Monday, May 3, 2010

Another man-made disaster

Five times as much oil as previously thought is leaking from a ruptured BP well.

The British energy giant launched one of the biggest containment operation ever, with the military joining dozens of ships and aircraft. The slick is estimated to cover an area of 4,700 square miles, making it one of the biggest oil spills in history. Despite attempts to slow its advance by setting it on fire, winds had blown the leading edge of the slick just three miles away from the mouth of the Mississipi Delta. The US Navy said it had sent 66,000 feet of inflatable boom and seven skimming systems to the disaster area to control the movement of spills.

The US Coast Guard said a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had concluded that oil was gushing into the sea at the rate of 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) a day, five times more than earlier estimated. Thats a lot of precious oil and imagine the damage it will and has done. The head of BP's exploration and production arm admitted it had discovered a substantial new leak and conceded the revised US estimate of the amount of escaping oil could be correct. He said drilling a relief well to plug the leak, which is a mile down under the sea's surface, could take up to three months.

The spill followed an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, leased by BP, on April 20 in which 11 workers are presumed to have died. The rig sank two days later some 50 miles off the coast. The slick could cause severe environmental damage to beaches, wildlife and estuaries in Louisiana and other states such as Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, in which a tanker spilt 11 million gallons of oil off Alaska, is going to pale into insignificance in comparison to this as it goes on. Mr Miller, whose company became famous by dousing 180 of the 600 oil fires in Kuwait after the Gulf War, said the new slick bore comparison with the Kuwait fires but was likely to be far more environmentally damaging as it was at sea rather than in the desert. He criticised BP's initial response, saying it worsened the slick by putting the fire out on the rig. That action led to the rig sinking, cutting off the only connection to the well and ensuring the leaking oil went into the sea rather than being burned off, said Mr Miller.

Another short-term solution reportedly being implemented was a plan to set up a bell-shaped device to catch the oil as rose to the surface from the well, before being pumped into container ships. This all happened because of our greed and need for oil. If we weren't so dependent on it might never have happened. We are all guilty.

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