Update: The following post is full of data and topics that I found when researching worst-case scenarios from the BP Oil Spill in the Summer of 2010. I wrote the post itself on June 14, 2010, and I’m pretty sure everything I found and listed below is unfounded and untrue. I should probably take it down. But I’ve decided to leave it up, as it gives us a glimpse into the hysteria that develops around disasters. Happy reading!
I’ve been doing some research on the interwebs, and here is the stuff that is really scaring me. A lot of the information I found is alarming. To be clear: I do not know if any of this information is true. Please give this a read. Please feel free to comment with other resources. Let me know if the information in this post is on target. Hopefully, this entire blog post is completely false.
This is why our entire planet should be concerned about the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico:
1. That’s really deep, dude.
BP was drilling in an area where it is about a mile from the platform to the ocean floor. That means they had to go down 5,000+ ft just to get to the ocean floor. Humans can’t even go down to that depth because of the near-freezing temperature and the pressure.
2. The Russians did it on land. Maybe we should try it in the water.
Once they reached the ocean floor, BP was trying to drill a superdeep well – maybe as deep as the Russian’s Kola SG-3 borehole which reached 40,000ft deep back in 1989. Basically, BP was drilling somewhere in the range of 25,000-30,000ft below the ocean floor. Apparently that is REALLY deep. And from what I can find, drilling to those depths has never been attempted in the Gulf of Mexico.
3. Who needs an anchor anyways?
To make things even more unsafe, the BP Deepwater Horizon platform was a floating platform that was kept in location by a sophisticated GPS system. That means the the BP platform was not even anchored to the ocean floor, and that is not a very stable/safe way to drill for oil in deep waters.
4. Under Pressure
Typical oil pressures (pounds per square inch aka psi) are in the area of 1,000 psi. BP had reached such a depth that they were seeing anywhere from 20,000-70,000 psi from this oil well. Some geologists predict that the psi at such depths would actually be in the range of 80,000-100,000 psi.
5. Epic Fail-Safe Fail
Due to the massive pressures, every one of the fail-safe measures and valves on the BP platform failed. And there is even a rumor that BP was warned beforehand about a warped fail-safe valve by one of their own employees. Regardless, they are fairly certain that nothing could have stopped that oil because the pressures were too high. We simply don’t have anything that can stop that type of pressure.
6. Oil, Volcanoes, and New Theories
Why would BP want to drill so deep? Well, there is a theory that petroleum oil does not come from dinosaur fossils. To the people who subscribe to this theory, they believe oil is actually “abiotic,” which means that it is continually being formed deep within the earth’s crust by some sort of chemical process. (This same theory appears to be a pillar to other theories that say the energy/oil shortage is entirely false. If oil is continually being formed from some chemical reaction involving magma, then all that stuff we hear about oil peaks is completely fabricated. But that is another story altogether, and like most of this post, it could be completely false. BTW, some people think that if they drilled into an area where magma is creating petroleum oil, they could have possibly drilled into a volcano. Oh good.)
7. Don’t Hold Your Breath
Oil isn’t the only thing coming out of that well. It turns out that other stuff comes out with the oil. Specifically, we are talking about Hydrogen Sulfide, Benzene and Methylene Chloride. (link)
- The concentration threshold for people to experience physical symptoms from hydrogen sulfide is about 5 to 10 parts per billion. But as recently as last Thursday, the EPA measured levels at 1,000 ppb. The highest levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide measured so far were on May 3, at 1,192 ppb.
- Testing data also shows levels of volatile organic chemicals that far exceed Louisiana’s own ambient air standards. VOCs cause acute physical health symptoms including eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion.
- Louisiana’s ambient air standard for the VOC benzene, for example, is 3.76 ppb, while its standard for methylene chloride is 61.25 ppb. Long-term exposure to airborne benzene has been linked to cancer, while the EPA considers methylene chloride a probable carcinogen.
- The one we should really worry about is benzene. Acceptable levels of Benzene are 0-4 ppb, but some people are reporting Benzene levels near the Gulf of Mexico in the range of 3,000-4,000 ppb.
8. What “they” are not telling us
According to some people, the levels of those 3 chemicals in particular will cause a massive increase in sicknesses, cancers and deaths for people in the southeastern United States. Of course, the EPA is not reporting on the levels of these chemicals in the air right now. Why would they? It would probably create a panic.
9. Nuclear Bombs Fix Everything
If BP did get to those superdeep depths of 30,000+ ft… Because the pressure is so high down there, humans don’t really have anything that can seal that well. There is talk of using a nuclear device to “fix” the problem, but many people claim that would only make everything worse, as it is a last-ditch effort that is not a certain fix. (That kinda reminds me of the movie Independence Day when the government decides to use a nuclear weapon on the ship over Houston. It didn’t work, and it blew up the entire city.)
10. Years and Years and Years
The publicized estimates (in the media) of how much oil is leaking every day are dramatically conservative. Again, many think this is to avoid a panic. The actual amounts could be in the vicinity of 4 million gallons per day. This superdeep oil well could possess over 1 trillion gallons. If we can’t stop the leak – this oil well could be spewing oil for years and years and years. In that worst case scenario:
- The oil would eventually kill the entire Gulf of Mexico. And then it would continue spreading to other oceans.
- The oil would reach Europe in a few years.
- That amount of oil floating on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean would cause all sorts of massive problems. For example: If lightning struck the ocean’s surface, it could spark an oil fire. That fire would eat up a lot of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Obviously, that scenario is problematic for several reasons.
11. Fissures don’t sound good at all
What else? There are things called “sea floor fissures” (i.e. fountains), where oil often seeps up through the ocean floor into the world’s oceans. According to some news articles, this happens naturally from time to time, and minor amounts of oil can be seen seeping on the ocean floor in certain places around the world. However, right now in the Gulf, they are starting to see fissures that are leaking alarming amounts of oil up to 5 miles away from the BP well (link). This is very problematic, and it could point to something even more devastating than the blownout BP well. If the casing was damaged below the sea floor, “basically, you‘ve got uncontrolled [oil] flow to the sea floor. And that is the doomsday scenario.” (link)
Did I miss anything? Let me know.
PS. The information I listed in this post comes from a variety of websites. A lot of this information fits into a doomsday scenario. And then some of it is textbook conspiracy theory. Regardless, there is something really bad going on down in the Gulf of Mexico. It could be something that we really have no way to stop. I hope and pray that we find a way to get ourselves out of this mess. It’s bigger than BP. It’s bigger than us. If even a few points in this post are true, we are going to need a miracle.
PS2. Here are some other articles and sites that have information about drilling:
- Scientists: Oil leaking up to 2.52M gallons daily (SFGate.com)
UPDATE FROM LATE 2010:
- Well, it turns out that this entire post was full of sh*t. Apparently, the oil simply disappeared, probably to the bottom of the ocean floor. That is better than a buzzillion gallons floating over to Europe. But I guess the final question can only be: Have the drillers changed anything to ensure this doesn’t happen again? I hope so.