When I first heard about this, I thought, what’s the big deal, another oil tanker leaking oil. Well, it’s not a tanker, this is not a ship, it is an oil well under the ocean. Under 5,000 feet of water. This is almost a mile down. (A mile is 5,280 feet.) The pressure, I think, is a bone crushing 2,350 pounds per square inch. Take a look at the graphic below and you can see the problem. We opened the flood gates to huge reservoir of oil and it will just keep pouring out until we do something drastic. That’s why this is a big deal.
Obama fears unprecedented disaster
… The Coast Guard conceded Saturday that it’s nearly impossible to know how much oil has gushed since the blast, after saying earlier it was at least 1.6 million gallons — equivalent to about 2½ Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Even at that rate, the spill should eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident as the worst U.S. oil disaster in history in a matter of weeks. But a growing number of experts warned that the situation may already be much worse.
… Scientists were sampling the waters, and the federal government said all seafood harvested so far appeared safe.
BP faces fresh questions over the cause of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after it emerged that problems with the type of equipment that led to the disaster were first reported a decade ago.
In June 2000, the oil giant issued a “notice of default” to Transocean, the operator of the rig that blew up last month. The dispute was over problems with a blowout preventer, a set of iron slabs that should close out-of-control wells. It failed on the Gulf of Mexico rig, triggering the explosion and oil spill.
Transocean acknowledged at the time that the preventer did “not work exactly right”. The rig in question, the Discover Enterprise, was unable to operate for extended periods while the problem was fixed.
The preventer was made by Hydril, now owned by GE’s oil and gas arm, and Cameron International, a Houston company. Cameron also made the preventer on the Deepwater Horizon, the rig that exploded. Its preventer was fitted at about the same time BP was complaining of problems with its sister vessel.
BP’s past problems with the preventer emerged as a giant oil slick, fed by the uncapped well, began lapping the coast of Louisiana, threatening to create America’s worst environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
The US Coast Guard estimated that it is releasing 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the sea – though some experts claim it may be flowing at fives times that rate.
Fears were growing this weekend that the well head could fall apart, potentially unleashing an unresticted flow into the ocean.
Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, flew to Houston today to manage the worsening crisis. More than $23billion (£15billion) has been wiped off BP’s market value amid growing worries over the costs of the clean-up. Estimates range from $3billion to $12billion. Hayward pledged to pay all “legitimate” claims arising from the spill.
Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have all declared states of emergency as winds pushed the slick toward sensitive marshlands and fishing areas.
President Barack Obama issued a moratorium on new drilling until the cause of the disaster was determined. He also ordered the Department of Defense to use cargo planes to spray chemical dispersant. …
Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen called the bid to shut down a wellhead spewing at least 210,000 gallons of oil a day from nearly a mile beneath the ocean surface “one of the most complex things we’ve every done.”
He went on to say that, in a worst-case scenario, the well could vent 4.2 million gallons of oil into the Gulf daily. Currently, a crumpled “riser” pipe is preventing the full flow of oil – like a kinked garden hose – though reports suggest it is gradually deteriorating. …
BP, the company that owned the Louisiana oil rig that exploded last week, spent years battling federal regulators over how many layers of safeguards would be needed to prevent a deepwater well from this type of accident.*** But according to aides to Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has followed offshore drilling issues for years, the industry aggressively lobbied against an additional layer of protection known as an “acoustic system,” saying it was too costly. In a March 2003 report, the agency reversed course, and said that layer of protection was no longer needed.
“There was a big debate under the Bush administration whether or not to require additional oil drilling safeguards but [federal regulators] decided not to require any additional mandatory safeguards, believing the industry would be motivated to do it themselves,” Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club told ABC News. – link
Video showing what a blowout preventer looks like:
Here’s a graphic showing three ways they will attempt to stop the flow: