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Calculating the 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill

August 4th, 2010
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06.08.2014 formatting update

Calculating the 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill

original article written by Net Advisor™

“(The) Battle to stop leak and contain oil ‘coming to an end,’ Obama says.”

— Source: CNN

WASHINGTON DC. President Obama was quoted today saying, “We learned overnight that efforts to stop the well through what’s called a ‘static kill’ appear to be working and that a report out today by our scientists shows that the vast majority of spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water,” the president told the AFL-CIO executive committee at the labor union’s meeting in Washington” (Source: CNN).

Further the President stated, “On the cleanup front, 74 percent of the oil that leaked from the well since the drilling rig sank in April has been collected, has dispersed or has evaporated, according to a government report released Wednesday.”

— Source: CNN

That report sounds really good, something BP would be touting. It suggests that 74% of the problems are taken care of. This would not exactly be the case however. The report is read a little differently than Washington suggests:

“U.S. scientists said in the report that burning, skimming and direct recovery had removed one quarter of the oil, another 25 percent had naturally evaporated or dissolved, and 24 percent had been dispersed, either naturally or chemically.”

— Source: Reuters

A Breakdown of the oil spill. We’ll, Sort of.
25% of the oil was “burned, skimmed or removed.” That number is not exactly broken down. How does one determine how much was burned verses skimmed verses removed? Apparently we are to just accept that as fact.

25% of the oil “naturally evaporated or dissolved.” So Mother Nature has been able to resolve 25% of the oil spill? The word, dissolved should be defined. Does this mean it was naturally dissolved or man-made assisted, and by what means? Sure, this gets into greater details of the question, but shouldn’t we know all the relevant facts, or just accept some arbitrary number that 74% of the problem is “coming to an end?”

24% of the oil “dispersed, either naturally or chemically.” Wasn’t this covered in the above 25%?: “naturally evaporated or dissolved.” It appears that this generally seems to suggest that the oil was just moved from a large pool, to breaking up in smaller pools, but it does not mean it has evaporated, was collected or is no longer there.

The findings also suggested that the dispersed oil is still categorized as “slightly toxic to practically non-toxic” when tested alone.

— Source: CNN

The problem with this study that is the oil is real, thus when these tests were done on the actual spill with dispersants and the oil, the findings suggested that “Mixtures of the oil and dispersant were no more toxic than the oil alone” (Source: CNN). In other words, the dispersants may have been just as toxic as the oil itself, not more toxic, or less toxic, but toxic none-the-less. Does it make sense to remove one toxin with another toxin that may be equally as harmful? Would have loved to sit in on that committee’s decision thinking.

This same science logic is used to calculate miles in cars. A car that sits on rollers in a controlled (often indoor) environment going a constant speed will produce a certain miles per gallon. The problem with this is that on the road, factors including but not limited to weather, passenger and haul weight, fuel type, can also play a role on actual miles per gallon, and so can a the way a drivers uses the vehicle.

If you live in a place that has a freeway and you use it, odds are one has experienced the stop and go flow of vehicle traffic. This kind of driving decreases the miles per gallon on a car. Yet, this is the same rational that science is using in the Gulf oil spill analyzation process. Thus doing tests in a controlled environment produces one set of results. Now changing that environment will certainly produce different results when you factor in new elements such as in this case, millions of gallons of crude oil.

What is also interesting is that apparently all of these numbers conveniently add up to about 25% each.

Assuming that all these figures are correct, and assuming that 74% of the oil is no longer an environmental risk, which may be a big stretch of a statement, there is still one part of the equation is missing: 26% of the oil is not contained.

Now, again just accepting the “74%” findings all as fact, that may sound as if only a small part of the problem (26%) is left, but how much is that small 26% anyway?

“The study, from agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of the Interior, says of the total amount of oil that was spewed into the Gulf of Mexico (the most recent estimate is 205.8 million gallons), just 26 percent remains in the water, either on or just below the surface.”

— Source: CNN

This translates to 26% x 205.8 million gallons = 53.503 million gallons of oil that is not contained. The article attempts to down play 53 million gallons of the oil spill by saying its “light sheen” or “weathered tar balls” and part of it is being collected or degraded from on-shore (Source: CNN).

Keep in mind tat one barrel of (unrefined) crude oil contains 42 gallons (Source: U.S. Department of Energy). Thus, 53.503 million gallons remaining of crude oil from the Gulf spill would be equivalent to 1.27 million (1,273,880) barrels of oil still left in the gulf.

Reuters news stated,

“…more than 1 million barrels of oil remains in the Gulf, four times the estimated 257,000 barrels that spilled into Prince William Sound from the Exxon Valdez tanker in 1989.”

— Source: Reuters

Assuming the numbers are correct, the amount that is still left to clean up is still four times the Valdez spill. Hard to call this situation even close to being over, almost done, handled, or even, “coming to an end.”


Above image is a Registered Trade Mark of BP

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