I can’t recall how but I came across a web site that focuses on ‘translating’ data into pictures. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. The web site is called Information is Beautiful.
Anyhow, they have attempted to graphically portray the scale of the BP oil spill. (A thumbnail is below but please click on the link, or here, to see this as it was meant to be shown.)
But this image is an update of an earlier one here that is really powerful. Because it attempts to put the scale of the oil spill into context with global oil consumption.
If the Purdue University estimate of the oil spill is correct at 48,500 barrels a day (a barrel is approximately the equivalent of two car tankfuls of gas/petrol) and the spill is contained in 90 days then the total oil spilled will be:
90 x 48,500 = 4,365,000 barrels
That is an enormous quantity.
But have a guess as to how much that would represent in terms of hourly global oil consumption?
Well global oil consumption is 3,500,000 barrels an hour.
So 90 days at 48,500 barrels a day represents just 1 hour 15 minutes worth of global consumption!
If there was ever an argument for the world to wean itself off oil then this would appear to be it.
What has happened so far is tragic – tragic beyond measure. But if it turns out to be a ‘tipping point’ for nations to reconsider how we find and use energy then, perhaps, it will have been a horrible lesson that we all had to take.
And if the USA puts all it’s collective back into leading the world out of our addiction to oil then the damage and hardship will not have been in vain.
I can’t possibly add anything of substance to the hours and millions of words spoken about this tragic event.
All I felt as I watched the Congressional Hearing live on CNN was both embarrassment and sadness as a fellow Englishman demonstrated how the lawyers have won.
Hayward, from the couple of hours that I saw, said nothing of substance, nothing of real value and nothing that recognised how the American people, and the world in general, deserved openness and in-depth answers.
‘Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.‘ (Samuel Johnson, from The Idler, 1758)
I have used this quotation simply because we need to remind ourselves that the media, politicians, journalists and many ordinary folk find it easier to be extreme, opinionated, outlandish and provocative (ergo, ignorant) than to be thoughtful and reflective about an incredibly complex situation. Rant and blame, while making for great reading or viewing, is not helpful.
This all came to mind from reading a recent article in The Financial Times (you may need to register to view it) which was titled:
Britain should back down over BP
By Clive Crook
That article starts like this:
A week ago I criticised the US media for childishly demanding that President Barack Obama “just do something” about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, observing there was much to be said for a leader who stayed calm in a crisis. Next day, no doubt as a result, Mr Obama became pointedly less calm. He called for some “ass to kick”, a very Bushian sentiment, and dialled up the invective against BP – which he likes to call by its old name, British Petroleum, to underline the company’s alien perfidy.
The US outcry against the company is still building, and the administration, intent on deflecting its critics, has put itself in the vanguard. Criminal investigations and efforts to remove a statutory cap on the company’s liability are under way. It is ominous that lawyers are working hard, with the administration’s blessing, to enlarge the very concept of civil liability.
And concludes thus:
The question of whether even this company’s mighty resources are adequate to meet these demands cannot be dismissed. In such circumstances, I cannot see why BP has hesitated to suspend its dividend. The idea that it can take this calamity in its stride and proceed on the basis of business as usual is absurd, and politically foolish too, since it is a provocation to critics intent on vengeance.
The Gulf disaster will have far-reaching economic and energy-policy implications. The right liability and mandatory insurance regimes for deepwater drilling are high on the list. No doubt the White House should worry less about kicking ass and more about thinking these questions through. But British complaints that BP is being “scapegoated” will not help reason to prevail. Let us not add insult to injury.
Frankly, I don’t have either the knowledge or the competence to judge the validity of Mr Crook’s article and, as so often in cases like this, took to reading the comments as they can frequently shed more light on a particular issue.
And that is how I came across the following comment from RiskManager. Whoever you are, well done on taking the time to put what feels like some badly needed balance into this issue. This in no way lessens the terrible harm being metered out on innocents, just as in any ‘war’, but this is not about winning – it is about learning.
Unlike ANY U.S. company EVER in a similar situation (Exxon, Union Carbide, Accidental Petroleum, etc. etc. – its ALL of them), BP has indeed done the right thing since the blowout by immediately admitting its liability/responsibilities. It has mobilised the largest containment and clean up operation ever and immediately issued compensation to those affected. The effort to stem the well, something never done before at this depth, has seen the assembly of the best experts in the world and the greatest concentration of sub-sea equipment perhaps ever seen. That efforts have failed so far to stem the leak is a fact that testifies to the challenge of the task, a challenge that cannot be understood until the failed Blowout Preventer (BOP) is recovered and we find out why the accident happened and why the top-kill did not work. What is going on inside the BOP?
And there it is. Today we just do not know. The failsafe in place, a modern BOP, failed. We don’t yet know why. BP may well. Transocean and Cameron the same. When we do recover the failed BOP which is under subpoena already all the questions will be answered. Until then it is fatuous and unhelpful to go round looking for bottoms to boot.
Why the gas kick happened down the well seems to me to be secondary. Things happen. That’s why we have a failsafe, that’s why there was BOP installed and paid for by BP, the failsafe device.
An editorial in The Daily Telegraph of yesterday said….
“It should not be difficult to rewrite the rules to make sure that no deep-water drilling is permitted without a fail-safe arrangement in place from the start,…..”
No, these are the current rules. The fail-safe arrangement was the blowout preventer, the one that failed. Note how BP always refer to it as the “failed blowout preventer”. Always.
The BOP has multiple (five I think) valves, of varying types with at least one that is meant to shear the casing, the drill pipe and anything else.
One valve was operated from the surface by the tool pusher who testified as such, indeed he operated it before the Offshore Installation Manager gave permission as mud circulation had been lost. That failsafe BOP valve failed.
The next I believe is a failsafe that shuts when contact is lost with the rig, like a dead mans handle on a train. As the Deepwater Horizon rig sank and contact was physically broken (or before), it also failed.
The others (three ?? ) are I believe all meant to be operable by sub sea vehicles (ROV’s). The first days after the blowout were spent trying to shut these valves as per the design of the failsafe device, the blowout preventer. All these valves failed.
That’s a lot of failure. Why??
Now, if BP should have known about whatever is found to have happened in the failsafe BOP then it is their fault. If sub-contractors installing and operating the BOP or is manufacturers lied or were negligent it is there fault.
If the blowout preventer had worked as intended, as the failsafe final defence device, there would have been no loss of life and no oil spilled.
Given the sums of money involved I suggest the UK immediately prepares to seize US assets of potentially liable companies or associates in the event that BP is found to be the victim of its supplier’s negligence. Unlike BP these companies have already sought protection of US law, are paying dividends and are saying nothing at all as BP gets a kicking
At the end of the day, we (you and I) need the deepwater oil as the worlds easy and cheap to produce oil reserves are controlled by the OPEC cartel and restricted to about a 40% of global production from 80% of reserves. But however many failsafes, however many regulations, human activities entail risk. The deep water drilling was thought to be safe with a modern BOP. It wasn’t. Now we need a BOP and inspection/testing regime that really is failsafe and expertise in responding if that fails. I would have thought the facility to install a new shear ram at the well head below the BOP after a blowout would do the job, or a fitting at the top of the LMRP that a ready built new valve could be installed on top of post blowout would do the job..
Ironically BP will certainly be the world experts in these matters after this accident and response.
P.S. Shortly after completing this Post, I read the following from the BBC. (Extract provided only – see link for full BBC article.)
Barack Obama calls for clean energy push
US President Barack Obama has called on his Democratic Party and other supporters to back a government campaign for clean energy.
In a statement aimed both at paid-up Democratic Party members and at millions of individuals who backed his 2008 presidential bid online, the president asked his network to lend their name to a campaign to change the way America produces and consumes its energy.
“We are working to hold BP accountable for the damage to the lands and the livelihoods of the Gulf Coast, and we are taking strong precautions to make certain a spill like this never happens again,” Mr Obama said.
“Beyond the risks inherent in drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth, our dependence on oil means that we will continue to send billions of dollars of our hard-earned wealth to other countries every month – including many in dangerous and unstable regions,” he said.
“In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardise our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.
“We cannot delay any longer, and that is why I am asking for your help.”
Let me close as I started, by using an old saying:
“It’s an ill wind that blows no good.” (John Heywood (c.1497-1580))
This may not be very Politically Correct but I am getting a bit fed up for the following reasons with Obama’s constant bad-mouthing of BP :
If the regulatory procedures were not strong enough then that is the USA’s fault, not BP’s.
The USA is glad enough to extract oil from ecologically-dangerous places because it is hooked on oil. That isn’t BP’s fault either.
It is bleedin’ obvious that SOONER OR LATER (see previous comments on statistics) there was going to be an accident of this type, yet NO PROPER CONTINGENCY PLAN was in place. That is partly BP’s fault (over-confidence) but also the USA’s fault for not insisting on one.
BP is clearly doing all it can to put things right; constantly rubbishing it seems fairly pointless.
Nobody knows how much BP was to blame; there were other companies involved, including US ones.
In general, the USA has long been too soft on oil companies because it needs the oil.
Now of course we are going to have a pendulum swing the other way, but rather than knee-jerk reactions why not consult and put in place an effective “doomsday scenario” plan? For example, a 20,000 ton concrete dome that could be lowered right over a fractured well to seal it off?
Of course, Obama’s ranting is political. He does NOT want this to be his “Katrina”. However, nobody in their right mind would blame him personally for this accident and now that it has happened it is pretty pathetic to rant about how evil BP is.
What’s done is done. Statistically, there was BOUND to be an accident of this kind one day. By allowing deep-sea drilling the USA MUST HAVE ACCEPTED the risk. If proper and regulatory contingency plans had been in place then the environmental damage might have been minimised.
In general one must say of the Human Race that we aren’t brilliant at anticipating risks and preparing for the worst. Witness carbon emissions and climate change. As a man-in-the-street, the ONLY change in long-held habits that I have seen to combat global warming is that you can no longer in Europe buy old-fashioned light bulbs. Otherwise life seems to go on pretty much as ever, with all governments desperately wishing for growth because of their idiotic over-spending.
STOP PRESS: Above all a President needs to stay calm and rational. There was no reason to stop all off-shore drilling pending the result of an enquiry. This has put thousands of Americans out of work. No, I am NOT minimising the damage; it is tragic and disastrous, but 80% of Louisiana’s economy depends on the oil business.
And we badly need perspective. This is – as I already said – a terrible disaster, but the record of off-shore drilling is in fact extremely good in ecological terms. One bad experience should not lead to the knee-jerk shut-down of the entire industry. Fascinating article in the UK Guardian newspaper. That article concludes thus:
In an open letter to Obama published in Louisiana’s Thibodaux Daily Comet newspaper, local resident Stephen Morris vented fury at the drilling freeze: “If it was a knee-jerk response to everyone’s anger about the continued leak and possible annihilation of southern Louisiana’s way of life, you didn’t think it through or your advisers are smoking way too much crack.”
The evidence is overwhelming. Any fair-minded person who examines the Gulf of Mexico oil spillage is compelled to two conclusions. First, that there is no evidence of wrongdoing by BP. Second, that the President of the United States has behaved disgracefully.
The vessels of the Los Angeles class, the pride of the US nuclear submarine fleet, will not operate below 950ft. If they were to dive to 1450ft, their hulls would implode. The Americans do have three subs which could function at 2,000ft. They cost $3bn each. It follows that drilling for oil below a 5,000ft seabed is a difficult business which involves risks. But it is essential.
Trying to say anything new about the implications of the terrible disaster in the Gulf of Mexico would be impossible.
All I can do is to admit my very great discomfort at knowing that later today, I shall be returning to Phoenix by flying across the Atlantic in a Boeing 747.
A small amount of web research suggests that there are about 600 transatlantic flights a day and that my B747 will use roughly 10 tons of fuel an hour, i.e. conservatively 100 tons for the flight LHR-PHX.
So 600 x 100 = 60,000 tons of fuel every day just in flights across the Atlantic!
So pointing the finger at BP is, in a very real sense, misdirected. BP are only responding to our need for oil, in all its forms.
Do watch the videos from Prof Al Bartlett being shown on this Blog from tomorrow to understand the mathematics behind our unsustainable way of life.
Transocean Deepwater Horizon Explosion-A Discussion of What Actually Happened?
The trouble with the way that the news is presented and consumed is that major events are delivered in ‘headline’ style and even something as terrible as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is starting to compete with other, more current, news stories.
The other issue with news channels is that it is uncommon to be presented with a real insight into the human scale of massive catastrophes. Thank goodness for the web!
Drilling Ahead is a website that describes itself as A Social Network of Oil & Gas Professionals. Another website find courtesy of Naked Capitalism.
An Ill-fated Discovery
According to news accounts, at about 10 p.m. CDT last Tuesday, Deepwater Horizon was stable, holding an exact position in calm, dark seas about 45 miles south of the Louisiana coastline. Water depth in the area is 5,000 feet. The vessel manifest listed 126 souls on board.
Deepwater Horizon was finishing work on an exploration well named Macondo, in an area called Mississippi Canyon Block 252. After weeks of drilling, the rig had pushed a bit down over 18,000 feet, into an oil-bearing zone. The Transocean and BP personnel were installing casing in the well. BP was going to seal things up, and then go off and figure out how to produce the oil — another step entirely in the oil biz.
The Macondo Block 252 reservoir may hold as much as 100 million barrels. That’s not as large as other recent oil strikes in the Gulf, but BP management was still pleased. Success is success —
certainly in the risky, deep-water oil environment. The front office of BP Exploration was preparing a press release to announce a “commercial” oil discovery.
This kind of exploration success was par for the course for Deepwater Horizon. A year ago, the vessel set a record at another site in the Gulf, drilling a well just over 35,000 feet and discovering the 3 billion barrel Tiber deposit for BP. SoDeepwater Horizon was a great rig, with a great crew and a superb record. You might even say that is was lucky.
But perhaps some things tempt the Gods. Some actions may invite ill fate. Because suddenly, the wild and wasteful ocean struck with a bolt from the deep.
The Lights Went out;
Witnesses state that the lights flickered on the Deepwater Horizon. Then a massive thud shook the vessel, followed by another strong vibration. Transocean employee Jim Ingram, a seasoned
offshore worker, told the U.K. Times that he was preparing for bed after working a 12-hour shift. “On the second [thud],” said Mr. Ingram, “we knew something was wrong.” Indeed, something was very wrong.
Within a moment, a gigantic blast of gas, oil and drilling mud roared up through three miles of down-hole pipe and subsea risers. The fluids burst through the rig floor and ripped up into the gigantic draw-works. Something sparked. The hydrocarbons ignited. In a fraction of a second, the drilling deck of the Deepwater Horizon exploded into a fireball. The scene was an utter conflagration.