BP Oil Spill…environmental calamity!

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by Carolina on June 16, 2010

It has been 8 weeks since one of BP’s oil rigs exploded and oil has been spewing out of it. Here is a quick look at the timeline of the events so far:

April 20-30, 2010

·        Tuesday, April 20, 2010: The Deepwater Horizon, a semi-submersible offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and caught fire at around 10 p.m. local time (CST). 126 people were on board, 17 were injured and 11 are still missing (presumed dead).

·         Wednesday, April 22, 2010: After having been on fire for more than a day and leaving behind a plume of smoke more than 30 miles long that could be seen from space, Deepwater Horizon sank on April 22, 2010

·         Saturday, April 24, 2010: On Saturday, April 24, it was discovered that the underwater “riser” structure that connects the rig with the well was damaged and oil was leaking into the ocean. At first it was estimated that 1,000 barrels a day were being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystems.

·         Monday, April 26, 2010: Search-and-rescue operations have been suspended with 11 people still missing. Officials warn that the leaks could take “months” to fix, even with the use of sophisticated underwater robots. The U.S. Coast Guard is considering setting fire to the oil to keep some of it from reaching the sensitive ecological areas on the shores. They set fire to a pocket of the oil, but not on a large scale.

·         Thursday, April 29, 2010: It is discovered that the leak is not spewing the equivalent of 1,000 barrels of oil per day, but rather 5,000 (and some even estimate it at 10,000 barrels/day using satellite images). By end of day, the oil slick has reached the Mississippi Delta.

·         Friday, April 30, 2010: The slick was estimated, as of April 30, to cover 6,000 square miles, or an area approximately equivalent to that of Jamaica.

May 1 -8, 2010

  • SkyTruth, a small non-profit, analyzed radar and satellite imagery estimated that the oil was leaking much faster than the original official estimates. They revised their estimate to 25,000 barrels/day!
  • The oil already-spilled reaches 1.6 million gallons (estimate as of 5/2/2010).  Oil leaks caused by sunken exploration rig could take months to stop, even with underwater robots.
  • Now, BP’s primary plan to cap the geyser of oil in the Gulf of Mexico is to lower a 40 ft 100 ton containment dome onto the biggest leak site. The company is then planning on siphoning the oil onto a tanker standing by. They are trying to install a shutoff valve on one of the three underwater leaks, but this is a complicated operation that might not succeed.
  • Unfortunately, the plan to stop one of the oil leaks with a containment dome was a failure. The dome was removed and now BP has to figure out what to do. So far, oil continues spewing at 200,000 gallons a day!
  • Miles of boom had been deployed and chemical dispersants are still being dropped on.

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