At the oil-leak site, a tube five-feet long and four inches in diameter was pushed into a leaking riser that’s 21 inches in diameter _ the source of most of the spill. The inserted tube has three large flexible rubber diaphragms to keep it in the riser and block oil and water from mixing; however, BP officials said the riser is still leaking some oil.The bad news is that evidence is mounting that the actual amount that has been leaking over the last three weeks is at least 10 times larger than the official estimate of 5000 barrels- 210,000 gallons- per day. I've seen estimates as high as 80K (again, per day). How could the estimates be that far off? That brings me to another little bit of "good" news.
The dispersants injected at the wellhead are doing just what they're intended to do: allow oily surfaces to stick to watery surfaces. This means the oil breaks up into beads and globs- sort of like salad dressing. It also means the oil rises to the surface more slowly than it otherwise would. The official estimate is based on the size of the oil slick and estimates of its thickness. Yesterday (printed in this morning's edition) The NYT reported that massive submarine plumes of water-oil emulsion have been discovered. The largest found so far is three miles by ten miles by 300 feet thick. There are apparently a number of these plumes, at varying depths. Marine currents move differing directions at differing depths, so the oil is headed in a number of directions, independent of whatever is happening on the surface. But at least that minimizes the impact on the ecosystem, right?
Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. “If you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months,” she said Saturday. “That is alarming.”(...)
Dr. Joye said the findings about declining oxygen levels were especially worrisome, since oxygen is so slow to move from the surface of the ocean to the bottom. She suspects that oil-eating bacteria are consuming the oxygen at a feverish clip as they work to break down the plumes.I commented to someone earlier that I don't think you could have come up with a more effective plan to simply kill the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the increasing number of oil-soaked animals being photographed, I don't even think we've seen the tip of this iceberg.