As the story unfolds, this crude nightmare is starting to look like the worst case scenario for the Gulf of Mexico. After scientists got a hold of the underwater video of the broken pipe that is spewing oil into the Gulf from BP, it was found that the leak was actually ten times worse than the culprits had originally led the public to believe.
The size of this oil spill is already larger than the State of Rhode Island and is steadily swelling to a an even more mammoth immensity, literally, by the second. The slick reaches from Mississippi to Florida and is a devastating blow for local marine life and wetlands. Crude oil is gushing out of a broken riser pipe from the Horizon drilling platform about 5000 feet below the surface of the ocean. At the alarmingly catastrophic rate of over 5,000 barrels a day, this the largest oil spill in history and a perfect example of man ruining his own environment by letting corporations run amuck with little or no government oversight.
With the oil spill continually getting worse and the unfortunate discovery of two new leaks found in the pipe at the bottom of the Gulf, it is time for the US to take out its worst case scenario handbook. In a series of steps, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did just that in a confidential government report regarding the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The NOAA stated it is clear the Coast Guard believes that the remnants of the now defunct rig, Deepwater Horizon, may further deteriorate, becoming an unchecked gusher spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf every day. “The following is not public,” reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Emergency Response document dated April 28. “Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If the riser pipe deteriorates further the flow could become unchecked, resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought.”
For all you lay-people out there, in scientific terms, ‘an order of magnitude higher’ refers to something being at least ten times larger. So if the leak is currently believed to be at 5,000 barrels a day, this new report suggests that if the pipe continues to deteriorate, we could be looking at a 50,000 barrel a day leak, or 2.1 million gallons a day. The non-public document, referred to as report No. 12, states, “The USCG is no longer stating that the release rate is 1,000 barrels a day,” and goes on to say, “Instead they are saying that they are preparing for a worst-case release and bringing all assets to bear.”
The kinks in the pipe made when Horizon blew up (killing 11 people before sinking to the sea floor) is the only thing preventing the leak from reaching maximum flow. BP is now currently drilling a release well as the ultimate fix, but the company says it could take at least three months; the fix may not come fast enough, as the pipe is deteriorating daily. “The pipe could disintegrate. You’ve got sand getting into the pipe, it’s eroding the pipe all the time, like a sandblaster,” said Ron Gouguet, a former oil spill response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If the pipe or wellhead is lost it would be completely unprecedented. “How bad it could get from that, you will have a tremendous volume of oil that is going to be off-gassing on the coast. Depending on how much wind is there, and how those gases build up, that’s a significant health concern,” Gouguet said. The well that Horizon was drilling when it sank is reported to have tens of millions of barrels in it. Each barrel contains 42 gallons of a total ecological nightmare.