Two More Gulf Spills?
"I TRAVELED down to the Gulf to work on the spill in the first half of May, and it was amazing to me to see how much oil and gas development there is down there. When you get out of the mouths of the "passes" (channels) and into the actual Gulf, the near-shore (~1 mile out) area is lined with platforms like beads on a necklace. Spills happen all the time down there. I think that most of them (especially those that are leaking more than a sheen) are reported-- if not by the operators, then by one of the MANY people who are out there-- shrimpers, oyster harvesters, sport-fisherpeople, etc. There is a very good response infrastructure down there for these spills, which are much smaller in scope than the BP spill, and they get stopped and cleaned up pretty fast. The biological productivity of the area (lots of brackish water, sunlight, warm temperatures and nutrients) is able to "keep up" with this kind of low-level release-- in fact there is a pretty good ecosystem community (primarily oil-eating bacteria) that has evolved in response to it. The big difference with the BP spill (of course) is its scale and magnitude. Nothing can keep up with millions of gallons of oil hitting a wetland or shoreline to the point that inches or feet of oil collect in one place. A bay that is facing the right (or wrong) direction with respect to winds and currents essentially becomes a "catchers' mitt" and the oil just keeps coming in unless it is intercepted by booms and skimmers, or some other response effort. In my opinion, I think that this is still a very weak part of the response effort, and as lava-lamp blobs of oil will continue to surface and then smear random pieces of habitat (for a long time, and over who knows what kind of geographic extent), BP needs to be pressured to develop this response capability MUCH better.
Just FYI (and as an example), the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, which is about 10 miles down the Mississippi Channel from Venice, LA, had a spill of about 100,000 gallons (approx) of crude oil the week before the Deepwater Horizon blew up. This happened when someone who was dredging a channel hit an old pipeline (between an off-shore platform and an on-shore collection facility) that wasn't marked on the map (a universal problem with pipelines in areas that have been under development for a long time). Response crews started cleaning up before the owner was identified (it turned out to be Chevron).
I am most definitely not saying that this is "alright" or "no big deal", but I guess I am saying that if anything, this spill is shining some light on what is actually involved (in terms of damage but also in terms of response-ability and infrastructure) in oil and gas production on the Gulf of Mexico, and (perhaps) will cause people to more fully evaluate the risks inherent in the benefit we get with domestic oil production. And then when you start looking at Canada (tar sands), Azerbaijan, Niger, Ecuador, etc., etc., you have to realize that as bad as it is here (and it could- and needs to-- be a hell of a lot better), it can be a lot worse. We DO have to do better, and my only "hope" from this whole event is that it will become the trigger for a transformative reevaluation of what we (as a society- both within the US and globally) are going to do for energy for the NEXT 100 or 200 years."
"TRUST AN oil company worth billions of dollars or more to report their smaller spills? While we're at it, let's trust china to clearly label the percentages of lead or cadmium in all exports. Or we can just trust all motorists not to speed. Yeah, thats a good Idea.
Check it out, folks. I did the Army thing for awhile. We knew that if you spilled fuel or oil in the dirt, there was gonna be a major cleanup directed by german authorities(stationed there) that involved everyone digging a Really Big Hole to move all the contaminated dirt. So we faithfully reported every spill and leaking vehicle...YEAH RIGHT! If we could get away with it, we did.
Dont think about the oil companies; for just a second forget the massive finances backing each operation. Think down to the lowest-ranking worker on a rig(or for that matter, on a ground well). Now, each worked has recieved a briefing about reporting spills, how much consitutes a spill. That was possibly a few hours worth of instruction, presented at least partly as a formality.
Balance that against being the guy who actually reports a spill. What does a worked at the bottom of a food chain think will happen to him(or her) if he or she happens to be the one who brings the EPA to the site?
At the very least, it will mean extra work for everyone, plus the threat of attracting the attention and anger of corporate higher ups....
The official rule is, 'report all leaks and spills' (over some small amount)
Unofficially, though? 'If no one else notices, no one else needs to know.'"
Pemex-operated oil rigs in the Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico. Natural gas is being flared off because there were no facilities to recover it, while Mexico purchased most of its natural gas from the US. [Mexico, March 2001©National Post/Peter Redman]
Blue = oil, red = gas
Active Gulf of Mexico Offshore Platforms (2008)
Pipline Damages Reported for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Oil and Water Don't Mix
Current, Potential and Future Hub Facilities