This is interesting

In the 85 days of the leak, the worst oil disaster in history, nearly 184m gallons of crude oil is estimated to have gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, the ninth largest body of water in the world.


The oil that gushed also added to natural oil and gas leaks into Gulf waters. These occur all the time from the sea bed, and the US Department of Energy estimates that there may be 5,000 active \”seeps\” in the northern Gulf alone. One researcher calculated in 2000 that 500,000 barrels of oil – 84m gallons – naturally gets into the Gulf each year, but is never cleaned up.

Oooh, now that is interesting.

So the oil from this \”biggest ecological disaster ever\” is about two times what turns up entirely naturally every year anyway. And we know that the naturally turning up stuff doesn\’t accumulate, doesn\’t cause major environmental problems, is, in fact, cleaned up by entirely natural means. Bacteria eating it, dilution, whatever.

If the man made spill had been 20 x, or 200 x, then we\’d probably be sensible enough to wonder how on earth that could all be cleaned up. But 2 x? Give it a couple of years and it\’ll be gone, no?

13 thoughts on “This is interesting”

  1. Nature is robust. And oil spills are not. A good storm (and they get more than a few of those in the Gulf of Mexico) is quite sufficient to destroy even a major oil spill. Remember the MV Braer that ran aground off the Shetlands and was prophesied as being an environmental catastrophe at the time? A year later the effects of its spill were undetectable. Similarly the Torrey Canyon, the Amoco Cadiz, the Exxon Valdez. This isn’t to say that oil spills are benign. But the tendency of people to run around with their hair on fire yelling, “the end is nigh!” is not borne out by experience.

  2. The good greenies of Alaska prophesied the end of all wildlife for decades/generations/centuries (pick your own hysterical outpouring) in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill. We were told catergorically that this was a disatser the like of whcih we’d never seen, that the results ould affect the whole coastline, whole industries would be driven into bankrupty etc.

    The truth, or course, is very different. Storms and rough seas emulsified the oil very rapidly and within months it effectively “disappeared” from the visible environment. It could still be found in sub surface sand layers and on certain beaches but the major contamination effects ceased. The small particle/drops were then atteacked by a range of naturally ocurring bacteria and eliminated.

    Large animlas and birds were the most obviously affected at the time and we were all subjected to endless hours of oil covered corpses being gathered up as part of the anti-Exxon hysteria being generated by the greenies. However within five years the wildlife of the area was back to normal showing that the whole food chain had recovered from this supposed eons-long damage.

    The Gulf spill will be no different, the timescales may vary a bit depending on what hurricanes they get to break up the slicks. But in a couple of years there’ll be no visible oil at all and after a couple more years the wildlife will be back…but by then I suspect Obama will have got his way and BP will have ceased to exist as a US company.

  3. “but by then I suspect Obama will have got his way and BP will have ceased to exist as a US company.”

    And that was the intention all along.

    1) Bash Big Oil
    2) Bash the British
    3) Screw free cash for actual and potential Democrat voters in the South.

  4. I don’t know Timmy, the effects are far more focussed.

    50,000 barrels coming from under one square meter will have a very different effect from 5,000 barrels coming from over a million square meters for ten times as long…

  5. “50,000 barrels coming from under one square meter” would be much easier to trap and remove than ” 5,000 barrels coming from over a million square meters for ten times as long” had it not been for the gorblimey awful performance of the US Federal government.

  6. I think the numbers are wrong:
    500,000 oil barrels = 17,486,150 Imperial gallons
    or 21,000,000 US Gallons.

    Or at least, so says Google calculator! 🙂

  7. Certainly there have been enormous natural releases of oil – if you read “The Prize” by Daniel Yergin (not something I’d recommend as it’s a fascinating story written unbelievably badly) you’ll read about Mukluk, a $1bn well drilled in Alaska that revealed that the enormous multi-billion barrel oil field had once contained oil but it had all escaped at some point. Nature bounces back – after the Ixtoc blowout in the Bay Of Campeche in 1979, which blew for ten months and soiled the US coast on the other side of the Gulf, there was little visible trace after three years.

    And as for ecological doom-mongering, remember the Braer tanker that sank in a Shetlands? The news was full of tales of the impact on local sea otters, but analysis afterwards revealed that only three had died as a result. One was old and would probably have died fairly soon anyway, one died from oil ingestion and the last one was run over by a Norwegian camera crew there to cover the story.

  8. ” the last one was run over by a Norwegian camera crew there to cover the story.” I demand revenge: let’s invade Norway and nick all its oil.

  9. Every kind of fossil fuel has zones where it is present close to the surface, or the sea bed. One of these days we are going to have a seismic event like the one off Indonesia, but it’s going to release a significant field of crude oil and associated gases. I don’t see how we will be able to do anything about that by drilling relief wells.
    The Dutch system seems to be by far the best for cleaning up the seawater. It’s a pity the US didn’t make maximum use of it for this incident, because it would have been an excellent test project.

  10. On behalf of Norway I would like to apologize for any and all otters killed as a result of Norwegian camera crews driving recklessly.

  11. I sailed in the merchant marine with guys who sailed during WW2. They said the whole Pacific was covered with oil. Two years after the war it was all gone. Isn’t listed in the oil disasters nor are several similar situations. I wonder what Kuwait looks like today?

  12. Then you have to compare the oil spill in America with the ones created by American companies in Nigeria and other parts of the world.

    These oil spills have had 0.01% of the money that was spent on the Deepwater-Horizon spill, if that. Though oil will naturally disappate in only a couple of years, the ones in Nigeria have been going on for 50 years and haven’t had a chance to clear up.

    Hypocrisy? Nah, I just put it down to typical American antipathy to anything foreign. If it doesn’t happen in their back yard, it doesn’t exist.

  13. Interesting point about WWII nano. We had a very minor spill near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia earlier this year – a container ship ran aground and punctured a diesel tank, releasing a few hundred tons. You wouldn’t believe the hysteria, our ex-PM flew over the site in a light plane to “personally take charge”, the reef was going to die (all thousand kms of it), 24/7 news coverage, proposals to ban all Chinese shipping in Australian waters (great idea for an export driven economy), etc. About 4 days later a few tarballs washed up on a nearby island and pictures were shown of local residents picking them up and putting them in plastic shopping bags – the “clean up operation”. My point at the time was what about Iron Bottom Sound? Hundreds of ships sunk and no long term effects. Or the Coral Sea? Still has coral. Oil spills just aren’t that big a deal – avoid where possible but it’s not worth doing much about it. It’s somewhat disputed but there is a quite a good theory that pressure washing beaches in Prince William Sound did far more harm than good. Not spending money and getting a better outcome sounds like a win-win to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *