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.
Miss the good old days of daily oil disaster news? Worry not, for another oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded this morning, leaving all 13 crew members in the water but – according to initial reports – all are alive and only one is injured. The rig is owned by Mariner Energy (somewhere a BP exec is breathing again) and is not currently producing, according to the Coast Guard. Updated.
Swarms of autonomous, solar-powered towel-bots, based on a nanowire mesh, could help those oil-eating microbes clean up the Gulf of Mexico. The “Seaswarm” robot moves like a tank in water, using a conveyor belt to roll over the ocean’s surface.
Remember how we told you last week about the problem of variables when studying the Gulf oil spill? Here's another one: according to a new study, a heretofore unseen species of bacteria is eating the oil, and eating it efficiently. Thanks to these cold-loving, oil-munching bugs, the huge oil plume we learned about last week is probably gone, according to Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and principal investigator at the Energy Biosciences Institute.
"In the last three weeks, we haven't been able to detect the deepwater plume anywhere we've gone," he said in an interview. "It appears to have been completely biodegraded and diluted out. Like the surface (oil), we can no longer find it."
We don't want to jinx it or anything, so hold your breath and cross your fingers while you read this: BP's "static kill" procedure appears to have completely and finally stopped the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. After eight hours of pumping heavy drilling mud into the well pipe overnight, the well pressure is now being dictated by the hydrostatic pressure of the drilling mud -- not by containment caps or other means -- which means a concrete capper should seal the deal.
From the people that brought you private spaceflight and super-fuel-efficient automobiles comes the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge. X-Prize officials announced today a $1 million purse for the team that can demonstrate the most efficient method of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface.
As BP sits down for a not-so-friendly back and forth with Congress this morning it seems the oil giant is resigned to let the Gulf oil leak flow until the relief wells are completed in August. But a nuclear physicist from California thinks he’s devised a method that could stop the gushing well by pumping steel balls into the riser. It’s likely to work, he says, and even if it fails it won’t make matters any worse. Naturally, not everyone involved is so optimistic.
As oil spill estimates continue to worsen, frustration in the Gulf Coast is reaching a boiling point. But one possible reason people may feel like nothing is happening because people are not doing the bulk of the work -- robots are.
Remotely operated robots are shooting video, carrying equipment, drilling pieces into place, and monitoring the flow of oil. BP has contracted with at least four robotics companies, including Oceaneering International Inc., Subsea 7 and C-Innovation, to do the work, according to NPR.
As of today, Wednesday, June 9, the oil spewing from the Deepwater Horizon well could have powered 38,000 cars, 3,400 trucks and 1,800 ships for a full year, according to University of Delaware professor James J. Corbett.
There's been a lot of rather vague back and forth regarding the magnitude of the Gulf oil leak -- it's worse than the Exxon Valdez, but not as bad as 1979's Ixtoc I leak, but worse than the Pittsburgh Pirates, etc. etc. Now researchers have qualified the spill in terms that don't leave a lot of room for semantic quibbling, confirming the existence of huge concentrations of oil spreading for miles beneath the surface of the Gulf – the "plumes" previously denied by BP and federal officials – and calling the disaster unprecedented in "human history." Moreover, for the first time federal officials are backing up that assertion.