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New Oil Slick In Gulf Waters Linked To BP Well 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the gift-that-keeps-on-giving dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new oil sheen appeared in the Gulf of Mexico last week, and now scientists have confirmed that the oil bubbling up to the surface matches the type released by BP's Deepwater Horizon oil well last summer. Ed Overton, a chemist at Louisiana State University, examined samples of the oil and said, 'After examining the data, I think it's a dead ringer for the MC252 oil, as good a match as I've seen. My guess is that it is probably coming from the broken riser pipe or sunken platform.'"
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New Oil Slick In Gulf Waters Linked To BP Well

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  • If it's not too bad, then the microbiology will take care of it.
    • Cleanup is a farce anyway. The only thing you can do is stop or prevent leaks.

      The rest is up to the microbiology.

      • Last summer I thought the Navy should get some giant air pumps and oxygenate the water, to help the bacteria with their cleanup operation. The Navy has "portable" nuclear power plants [sendtheenterprise.org], which is why I thought they'd be good for the task.

        But I'm not a celebrity with a skimmer to sell, so they didn't ask me. Oh well.

        • by Hartree (191324)

          "oxygenate the water"

          What you need to add depends heavily on which bacteria are the main ones acting on it, and what the limiting nutrient is.

          Terry Hazen has a good overview here. [youtube.com]

          Kinda long though. Nearly an hour.

          • There's are a lot of nutrients in the gulf, especially from the farm runoff (would be interesting to experiment with "bubblers" in the dead zone, but that's another topic). I've loaded your video (thanks!), but haven't watched it all yet.

            Several of the pages I read last summer said the oxygen deprivation was serious... From my original piece, To Save the Gulf, Send the Enterprise [teslabox.com]:

            Oil doesn’t consume oxygen especially quickly, but natural gas does. BP’s gusher is much more than crude oil –

            • by Hartree (191324)

              Could well be that oxygen is the limiting factor. It may be that stormy weather that leads to more churning of the surface would help a good bit with surface oil slicks or oil near the surface, too.

              For small areas with lots of contamination, the bubblers would work, but the Gulf's a pretty big place. ;)

              The thing that's really struck me about Hazen's video (and similar comments from Ron Atlas and others on This Week in Microbiology) is how rarely you have to engineer in a new capability in the organisms. Alm

    • If it's not too bad, then the microbiology will take care of it.

      That's right. Humans abdicate responsibility and leave it to some of the most primitive organisms on the planet. I think we should scoop the stuff up and put it in every swimming pool in the Hamptons.

      Back to reality. Something expected. Remember, the remains of the rig are still down there and it's entirely possible that something broke.

      Or, drifting off again, it might mean that the entire subfloor of the Gulf of Mexico is about to explode due to the oil eating bacteria secreting methane [wordpress.com] in secret chamb

      • Re:How bad is it? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday August 26, 2011 @06:59PM (#37223872)

        That's right. Humans abdicate responsibility and leave it to some of the most primitive organisms on the planet.

        Primitive? I guess that depends on your point of view. You see, a human generation is about every 20 years or so. A dog, every 6 months or so. Bacteria reproduce anywhere between every 20 minutes and every 2 hours. So how many generations of bacteria have there been since 2001? Well it's still the same human generation, but it's been close to 260,000 generations of bacteria. Evolution isn't all about growing a third arm or changing the color of your fur. Just looking at the biochemistry that a simple bacterium is capable of will show you that they are far, far more "advanced" than we are, even if they don't vote or sit around watching sit coms.

        • You know, you just might be correct. After all, bacteria have started to colonize the solar system [slashdot.org], something humans have yet to do.

          I, for one, welcome our colonic overlords....

        • by hey! (33014)

          Evolution isn't all about growing a third arm or changing the color of your fur.

          Sure, but that's the fun part.

      • by sconeu (64226)

        Michael Bay [xkcd.com], is that you?

      • That's right. Humans abdicate responsibility and leave it to some of the most primitive organisms on the planet. I think we should scoop the stuff up and put it in every swimming pool in the Hamptons.

        You know what else? Its high time we stopped relying on plants to recycle CO2 back into O2. We need to get some kind of catalytic converters in place, large scale, everywhere, to handle this vital task.

        Sometimes the simplest solution really, actually, is the best solution.

      • by russotto (537200)

        That's right. Humans abdicate responsibility and leave it to some of the most primitive organisms on the planet. I think we should scoop the stuff up and put it in every swimming pool in the Hamptons.

        Perhaps you would be interested in meeting an acquaintance of mine who is prepared to do just that. Her name's Irene.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If it's not too bad, then the microbiology will take care of it.

      You've got to stop listening to the oil companies. They claimed the same BS about the Valdez accident and here it is 20 years later and all you have to do to find oil is dig down a foot. Bacterial action is very slow when it comes to large quantities of oil. They were claiming days after they sealed the well that virtually all the oil was gone. It would have taken a mass of bacteria the size or Rhode Island to eat that much oil that fast. They also need other nutrients which is one of the factors that slows

      • by ksd1337 (1029386)
        No no, I do understand this. I really do mean a very small amount of oil when I say "not too bad". Perhaps a surface sheen, or maybe 1-2 millimeters thick.
        • by bgat (123664)

          Actually, if the oil was 1-2mm thick then it wouldn't be a sheen--- it would be opaque, or at best translucent.

          A "sheen" occurs when the thickness approximates the wavelengths of visible light. The sheen effect, with all its multiple colors, is the diffraction of light into its component wavelengths as the light passes through.

          So a sheen is ridiculously thin---which means it takes almost no oil to create a large sheen. A single drop, for example, could probably produce a square meter of sheen (guessing, b

    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      That depends on your definition of "not too bad". The blowout has likely already killed more organisms than all nuclear power accidents combined, and I bet the press will still give it lukewarm coverage, if any at all.

      • by bgat (123664)

        Actually, the blowout probably didn't kill nearly as many organisms as all the chemicals we poured into the water to try to mitigate the presence of the oil.

        Oil and nature can coexist at the microorganism level, within some limits, but the detergents used to break up that oil are highly, highly toxic to microorganisms. That's why, for example, you use soaps and detergents to keep your hands clean.

  • Cue a thousand American "news" outlets incorrectly referring to BP as "British Petroleum" and implying that it is somehow linked to the unAmerican-ness of the company that allowed such a terrible thing to happen.

    • I'm curious, what does 'BP' stand for?
    • You're right, it was originally the Anglo-Persian Oil Company

      "[T]he British Petroleum brand was originally created by a German firm as a way of marketing its products in Britain. During the war, the British government seized the company’s assets, and the Public Trustee sold them to Anglo-Persian in 1917."
      -- http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9014441&contentId=7027521 [bp.com]

      Foolish news outlets, mislabling Anglo-Persian Oil as the obviously German "British Petroleum"

    • The name "BP" derives from the initials of one of the company's former legal names, British Petroleum.[12][13] [wikipedia.org]

      and implying that it is somehow linked to the unAmerican-ness of the company that allowed such a terrible thing to happen.

      I've never seen anyone imply that. Ever. Ya paranoid limey bugger...

      • by rve (4436)

        and implying that it is somehow linked to the unAmerican-ness of the company that allowed such a terrible thing to happen.

        I've never seen anyone imply that. Ever. Ya paranoid limey bugger...

        Actually, the president did some of that last year.

        It was quite clear (between the lines) that if BP intended to continue to exists, it would be wise to replace the CEO with an American, which they did.

    • by ATMAvatar (648864)
      C'mon now. You can even go with the reverse tea party angle using "British Petroleum" if you refer to the oil as its old-time nickname "Texas tea".
    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      Cue a thousand American "news" outlets incorrectly referring to BP as "British Petroleum" and implying that it is somehow linked to the unAmerican-ness of the company that allowed such a terrible thing to happen.

      Don't forget that they'll also forget about the other partner companies in the well, who are jointly and severally liable along with BP. But since that's likely to result in bankruptcies and lost jobs in the US South as the companies fold, it'll probably not be noticed.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday August 26, 2011 @06:59PM (#37223878)

    Oil sheens are not uncommon in the Gulf, and are not necessarily the result of an oil well leak.

    When we get some information more solid than "we saw an oil sheen last week", we can start worrying.

  • The floor of the Gulf of Mexico has numerous chemosynthetic communities that live off methate hydrates, oil seeps, and even pockets of salt saturated water where salt domes are exposed. Oil seeps are prevalent throughout the region. Likely the only reason people noticed this one is they were out there doing research.
  • All Natural (Score:5, Funny)

    by Intropy (2009018) on Friday August 26, 2011 @07:13PM (#37223978)
    I don't see why we're concerned at all. Petroleum is an all natural product containing no artificial chemicals, and it's 100% organic, too!
    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday August 26, 2011 @10:08PM (#37224924) Journal

      We're concerned because this, as you rightly note, first-grade organic product is being heavily contaminated by dihydrogen monoxide in the process. Such a waste, and think of the environment!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Okay, you're being sarcastic, but it's all true. Also true is the fact that natural [wikipedia.org] petroleum [sciencedaily.com] seeps [wikipedia.org] have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico for almost as long as there has been a Gulf of Mexico, and bacteria specialized for metabolizing petroleum are ubiquitous there, and sometimes flourish at the sites where the petroleum is released, making a kind of underwater oasis [wikipedia.org] in the deep sea.

      If it's flowing out at spectacular rates comparable to the previous blowout, then it's a problem. If it's leaking out at some

      • If it's visible as a slick on the surface, it's probably flowing out much faster than the natural rate. There's a hell of a big range between "natural seepage" and "as fast as one of the biggest well blowouts in history."

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday August 26, 2011 @07:36PM (#37224126) Homepage

    About 15 minutes ago NPR reported that robots were sent down there and they found no leaking. The next best guess is that the oil is coming from the shipwreck of the drilling rig, which is one of the theories mentioned in the article.

    • by SendBot (29932)

      You're saying the article is out of date because NPR reported something contained in that very article a day after it was published? PLEASE MOD INSIGHTFUL

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        I guess it depends on how you read the article. I read it to imply that the oil came directly from the well itself, as though the well was leaking. The NPR report sounded like it was trying to assure people that there is no need to panic, the well is still closed. Perhaps I saw this article with that same slant.

        • by SendBot (29932)

          From TFA: "Late Thursday night, BP officials sent word that an ROV survey of the well found no leaks." That might have been added in the update that postdates the publish date.

          For all they know, there is something faulty that regularly spurts ten barrels every time they're not looking. The article mentions several explanations. The kernel of the story is that it is the same oil from BP's well, and not some other source.

          Sorry for being snarky. I admit that was rude.

    • You should tell the folks at the top of the comment tree who are super sure that anyone doubting the writer's guesses are shills and apologists.

  • You know that big gusher that spewed all that shit for a whole Summer well guess what it was so deep that only about 1% of that crap was surfacing and that the only 1% that BP cleaned. So you can expect big giant bubble of that shit to surface up everywhere the current will take it for the next 20 years!!! And even that is only going to be about 10% the rest will coat the Gulf of Mexico bottom and get into the ecosystem and destroy what life is left in the Gulf of Mexico. I believe by 2020 we rename it the
    • There are literally thousands of oil seeps across the bottom of the Gulf. Those seeps release (as a conservative estimate) "Two Exxon-Valdez of oil every year [nasa.gov]". That would be as much as 1.5 million barrels, then.

      Using a technique they developed in the early 1990s to help explore for oil in the deep ocean, Earth Satellite Corporation scientists found that there are over 600 different areas where oil oozes from rocks underlying the Gulf of Mexico. The oil bubbles up from a cracks in ocean bottom sediments and spreads out with the wind to an to an area covering about 4 square miles. "On water, oil has this wonderful property of spreading out really thin," said Mitchell. "A gallon of oil can spread over a square mile very quickly." ...

      It's quote possible that there is an oil seep within a small distance of the BP well, that happens to be seeping the same oil. Not saying there is, but it hasn't been ruled out.

  • by RockDoctor (15477) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @09:55AM (#37227206) Journal
    Some people are a bit bothered why the chemist in TFA is careful with his words about the origin of the samples.

    'After examining the data, I think it's a dead ringer for the MC252 oil, as good a match as I've seen. My guess is that it is probably coming from the broken riser pipe or sunken platform.'

    I can think of at least one plausible (and very unwelcome) scenario that could have Macondo reservoir oil coming up to the surface, but not from the original well. Actually, now I can think of three ways.

    There could be a leak from one of the two relief wells. Which would be unwelcome in the extreme, but at least they're known quantities, and re-entering a well in good condition for an "intervention" is a pretty routine operation. That's the nice option that has Macondo oil coming to surface but not from the MC252 well.

    Alternatively, with all the high-pressure operations happening on the MC252 well and on the relief wells, then it's possible to have fractured the cap rock over the HPHT (high pressure high temperature) reservoir, allowing oil and gas to start to migrate up to the surface, in exactly the same way that natural oil seeps occur all over the Gulf (and other oil provinces). That could be the start of a long-drawn out process of draining the reservoir to surface. Which shouldn't take more than a few centuries.

    Actually, there is a third plausible option : searching for naturally occurring oil seeps is a well-established technique for exploration. I've had several satellite imagery companies trying to convince me of the value of their imagery and analysis tools for finding precisely this sort of oil seep, as a guide to where to put your seismic boats, then your seabed samplers, then your drilling rigs, then your production platforms. I don't know if BP/Andarko used seep-tracking in their prospecting in this area, but it's certainly possible. In which case, this may just be a "normal" seep that is being noticed because of the intense scrutiny of the area.

    Anyway, with those several possibilities, the chemist is being correctly cautious about attributing the origin of the oil. He can be confident that the oil has the same characteristics as the ones that he's measured from the main flow, and that suggests but does not prove the point of origin, or the reason for the oil coming to the surface.

    Oil from the rig?

    It's not impossible that there was enough crude in storage on the Deepwater Horizon for it to have started seeping now. But it's fairly unlikely. By the stage they'd got to in the well, they should have finished testing the well, and the testing equipment spread would have been being stripped down for return to shore (and taken OFF RENTAL, as the encouragement to get it done NOW). You don't ship separators, chicksans, production chokes etc full of anything other than thin air, let alone full of flammables. So there is unlikely to have been more than a few gallons of Macondo crude onboard. Plenty of diesel, lube oils, gas bottles for the galley or the welder, certainly helicopter fuel ... but Macondo crude itself is unlikely to have been present in more than sample quantities. And all of those hydrocarbons have very different chemical signatures, so should be easily distinguished.

  • Obama, please read this message, the US economy is in dire need of major money...right?
    If BP oil is found at the root of this spill/leak again, hit them harder this time, like say 100 billion dollars....and take it from them, dont tell them they need to pay it off, I know they have it in all the oil stocks and what not...so just take it, as you already took the oil in the middle east(had no problems doing it then).
    Do not leave them a choice....so now you have 100 billion more, cool....
    Then say they have to

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