Oil Spill Update: Sunday 05/09

As you have read, the three story steel containment caisson lowered two days ago, to cover the biggest leak and direct it through hoses to ships on the surface, has failed. The reason? The same methane hydrates that apparently caused the explosion in the first place. Here’s from Democratic Underground:

Many people predicted failure of the containment vessel because of hydrates. These are pockets of methane trapped in chunks of ice. This is a unique structure caused by the intense pressure at low temps in the deep ocean. As gas is release into a water environment of low temp and high pressure, this special kind of “ice” can form. It is lighter than sea water and will fill the containment vessel, increasing buoyancy, destabilizing the structure.


This is a technical discussion, but it is very interesting and accessible and drives home why this oil leak will be very difficult to contain and why massive risks exist in any containment scheme.

Note that simply “heating” the structure is full of risk and a massive engineering challenge – the steel is a good thermal conductor and at the temperature of 2C at ocean bottom, you require a massive amount of energy to melt the accumulating ice. Maybe an anti-freeze or hot water delivery (electrical heating has risk of explosion). Either way this is a massive catastrophe. It is another epic disaster that will define a generation of reckless, destructive human activity from war, to wall street robber barons, human rights, mountain top removal, Chernobyl, to pollution.

We make choices every time we drive, buy some cheap plastic crap, eat shitty food, and vote for politicians who legislate for the rich and powerful and against everyone else. Mainstream political parties are doing nothing to stop the degradation of our standard of living.

The true cost of a Chevy Suburban is now known. A trillion dollar war, a million lives, and the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds of miles of Alaskan shore line.

Basically, Americans have traded these things for the equivalent of a few shiny beads and trinkets.

As the MODIS satellite image, courtesy of SkyTruth, shows…

“The spill is spreading west, further from Florida but toward the important shipping channels and rich seafood areas of the Louisiana shoreline, where fishing, shrimping and oyster harvesting bans have been widened.

“A state of emergency was declared in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, with sheen, the leading edge of the oil slick, forecast to come ashore near Port Fourchon within days.


One Response to Oil Spill Update: Sunday 05/09

  1. Pingback: Exxon Valdez Revisited? | Liquid Fish Oil

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