THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout

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New Research In

Interior Department, though, we get good news and bad news. The good news is that the blowout preventer does what is suggested in the photos and accompanying charts. The bad news, according to the page report by Det Norske Veritas , a Norwegian risk management company, is that it only does so in photographs and charts, and not in real-life crises such as the Macondo blowout. Here is volume 1 of the report.

Here is volume 2. In the case of Macondo, the intense pressure of the blowout bent the well pipe, and pushed it out of position. And when the mighty sheers were activated, they could not close entirely. Read on for more details. In fact, this conclusion is not a surprise. As Casselman and Gold note, the oil industry has known for many years that the blowout preventers work in only a fraction of accidents, and that they have been.

11 Facts About the BP Oil Spill |

I contacted Cameron International, the maker of the blowout preventer on the Macondo well, which referred me to a statement it had issued. The Interior Department had been moving — ever so slowly — toward letting the industry back in the Gulf. It is likely that this latest report is going to slow — if not reverse — that effort. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola. Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts. And some oil sunk to the seafloor by gluing together falling particles in the water such as bacteria and phytoplankton to form marine snow.

As much as 20 percent of the spilled oil may have ended up on top of and in the seafloor, damaging deep sea corals and potentially damaging other ecosystems that are unseen at the surface.

When oil spills into the ocean, it is difficult to clean up. When you have 3.

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Part of the difficulty is that no two spills are alike. The amount and type of oil whether crude or refined affects how it spreads, and a spill in seawater spreads differently than freshwater. Local environmental conditions also play a huge role: currents, tides, weather, wind speed and direction, air temperature, water temperature and presence of ice all affect how the oil spreads and how well cleanup workers can access the spill area.

The Simple Truth BPs Macondo Blowout

This variability makes it difficult to plan for spills ahead of time. The most basic method of clean up is to control the spread of the oil using physical barriers. When oil spills in water, it tends to float to the surface and spread out, forming a thin slick just a few millimeters thick.

Smithsonian Ocean

A very thin slick is called a sheen, which often looks like a rainbow and can be seen in parking lots after a rainstorm. Cleanup workers first surround the slick with floating booms to keep it from spreading to harbors, beaches or biologically important areas like marshes. Then they can use different tools to remove the collected oil.

Often they will drive skimmers, boats that skim spilled water from the water's surface, through the slick. After most of the oil is removed by skimmers, workers use sorbents to mop up the trace amounts left behind. Sorbents either absorb oil like a sponge or adsorb oil, which means that oil sticks to its surface.

They come in three main types: natural organic materials like peat moss, straw, hay and sawdust; natural inorganic materials like clay, volcanic ash, sand, or vermiculite; and synthetic sorbents made of materials similar to plastic like polyurethane, polypropylene, and polyethylene. Which type is used will depend on the particular spill, as some types of sorbents work best on different types of oil and under different weather conditions. Another option is to speed up the oil's natural biodegradation using dispersants.

See next section. Removing spilled oil from the environment is a difficult task. Because oil is hydrophobic doesn't mix with water , it floats to the surface when it spills into the ocean and forms large slicks. These slicks can wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems and animals, so cleanup workers use dispersants —chemicals that break down the oil into smaller particles that mix with water more easily—to prevent them from forming. Evaporation and bacteria can then degrade these tiny droplets more quickly than if they were in a large slick, or waves can wash them away from the spill site.

Dispersants are often used when workers want to stop the slick from spreading to a protected area like a harbor or marsh. But dispersants can also enter the food chain and potentially harm wildlife. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, clean-up workers treated the oil with over 1. Typically such large amounts are sprayed over the open ocean from an airplane or helicopter. But during the BP oil spill, they were also injected straight into the Macondo wellhead, the source of the leak, in order to reduce the amount of oil that reached the ocean surface.

Five years after the spill some scientists believe that injecting dispersants directly at the wellhead may not have done much to help reduce the size of the oil droplets. Just because the oil and dispersants are out of human sight and mind in the deep sea doesn't mean they're gone.

It's possible that life in the deep sea was exposed to the dispersant-oil mixture. Scientists have found that the dispersant-oil mixture was rapidly colonized and broken down by bacteria that sunk towards the bottom. Any bits of the mixture that didn't get broken down would then get buried in coastal and deep-sea sediments , where its breakdown slows. While the dispersant helps expose more of the oil to bacteria and waves which help to break it down, it also makes the oil more available to wildlife.

One study showed that the combination of oil and the dispersant Corexit is 3 to times more toxic to rotifers microscopic animals than oil by itself. This isn't because of anything inherently dangerous in the mixture of the two; the rotifers are more able to ingest oil once it's made accessible by the dispersant.

But overall, scientists have concluded that the amount of oil determines whether or not adding dispersant is toxic or not, and the oil concentrations during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill were well below toxic levels. Furthermore, oil slicks in and of themselves are toxic to marine wildlife, and this must be taken into consideration when choosing to use dispersants.

There is still more research needed to understand the effects of dispersant. A modeling effort supported by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative offered evidence that the dispersants injected into the Macondo wellhead may not have helped to lessen the amount of oil reaching the surface after all.

Valve failure

A lot of research is still needed to fully understand the long-term effects of dispersants on the region and its inhabitants—not to mention how they move through the food chain to impact larger predators, such as people. Researchers are developing new dispersants that cause less environmental damage for the next spill. See "Human Health Impacts. There were some immediate impacts to the animals of the Gulf of Mexico that could be seen with the naked eye: pelicans black with oil, fish belly-up in brown sludge, smothered turtles washed up on beaches.

But not much time has passed since the spill, and it will take many more years of monitoring and research to understand what happened. Strandings of both dolphins and sea turtles increased significantly in the years following the spill. Since then, dolphin deaths have declined, and long-term impacts on the population are not yet known.

Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests have gone down in the years since the spill, and long-term effects are not yet known. Seabirds were initially harmed by crude surface oil—even a small bit of oil on their feathers impeded their ability to fly, swim and find food by diving. Seabird losses may have numbered in the hundreds of thousands , but reliable estimates are hard to come by. BP says the cement formulation seems not to have been up to the job.

The Simple Truth: BP's Macondo Blowout

The bottom of the pipe to the surface was sealed in two ways. It too was filled with cement, and it also contained two mechanical valves designed to stop the flow of oil and gas. All of these failed, allowing oil and gas to travel up the pipe towards the surface. The crew carried out various pressure tests to determine whether the well was sealed or not. The results of these tests were misinterpreted, so they thought the well was under control.

Whether a well is under control or not, the crew at the surface should be able to detect a flow of oil and gas towards the surface by looking for unexpected increases in pressure in the well. Exactly this kind of increase occurred about 50 minutes before the rig exploded, but it was not interpreted as a leak.

THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout
THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout
THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout
THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout
THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout
THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout
THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout
THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout THE SIMPLE TRUTH: BPs Macondo Blowout

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