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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Big is the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill?

The Gulf oil spill has been successfully capped by British Petroleum (BP) and oil has stopped leaking in the Gulf waters. Over this past weekend, as a precaution against tropical depression Bonnie turning into Hurricane Bonnie, cleanup work was suspended. Now the crews are back at work but are not finding much oil to clean up.

There are 389 skimmers deployed to work on surface oil slicks – Navy ships, shallow water barges, and vessels of opportunity. In one day about two weeks ago, skimmers picked up 25,000 barrels of oil but last Thursday could only find 200 barrels. ABC News sent crews to look for oil around the marsh areas and in the water around the Deepwater Horizon rig but they could find none.

One Ed Overton, a professor of environmental studies at Louisiana State University explained it this way:

  • “It’s mother nature doing her job.”

“Mother Nature” Plays a Role

Two things to keep in mind when assessing this oil spill are (a) that if oil companies were allowed to drill in safer, more shallow waters, there would be less difficulty in capping any spill; and (b) oil is continually leaking from the ocean floor worldwide. Mother nature does indeed do her work in that oil from natural leaks is cleaned up by such things as:

  • Microbes in the sea water that ingest oil, bringing it harmlessly into the food chain
  • Hot air temperatures
  • Wind
  • The action of waves
  • Very warm water

Comparison With Previous Oil Spills

CNBC did an interesting comparison with other recent oil spills around the world. Based on an estimate of the Gulf oil spill as being 182 to 184 million gallons, they found that this current spill is:

  • Far larger than the Exxon Valdez tanker spill (10.8 million gallons);
  • Somewhat larger than Mexico’s Ixotoc spill in 1979 (140.3 million gallons); but
  • Quite a bit smaller than the Kuwaiti spill, deliberately leaked by Saddam during the Persian Gulf War (239.4 gallons)

On a persnickety note, there is a difference between an oil leak and an oil spill. Spills happen from tankers whereas leaks happen from the ocean bed or equipment in the ocean. So strictly speaking, we should be talking about the Gulf of Mexico Oil Leak.

With help from humans, mother nature has entirely cleaned up those previous oil disasters, suggesting that before too long, the Gulf of Mexico will also be clean and hospitable.

If you have been harmed by the damage of this oil spill, the Jones Act may cover your situation and one of our drilling rig injury lawyers could help.

To learn more about any legal recourse possible, please contact us for a free case review.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 10:20 AM

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