (Score:3, Informative)

    by jandersen (462034) on Monday June 07, 2010 @04:28AM (#32481752)

    The oil spill is all natural

    - just like strychnine and arsenic. Enjoy.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long