• Apr 26th 2010 at 11:11AM
  • 45

A tragic, but all too common event occurred last week that heightens our cause for concern. The Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig positioned off of the coast of Louisiana, went down in flames after several explosions led to the outbreak of a fire that could not be contained. The events started on Tuesday with a minor explosion, followed by a panic call and then a major blast which set the rig ablaze. The fire raged on for more than a day before the rig sank into the sea. 126 workers were on-board the rig; 11 are reported missing with another 17 injured. The remaining crew managed to escape to safety.

The initial responders stated that the environmental damage of the engulfed rig was minor, but that statement came before the rig sunk to the bottom of the sea. According to the latest reports, 42,000 gallons of oil are leaking from the sunken rig each day and could continue to do so for months until the problem is fixed. The remains of the rig sit nearly a mile below the water's surface which will make clean-up efforts extremely difficult.

The greatest cause for concern is the rig's proximity to the Louisiana coastline. The Deepwater Horizon is just 40 miles out to sea and any oil would have a significant environmental impact if it reaches the shore or the mouth of the Mississippi River. Prevailing winds and ocean currents are pushing the water towards the Louisiana coast.

The Deepwater Horizon is owned by Transocean and leased to British Petroleum (BP). It was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries back in 2001 and holds the world record for drilling the deepest oil well in history at 35,055 feet. The sinking of this rig and environmental disaster that is sure to ensue is yet another reason why we need to wean our way off of the oil supply that controls so much of what we do.

[Source: Associated Press | Image: Uscglantareapa - C.C. License 2.0]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      How many workers died at solar plants around the world last year?

      I'm sure it wasn't this many.

      How many workers died at geothermal plants around the world last year?

      I'm sure it wasn't this many.

      ABG, please continue to report on these issues ---- many mainstream newspapers have this story buried in their Style section.

        • 8 Months Ago
        You left out wind farms... people fall off of those things with surprising regularity, but that's not my point.

        You've got to look at deaths per some unit of measure. Deaths per BTU might be a reasonable way to look at it. While it is true that oil rigs and mines are dangerous, the amount of energy they mine is huge. When you consider the risk/reward ratio I'll bet they're no more dangerous than renewable energies. Geothermal and solar have high burn risks and fall risks (roof-top anyone?), wind farms are dangerous from many perspectives (falls, self destruction, air craft) even more so if they are off shore wind installations. When you're dealing with objects that are many times the size of a human, and you add into that equation electricity and or power generation by some other means, there are intrinsic dangers. Fortunately, oil refineries and mines have been around long enough for safety issues to be found and addressed; as new alternative technologies emerge accidents and deaths are actually more likely because certain processes have not been refined for safety. The popularity of DIY biodiesel is another good example, have a look at that safety record.

        This explosion was a tragedy, and it will probably be repeated in the future by some other failure that nobody knew COULD be a problem. The fact is, energy work is dangerous, life is fragile, and deaths will happen as long as people are getting things done that need doing.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Let's compare the number of solar farms and geothermal plants to oil drilling sites then and get a real statistic.

        ......yeah, i thought so.
        • 5 Years Ago
        On top of that, you have the coal mine explosion in West Virgina that killed 29 miners. These events over the last few weeks prove that not only are fossil fuels dangerous for the environment, they are dangerous to extract.

        We need to continue to push for more alternative energy now more than ever. Thanks ABG for this.
        • 8 Months Ago
        If you fall off your roof or a wind turbine it's you're own fault and you aren't hurting anyone else, except maybe with future insurance premiums.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The best solution to the problem of capping the source is to use gravity, specifically the weight of water. Large plastic bags, 20 x 20', of flexible dimensions, on the order of bean bags, constructed of heat resistant materials, could be employed to cap this gusher. The bags can be transported by the thousands to the site, then they can be filled with water and guided to create a tall containment area. Once the containment ring is in place, additional bags can be directed into the breach. Using this process, the gusher could be capped in no more than a couple of days. Many companies are available that can quickly manufacturer these simple devices.

      Gare Henderson
      Gravitational Systems Engineering, inc.
      gare.henderson @ gmail.com
      • 5 Years Ago
      Exactly, so why does ABG keep showering such love on petroleum diesel and trashing ethanol?

      Unlike petroleum, ethanol, methanol, and other alcohol fuels are water soluble and bio-degradable. Water pollution from alcohol is literally physically impossible.

      Rather than remaining locally concentrated to poison wildlife continuously up until it is laboriously and expensively cleaned up, alcohol dissolves into our vast hydrosphere. An Exxon Valdez containing ethanol would have left no trace within days if not hours.

      Furthermore, unlike petroleum, alcohol is readily munched by naturally occurring micro-organisms which break it down into harmless components. The problem literally solves itself.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Because unless you're making bio-alcohol fuels without fertilizer (and thus increase the price by about 2-3x), you still need oil, making the entire process utterly inefficient.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just think of it as an job stimulus program for otter cleaners... lol

        Since when was ABG pro dino juice? I think they are pretty moderate, unlike a lot of posters on here who are a fanboy of technology/fuel X over everything else.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Please. Corn is not a "scourge". Plague, starvation, mass death are scourges. Whatever environmental problems result from agriculture or ethanol are as nothing compared to the alternative.

        SVO is not scalable, and not usable interchangeably in modern engines the way alcohol fuel is. Biomass in general, such as trash, waste, even sewage, can indeed be used to make methanol, which is great.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ernie, even while using fertilizer (and presuming unnecessarily that the fertilizer in question can only be made from petroleum), you still get 10 or even 20 gallons of alcohol fuel per unit of petroleum expended to make it.

        And if you have some misguided objection to modern, resource-efficient agriculture, you can make alcohol fuel, specifically methanol, from natural gas or coal.
        • 5 Years Ago
        dilution is the solution to pollution...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I suppose the 25+ square mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is just a mirage? You know, the one caused primarily by agriculture runoff?

        Corn-based anything is a scourge. It is so draining to the soil that even crop rotation can't keep up to replenish the nutrients. If we have to have plant-based fuels (which is stop-gap at best - burning anything at our current rates is unsustainable), then make it a crop that is much easier on the environment to cultivate, such as soybeans.

        Before that, use up all the grease from the restaurant sector, remains from rendering operations, etc.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is a tragedy. I'll be dedicating the next part of my life to keeping oil tankers out of the Inside Passage. Last month a coal freighter ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef. 2 years ago BC Ferries sank in Kitimat Inlet. Thankfully, local First Nations have officially banned it, so it looks like an uphill fight for the oil companies now.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Downplaying the environmental impact of this is nonsense, there is a 2 by 5 mile wide oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, and it's headed for the coast.

      This is an environmental crisis, and no it won't be a matter if hours until a few valves are shut.

      YES make the oil firms pay for the clean-up. It's their mess, let them pay for it!
        • 8 Months Ago
        It's much larger than that. The spill covers 1800 square miles, growing every day.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Just in time for summer. I wonder how many beaches in the Gulf of Mexico will have to be closed...
      • 5 Years Ago
      In 3, 2, 1......


        • 8 Months Ago
        Carney, I'm with you on the OPEC stuff, though I don't recall you ever mentioning that our dearly beloved home-grown corporations are raping us no matter where the oil comes from.

        However, I'm going to have to chew you out over this delusional notion that "austerity" isn't necessary. Are you kidding me?!?

        The single greatest thing we can do for energy conservation of any source is to consume less - drive less often, watch less TV (or at least have fewer TVs), turn off lights, etc., etc., etc. This is critical due to the increase in world population.

        Particularly in the US, we have an age-old Euro-centric view that the world is ours to plunder - we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, in our little bubbles that we think we exist in, and no-one anywhere is affected by our behavior. This level of arrogance and entitlement that exists in the US has to die.

        Your master plan of going full-bore agriculture is another environmental disaster with runoff problems, etc.

        Just like in waste, "there is no 'away'", so goes in energy, "there is no free lunch". Increasing efficiency, recycling everything we can, switching to free sources (wind, solar, tidal currents), de-incentivizing population growth and decreasing energy consumption per capita are all essential to the future of our species as we know it.

        Do you have any perpetual motion machine patents or something? We all have to use less. We'll end up using less as our utility bills increase, at least. That's one comfort I find in energy crises - demand plummets when prices go way up.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Shut up Carney!!! We all know a huge trade deficit based on our oil economy will not hurt this country. After all this is the USA. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
        • 8 Months Ago
        If OPEC did not restrict production below market demand to artificially increase the price of petroleum, offshore drilling would not be economically viable.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Noz, you call for me to reduce my consumption. I've made the point repeatedly, backed up with numbers, that austerity is not only ineffective, it is unnecessary.

        And no, I'll go right on talking about OPEC, over and over, in utter and sweeping indifference to how much that annoys you, because the points I make about OPEC are both true and urgently need to be addressed. OPEC has a permanent stranglehold on the petroleum sector, increases the price of oil artificially, and uses that money to fund terrorism and spread violent extremism. OPEC is our enemy, and as soon as we recognize that and act to break it, the better off we'll be.

        As far as oil company profits, I care very little. Since OPEC controls 78% of world oil reserves, the oil companies an this point are just middlemen. They make about an 8% profit margin (far less than what Apple makes on an iPod). Yes, when OPEC turns down the taps and raises the price, the oil companies make more money, because 8% of $140 a barrel is a lot more than 8% of $10 a barrel. But it's OPEC that's the problem. Yelling at the oil companies is like being a dumb dog who looks at your finger instead of what you're pointing at.

        PabloKoh, your point is unclear. Just skip the sarcasm and lay out your case calmly, please.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Dude...please...just shut up already with your whining about OPEC.

        How about you decreasing your consumption? How about telling your own oil companies to stop reaping huge profits? That doesn't seem to phase you there does it.

        Enough with your drivel and blaming others....look at yourself and your own country.
      • 5 Years Ago
      COULD keep leaking for months, but probably won't after today (or very soon). There are valves that they are trying to close with unmanned submarines that should stop the flow. If that doesn't work they will plug it with a different technique.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I do post fairly regularly, but I can't claim to always keep up. It just so happens that this issue is near and dear to my heart because I live near the gulf and it's one of my main sources of recreation and food. It would be a big deal to me even if it were far away, but when it's in your back yard you really pay attention. Thanks for the reply.

        Also, my favorite way to keep up is to rview my old posts by clicking on my own avatar. This will bring you to all your previous posts in chronological order. You can also change your profile there.
        • 5 Years Ago

        It's a sad situation, but I feel the need to say that I was amused by the second post. I'm also impressed with the fact that you kept up with your posts and went back to correct yourself. I've been posting a lot lately, and I'm not keeping up very well.
        • 5 Years Ago
        aww crap, it's probably going to leak for months
      • 5 Years Ago
      I just hope my tax dollars are not going to have to pay for the cleanup- oil companies should assume full cost of cleanup and any environmental damage. And I hope BP does not drag out having to pay damages in court for 2 decades, like Exxon did.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I hope that hell freezes over and evil in this world will just go away.

        I think it's safe to assume that our hopes aren't going to come to fruition however.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "A tragic, but all too common event..." Obviously this is a tragic event, but "all too common"? I wasn't aware that oil rigs in the Gulf were sinking on a regular basis. In fact, they have had an excellent safety record for decades while operating in prime seafood territory.

      How about a little perspective on the size of the spill. 42,000 gallons is 1,000 barrels per day - not exactly a catastrophe. Plus, as Matt states above, the well will be capped soon. We're talking about a few thousand barrels - get a grip people.
        • 8 Months Ago
        The Exxon spilled about 10 million gallons of crude oil back in the day, that's bad..... real bad. This is nothing in comparison, but oil could not be any less popular by now..
        • 8 Months Ago
        So since its only 42,000 gallons per DAY, its ok? The estimate I heard is it might take a month to get the thing capped off... 42000 gallons x 30 days = 1.26 MILLION gallons of oil, assuming the capping procedure works in deep water, where it has never been tried before. Does that sound bad enough to you yet? Since the winds and currents are bound to continually change during that period, this spill could affect the entire gulf coast region... fishing, crabbing, oysters etc. This is not a minor spill, its a big deal brought directly to the doorstep of the "drill, baby, drill" voters.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Here's the list of the deadliest:

        Piper Alpha
        Occidental's Piper Alpha platform was destroyed by explosion and fire in 1988. 167 workers were killed in the blaze.

        Alexander L. Kielland
        In 1980, the accommodation rig Alexander L. Kielland capsized during a storm after a leg support brace failed. 123 killed

        Seacrest Drillship
        The Seacrest drillship capsized in 1989 during Typhoon Gay, with the loss of 91 crew.

        Ocean Ranger
        A ballast control malfunction caused the Ocean Ranger to capsize during a ferocious storm in the North Atlantic in 1982, with the loss of all hands. 84 dead.

        Glomar Java Sea Drillship
        Another storm fatality, the Glomar Java Sea capsized and sank during Typhoon Lex in 1983 with the loss of all on board. 81 dead

        Bohai 2
        In 1979, the jack-up Bohai 2 capsized and sank in a storm while on tow off the coast of China. 72 dead

        Brent Field Helicopter
        A Chinook helicopter shuttle between the Brent Field and Sumburgh crashed into the North Sea in 1986 with only two survivors. 45 dead

        Enchova Central
        During a blowout on the Enchova Central off Brazil, 42 workers lost their lives attempting to evacuate the platform. 42 dead

        C. P. Baker Drilling Barge
        Built in 1962 using an uncommon catamaran design, the C. P. Baker drilling barge burned and sank after a shallow gas blowout. 22 dead

        Mumbai High North
        A support vessel collided with Mumbai High North in 2005, rupturing a riser and causing a major fire that destroyed the platform. 22 dead

        Usumacinta blowout
        Storm winds caused the Usumacinta jack-up to strike the adjacent Kab-101 platform, resulting in a fatal evacuation and blowout in 2007. 22 dead

        Here's the full list, it's quite a long one:
        • 8 Months Ago
        I was about to make a similar comment. Sure one time is too many, but all too common? How about we tighten up the writing around here.
        • 8 Months Ago
        A 1900 Square Mile spill! A little perspective!?! AYFKM! Try walking around it. Just 154 miles.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This will happen again, it's just a matter of statistics.

      So I hope some good will come out of this in persuading our president to change his mind about drilling offshore.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thanks guys for your perspectives. I have to agree some of the alternatives look rather bleak as well. Still I want to see a much bigger push into renewable energy projects. All the proposed drilling is just a drop in the bucket. It goes without saying that we have to wean our nation off of oil.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Cost v Benefit, drilling wins. We know it's dangerous, we know it pollutes, but we also know we don't have a viable replacement at the moment, so we must continue until it's solved. Economics will eventually win out, though. These platforms cost about half a million bucks a day just for the rig, then there's the operating costs, etc. It only gets more expensive the deeper they go, so as the easy oil dries up alternative energy sources look better and better.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "It is pretty pointless to ban drilling from ANWR since all that means is more oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada "

        Because ANWR has much higher wildlife values than the tar sands area.

        "We will eventually drill in ANWR there is no 'if' only 'when'. Once gas prices get high enough, the overwhelming majority will be for drilling there."

        Or maybe then people will do something smart and buy an electric car, since they will be available and competitive by then.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mr.Replacement, you are correct. It is pretty pointless to ban drilling from ANWR since all that means is more oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada and that is far more environmentally detrimental.

        We will eventually drill in ANWR there is no 'if' only 'when'. Once gas prices get high enough, the overwhelming majority will be for drilling there. Never mind the fact that it will make no noticeable difference. I just demand that the Federal government collect steep royalties that are used to pay down debt and support renewable energy systems.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm no fan of offshore drilling, but we need oil for a few more years yet and it has got to come from somewhere and despite the risks I think this drilling may be better than alternatives like strip mining tar sands and oil shale.

        I think that Obama pressed for more offshore drilling because he read the report released by the military which predicts oil shortages beginning in 2011-2012 and severe shortages by 2015.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Or maybe then people will do something smart and buy an electric car, since they will be available and competitive by then." And then if motorists decide not to pony up a year of their salary for solar panels the mountains get flattened for coal.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "the mountains get flattened for coal."

        The studies have been showing that not 1 power plant needs to be built to handle the additional load on the grid that even 1 million EVs would bring. And since EVs are rolling out in states that have very little to no coal electricity, you point is moot.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Offshore drilling is NOT necessary. Making cars alcohol fuel compatible costs automakers only $130 per car. Enabling the cheap and plentiful other three out the four sources of liquid fuel (natural gas, coal, and biomass) to have access to fuel tanks of ordinary drivers relieves the unnecessary conditions of artificial monopoly and scarcity that drive up petroleum costs and make ultra-expensive offshore platforms economically viable.

      The Open Fuel Standards Act (S. 835 and H.R. 1476) makes alcohol compatibility a required standard in nearly all light duty vehicles in a few years. Such a "flex fuel" mandate was endorsed by both McCain and Obama in the 2008 campaign, and the bill has co-sponsors not only in both parties but, crucially, all across the ideological spectrum. Thus not only does a legislative remedy exist, but it can realistically pass into law if there's enough momentum and political attention behind it. Since this issue has been neglected and forgotten despite the obvious and urgent need for it, it's up to ordinary people to wake up their elected officials and demand they co-sponsor the bill.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Goodbye-----plans for new offshore wells
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