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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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  • This is such a disaster. Someone please provide links: I know that even now after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska there is ongoing environmental damage and hardship for the people who live in the area. From that example, speculate on what will happen in the Gulf.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yaos ( 804128 )
      BP will be given a reward for cleaning up the spill and free oil drilling rights to whichever body of water they wish.
  • The whole in the ocean floor has been spewing oil for 50 days. The long term effects of this disaster can't even be imagined yet. BP = Bhopal for the Gulf.
  • All in one spot hopefully. Let me get my straw.

    I... drink... your... milkshake! [imdb.com]

  • Meanwhile (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 )

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:54PM (#32502806)

    This is the kind of thing conservatives want to bring to every aspect of your life; when Grover Norquist talks about drowning government in a bathtub, the tub is full of crude oil and dead fish.

    • by sunspot42 ( 455706 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:07PM (#32502966)

      Flamebait? Maybe. True? You betcha!

      No corporation should be allowed to grow large enough that it can't be drowned in a bathtub.

      • by weston ( 16146 ) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:46AM (#32506740) Homepage

        No corporation should be allowed to grow large enough that it can't be drowned in a bathtub.

        This is a great reappropriation of Norquist's infamous line, but I'm inclined to be a bit more long-winded. :)

        Here's the thing: in the U.S., were not only the fortunate heirs of a constitution that's created a government of checks, balances, and somewhat limited powers. We're also the recipient of a national story about how our forbears fought for it and we're therefore generally free of state oppression. And whatever your complaints against the federal/state government (and there are some legit complaints), it's still historically true: if you live here, you have more civil liberties and economic freedoms than most of the people who've ever lived on this world. Doesn't mean we couldn't learn a thing or two from other countries, but here we are.

        The thing is, that heritage handed to us through the efforts of patriots from the revolution through the cold war -- and just as importantly that national story -- has been forged in a time period during which sovereign states (and maybe a church or two) were essentially the only entities around which enough power could amass to systemically entrench itself into tyranny. When we justifiably celebrate the founding of the United States and its achievements, and when we invoke the language of the revolution... we're talking about the resolution of *that* war. The war fought to forge a modern state that safeguards its citizens from itself.

        The world has changed, though. And the modern state isn't the only entity that now has enough power to infringe on your liberties. In fact, many modern states are less powerful than some other entities.

        The reason we need a state in the first place is that private power can and will be abused as surely as government power can be. But if the national conversation over the last two years is any indication, we're still fighting the war against state power in our heads.

  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:03PM (#32502924) Homepage Journal
    I don't think people quite appreciate how difficult it is to remove oil from the ecosystem when things like cleaning the birds [treehugger.com] is considered futile, the dispersant may be longer acting than the oil and the median time for complete recovery is looking to be in the decades. Any solution that does not prevent future blow outs from happening in the first place is far too expensive to justify, its sort of sad that it is cheaper just to ignore the gulf coast and fish and vacation somewhere else till the pollution dies down. It may make for good TV viewing but I for one would rather see them invest billions to prevent another disaster instead of making largely cosmetic changes to the gulf coast that may lull people into a false sense of security.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by catmistake ( 814204 )
      but... Gulf of Mexico... of the Gulf Stream, one of Earth's strongest currents. The oil isn't going to stay there, in the Gulf. Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Florida's east coast, most of the US eastern seaboard, and probably even England and Western Africa will have some of BP's shit in their eyes, eventually.
    • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:17PM (#32503054)

      Any solution that does not prevent future blow outs from happening in the first place is far too expensive to justify

      Huh? I was under the impression that many jurisdictions have rules stating that relief wells must be drilled in advance. Granted, you'd still have a blow out, and it would probably take a few days to get the necessary equipment and supplies in place to perform the bottom kill, but the leak would be pretty short lived compared to what we are seeing today. Also, Shell is, as I write this, building containment domes over many of their wells that would significantly reduce the problem as well. So it seems to me that there are economical ways to reduce the impact such an event would have. Oh, and that's even ignoring the fact that the spill was caused because BP was breaking the rules that are already in place and cutting corners to save money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bobke ( 653185 )
      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.
  • I'd think that a more-or-less conglomerated area of oil will make recovery processes easier. I'd like to see these recovery processes footed by BP, and the resultant sale of the recovered crude denied BP and used instead to fund environmental cleanup.
  • 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.

    • Well, that seems like a lot less than the 20,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil figures that I've been reading on CNN, in the LA Times, and so on. Then again, I don't know how many of these plumes there are...but unless there are 15 - 95 of them....
    • So where is the other 931,000 barrels of oil?
      We have at least 2 more months minimum of 1000 barrels of oil being dumped in the gulf.
    • by Graff ( 532189 )

      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.

      Except what's the exact shape of the plume? Cubic? Spheroid? Most likely it's some sort of odd, elongated shape. Now what's the density of the oil at different points, is it mostly 0.5 ppm or does it vary greatly?

      My point is that these sort of back-of-the-napkin calculations don't serve any useful purpose because they can be off by quite a bit. That's why we need a thorough scientific survey to come up with more detailed information than these simple numbers. Until we have that there's no use in throwing ar

    • Re:Volume (Score:4, Informative)

      by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:46PM (#32504806)

      0.5 PPM is the MAXIMUM concentration found, not the minimum.

      The actual report shows average analysis results about 0.2 ppb.

      That would mean about 1000 barrels spread out over 1000's of cubic miles.

      Here is the link to the original NOAA report.

      http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/PDFs/noaa_weatherbird_analysis.pdf [noaa.gov]

      The press is totally misrepresenting the results of this report.


  • for a bit, the big question has been: is the seabed there generally fractured so that the only real option to seal the leaks is nuclear explosives. BP does not like this question because they want to eventually make money off the oil field. Of course, there are a lot of questions they do not like.

    Now I read that there are two fractures anyway.

    Suppose it turns out we need nukes. There is significant preparation time. Just in case, we should already have been working on preparation. Things like engineer

  • 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?
  • Awesome density? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bartwol ( 117819 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @09:45PM (#32505314)

    A "scientist was awed by the density" of the plume? At HALF A PART PER MILLION???!!!

    Am I missing something, or am I just a dullard whose panties don't get bunched over TRACE CONCENTRATIONS?

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears