Deepwater Horizon Oil well is Capped; What Now?

For the last almost 3 months the public has been interested in the oil spill and what it was doing to the environment and the people who depend on the gulf of Mexico. BP managed to close the leak on the well after months of trying various options on the 15th of July 2010. The interest probably waned by the end of last month when the oil spill left the front pages of news papers.

When Exxon-Valdez happened in 1989 most people who felt the Oceans needed to be spared from the aftermath of another oil spill vowed that we would all fight off-shore drilling, as soon as Exxon became relegated to the back pages, it drifted away from memory too and we continued our consumption of oil with a gung ho attitude…The NYtimes reports that “on the rocky beaches of Alaska, scientists plunged shovels and picks into the ground and dug 6,775 holes, repeatedly striking oil — still pungent and dangerous a dozen years after the Exxon Valdez infamously spilled its cargo”.

Now we have approximately 1600 off-shore oil rigs in the US waters. Deep-water Horizon was the deepest off shore oil well – standing in 5000feet of water in the middle of the Gulf Of Mexico the well had another 35,000 feet drilled into the rock beneath to reach the oil.

You can read the BP press release here

So what is the verdict at the end of the Oil spill? Have we reached a unanimous decision as a country to reduce our dependence on Oil? Sadly the answer is NO, a good chunk of us treat the oil spill as something that is happening away from them, a necessity due to the “Need for Oil”. There are still quarters where “drill here and drill now” reverberate, and drilling is seen as the solution for all our Oil issues.

Some Facts –

  • Cleaning up the aftermath of the Oil spill still continues and we don’t really know how long it will be before we can say for sure it is done. (for e g: The 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill aftermath is still felt along the shores of Alaska after 20 years, biologists think it will take another 10 years for the shores and marine life to return to normal).
  • Every oil spill is different, but the thread that unites these disparate scenes is a growing scientific awareness of the persistent damage that spills can do — and of just how long oil can linger in the environment, hidden in out-of-the-way spots.
  • The ecology of the Gulf of Mexico is specially adapted to break down oil, more so than any other body of water in the world — though how rapidly and completely it can break down an amount this size is essentially unknown.
  • In 1969, a barge hit the rocks off the coast of West Falmouth, Mass., spilling 189,000 gallons of fuel oil into Buzzards Bay. Today, the fiddler crabs at nearby Wild Harbor still act drunk, moving erratically and reacting slowly to predators.
  • In 1969, a barge hit the rocks off the coast of West Falmouth, Mass., spilling 189,000 gallons of fuel oil into Buzzards Bay. Today, the fiddler crabs at nearby Wild Harbor still act drunk, moving erratically and reacting slowly to predators.
  • US and the World still consumes more oil than can be sustained and it is only a matter of time before we do run out of oil.

The sinking of the Titanic, the meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor in 1986, the collapse of the World Trade Center — all forced engineers to address what came to be seen as deadly flaws. So the chances of a world wide ban on off shore drilling looks very very unattainable in our lifetime.

At the time of this post the Deep water horizon is quiet and capped while BP decides whether to shut it up for good.

Some links to read more about –

NYtimes on lessons from Oil spills

Hidden Damage of Oilspills

BP keeps Oil well closed

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