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Earth Science

US Confirms Underwater Oil Plume 353

oxide7 writes "An underwater three-dimensional map of the oil spill is closer to becoming a reality, now that the US has for the first time confirmed the discovery of a subsurface oil plume resulting from the ruptured BP well. The government agency in charge of ocean science has received the first of several expected reports from university investigators aboard research ships detailing specific locations where oil has been found below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The government, which denied reports of giant underwater oil plumes in mid-May, said researchers at the time had not confirmed the presence of conglomerated oil." The New York Times talked with scientists on a two-week mission in the Gulf and reported them "awed" at the size and density of the underwater plume.
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US Confirms Underwater Oil Plume

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  • Meanwhile (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:53PM (#32502780)

    Obama still hasn't spoken to BP’s CEO Tony Hayward.

  • Re:Disaster (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:57PM (#32502842)

    FL is expected to lose almost 200k jobs, and $11bn from tourism income (worst case estimates for west coast). If it hits the east coast, it'll be a lot worse. Longer term is a the food chain being full of this shit, resulting in fish costs going through the roof for those not caught in the gulf.

    Good job Obama is using the might of the most powerful and richest country on the planet to stop the spewing oil. Oh, wait... He's done fuck all, par for the course and his promises to date.

    Meanwhile BP have paid a massive $75m on adverts.

  • by senorbum ( 1795816 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:59PM (#32502874)
    Uhh, what? They aren't talking about 100% oil in this plume...............
  • Volume (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:11PM (#32503000) Journal

    At 15 miles x 3 miles x 600ft that's 21,314,566,152 cubic meters. At .5ppm (absolute minimum, from TFA), that's 10,657 cubic meters of pure oil. Google tells me that 10657 cubic meters converts to 67,030 barrels. This thing has been going on for 49 days now, so we're talking about at least 1367 barrels of oil per day in this plume alone.

  • by BubbaDave ( 1352535 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:13PM (#32503016)

    No, but it ain't 5 trillion gallons of seawater, either.

    About 26,000 sq miles one foot deep in oily water...

    Ya just gotta love those big numbers.


  • Re:First plume (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:36PM (#32503192)
    Jimmy Harrell, a top employee of rig owner Transocean, was speaking with someone in Houston via satellite phone. Buzbee told Mother Jones that, according to this witness account, Harrell was screaming, "Are you fucking happy? Are you fucking happy? The rig's on fire! I told you this was gonna happen."

    Whoever was on the other end of the line was apparently trying to calm Harrell down. "I am fucking calm," he went on, according to Buzbee. "You realize the rig is burning?"

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/06/the-rigs-on-fire-i-told-you-this-was-gonna-happen/57775/ [theatlantic.com]

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:38PM (#32503224)
    Actually, this spill has a long way to go before it approaches the biggest oil spill in the gulf. [wikipedia.org]
  • by Albinoman ( 584294 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:39PM (#32503254)

    Maybe because Bush has far better ties to oil than Obama? Maybe because the dikes that failed were built by Army Corps of Engineers, employed by the US government? Maybe because there all there was to do with Katrina is to clean it up (It's not like the hurricane hovered there for months on end)? What do you want him to do, swim down 5000 feet and plug the hole with his huge biceps? If Bush were in office we'd probably be invading Great Britain right now.

  • by Bobke ( 653185 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:53PM (#32503406)
    Wikipedia has some intersting info about this particular dispersant:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corexit [wikipedia.org]

    The oil film will be dispersed in small droplets which intermix with the seawater. The oil is then not only distributed in two dimensions but is dispersed in three and it is about 10 times as toxic.
  • by blind monkey 3 ( 773904 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:56PM (#32503466)
    We know the company operating the drilling platform was a separate company (owned by BP), is the BP company that has the drilling rights the main BP company or is it something like "BP Cayman Islands"?
    Is it possible if the BP accountants and lawyers have done their jobs properly the amount of money that can be extracted from BP might be "capped"? - the US public could end up paying the bulk of the clean up costs while BP keeps operating in the US under a different name.

    I know, my cynicism is showing.
  • by adjustable_pliers ( 1409219 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @07:34PM (#32504050)
    Given that this high-pressure Macondo oil field has been in existence for many years, and that other fields lie elsewhere under the oceans, could plumes occur naturally through some seismic or tectonic event? Is there any evidence of prior plumes? How did these play out?
  • Re:Disaster (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @07:49PM (#32504238)

    Honestly, if fixing an eventuality is that impossible maybe they shouldn't have been allowed to drill in the first place.

    It's actually well known how to best fix this. It just takes something like six months to implement it. Relief wells and a bottom kill. Granted it shouldn't have happened in the first place if BP didn't cut corners. The government oversight agencies didn't do their job, if we're lucky they were corrupt and not just institutionally incompetent. Hell, if I remember correctly, some countries require relief wells to be drilled while the main well is being drilled just in case.

    Here's the thing, a lot of things can have horrid nearly irreparable damage if every single safety fails. We still use them. Nuclear power plants? Have fun with a Chernobyl. Dam? Have fun with a city eliminating flood if it bursts. Levies? Prepare to lose a city if they break in a hurricane. Chemical plants? Hope you can hold your breath for a few hours at least. Large office building? A fast fire, earthquake or errant airplane might kill you. Medicine? Just look at all the medical mistakes that happen, hard to bring the dead back to life. Automobiles? Well I think I don't need to go on.

    And yes I'm an armchair underwater mining engineer (but an actual, licensed, systems engineer) and I can't quite believe that BP can't drop a hundred tons of rock over the spill, I'm pretty sure they're trying to find the most "cost effective" way of dealing with it.

    100 Tons? If I did the math wrong you'd need somewhere over 1000tons to counter the pressure of the oil. Then it'd just leak out of somewhere else, it's mud down there, you think with that pressure the oil won't make it's own path out?

    That said plugging the hole isn't that implausibly difficult. Plugging it so the pipe doesn't burst 100 feet down and leak oil out of every ocean floor crack within 500 feet is. That's what they're really worried about.

    They're not being cost effective, they're being paranoid. What is happening now is bad. What can happen if they mess up is much worse.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @07:56PM (#32504340) Homepage

    FTA: "Bacteria are breaking down the oil's hydrocarbons in a massive, microorganism feeding frenzy that has sent oxygen levels plunging close to what is considered "dead zone" conditions,"

    So...shouldn't we be trying to oxygenate the water?

    Extra oxygen means the oil gets eaten *and* the fish can survive ... it's win-win.

    (Yes I know the sea is quite big but there must be something they can dump into the patches of oil...H2O2?)

  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:45PM (#32504788)

    The only problem is that this is the equivalent of burning up all that oil -- it will use the same amount of oxygen, just that the carbon will be sequestered in the microorganisms. Now, those don't live forever, and will eventually die and break down. The question is: will there be something to eat those and buffer all the carbon? If not, how fast will those microorganisms break down, and how bad will be whatever's left over? Will there be other bacteria to devour that mess; if so -- are we going to get massive CO2 bubbles coming out of the ocean, potentially sinking ships? Just remember that just the fact that something is natural doesn't mean it's any good. Most potent known poisons are all from natural (living) sources. Heck, the damn oil is all from natural sources -- good old plants and sun, gives you green giggles, but see how messy it really is...

  • Re:Disaster (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Score Whore ( 32328 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @09:28PM (#32505134)

    BP is a huge global company. They have revenue from all around the world. As of about two weeks ago their daily cost for dealing with the issue in the gulf as 50% of their daily global profit.

  • Re:Disaster (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @10:13PM (#32505500) Homepage Journal

    Does R&D and oil and gas exploration costs come out of profits or is that considered a base expense?

  • Re:Disaster (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:04AM (#32506526)

    Heaven forbid we try to cover every avenue -.-.

    Don't worry, leave it to the experts, cause they get it right every time. Right up until the pipe broke...

    Fucking Americans have no appreciation of situation, you only care about who is more important.

  • Re:Disaster (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eulernet ( 1132389 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @05:07AM (#32507672)

    The US still has the largest economy and most powerful military on the planet.

    1) The largest economy doesn't mean that the US are the richest.
    All of US' value is based on debts, like most of all western countries.

    2) the US military is probably not the most powerful, since it is unable to solve conflicts (and to my knowledge, no war ever solved anything), but it's surely the most expensive army.
    Given the amount of money poured into the US army, I doubt it is as efficient as it could be.

  • Re:Disaster (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @09:16AM (#32509268)

    Except that, with corporations, you don't get to jail the CEO. See, he's not directly responsible for anything that his company does; the legal entity that is the company is responsible. Scream for blood all you want, but there's no blood to be had. Only money.

  • Re:Disaster (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:04PM (#32511628)

    Um... 1.5% of a fund isn't going to ruin it. It'll take a big chunk out of the fund manager's bonus for this year, but not much worse.

    Those with 6% or more are just reckless or lazy. Pension funds are supposed to be as safe as any stock vehicle can be: diversified and well hedged. I wouldn't berate them for losing 3% of their value because the economy tanked, but I would for losing 3% because one firm had a disaster of this magnitude and they didn't move out.

    It isn't even a "pensions shouldn't be trading on short term movements" issue, because after a few weeks it was obvious this will be hurting BP directly for at least a year and indirectly for several until all the legal crap is worked through.

  • Re:Disaster (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sac13 ( 870194 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @10:11AM (#32523070)

    Simple, I want Obama to push for a law that would require all offshore wells to have relief wells drilled PRIOR to striking oil. If there's a blowout, the solution is already in place.

    I'd rather just see criminal charges with serious prison time made an option for screw ups that have major impacts. I don't want the government prescribing "what" to do. I just want them there saying, if you screw things up, you may not see life outside of prison ever again.

    Do you think the guy on the rig would have said keep going after they found chunks of the blowout valve if he knew he may likely go to prison for the rest of his life for a careless decision? He might have, but there most likely wouldn't be another after him once he was rotting in a cell.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford