Rainbow-tinted slicks and globules of oil have been cropping up in the Gulf of Mexico during the past 10 days or so, and it’s not clear where it is all coming from. BP, whose Macondo well spewed 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf last summer after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, has denied that the oil is coming from that well. But some scientists say it’s certainly possible.
Researchers on board a ship in the Gulf of Mexico have found a layer of oil at least two inches thick, nestled in the depths a mile below the surface, that they believe came from the blown-out BP well.
Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, set sail August 21 on the research vessel Oceanus and has been posting blog updates throughout the mission. Over the weekend, she wrote that her team found a layer of oil in a valley on the seafloor, about 18 miles from the wellhead. It is two inches thick in some spots, and it rests on top of recently dead sea creatures like shrimp and tubeworms.
Oceanographers announced today the discovery of a wispy oil plume at least 22 miles long and 1.2 miles wide floating beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a sign that plenty of the oil from BP's Deepwater Horizon leak remains in the environment. It's the first conclusive proof that a deep-sea plume from the leak exists, which at least partially explains what happened to the oil in the three months since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. It also casts doubt on the federal government's statement earlier this month that most of the oil has dispersed or disappeared.
But the new study is merely a rough snapshot of what is happening in the depths. Wide disagreement persists among scientists who study the Gulf and oil spills, and they say it could take generations to fully understand the leak's scope. The best minds in marine science and geology can't say yet how bad it will be.
By Alessandra CalderinPosted 07.27.2010 at 12:58 pm 3 Comments
When the Deepwater Horizon rig began leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico in April, the cleanup schemes were underwhelming: fire, dispersants, pantyhose stuffed with human hair. But a new robotic system could corral future spills in hours so that oil never hits the shore.
Aeros (Airborne Robotic Oil Spill Recovery System) is a fleet of airplane-deployed robots that cordon off the oil and use centrifuge-like oil/water separators to collect oil for refining. Each 'bot can purify up to 3,000 gallons of water a minute.
While the world waits to see if a "top kill" operation can seal off the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf, the staggering proposition of dealing with the more than 11 million gallons of crude spilled to date remains. To combat the massive slick, BP's primary weapon is chemical oil dispersant. The company has already used an unprecedented amount of dispersant—over 840,000 gallons—and is poised to deploy more.
So what exactly does oil dispersant do?
The Coast Guard gave BP the go-ahead this morning, and the latest attempt to seal off the Gulf oil leak that is quickly turning into the biggest ecological disaster in history began at 2 p.m. eastern time. And as BP scrambled to get its controversial "top kill" underway, the media scrambled to figure out exactly how to describe this riser-capping procedure to the public.
But (perhaps unexpectedly) CNN went directly to the best possible source for all things technical, a video explanation so thorough that we've included it below. The top kill, as explained by Bill Nye The Science Guy.
Since BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded into one of the worst man-made ecological disasters in history, one big question has remained unanswered: Just how big of a mess is it? While BP asserts there's no way to know, marine experts say that if the oil giant would but release more video from its submersible ROVs and provide a little data on the well itself, they could deduce the magnitude of the leak, as well as inform the effort to plug the leaking well pipe.
Huge C-130 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force Reserve have joined the fight against the Deepwater Horizon oil slick, which now threatens to ravage the local ecosystems and fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.