Assuming that BP’s static kill operation continues along its promising trajectory, the oil leak that spewed crude into the Gulf for over 3 months will be completely sealed in just a few days. According to the most recent estimates by federal scientists, this leak resulted in a total unplanned release of (almost)
This crude oil flooded into the Gulf of Mexico as the result of the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that was followed by 86 days of continuous oil flow into the water before the leak could be brought under control.
In response to the spewing oil, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard have used many technologies used to contain, control, and remove oil from the Gulf’s waters in an attempt to minimize the lingering negative impacts of this leak on our environment. These technologies have included skimmers, dispersants, and centrifuge systems that required high levels of man-power and capital investment. They have been unable to prevent all of the damage that normally comes with an unnatural spill into delicate ecosystems – but these technologies have perhaps prevented some of the worst impacts.
We are lucky in the United States to have the technology, money, and will to use these technologies to clean-up and contain our mistakes. In other nations, oil that escapes during the drilling process is left to contaminate surrounding ecosystems and water resources without any clean-up attempts. In Nigeria, this rogue oil becomes a commodity for local entrepreneurs who recognize the value in this fuel. Countless people have been killed in the collection and processing steps, but the potential gains keep them coming back for more.
This behavior likely results from the extreme poverty found in this region, which has not recognized significant benefits from its position as the world’s 5th largest exporter of oil. Most Nigerians live on less than $2 per day – meaning one barrel of crude oil (at $60 when sold abroad) is more than a month’s wages. Illegal refineries that have popped up throughout the nation process close to 100,000 barrels per day – fed by theft from tankers and oil spills that do not receive the attention and action seen in the United States.
Flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico increased today, as BP was forced to remove a cap that they previously placed on top of one of the oil leeks. This cap has been collecting about 700,000 gallons (~16,600 barrels) per day, piping it into nearby tankers. This removal became necessary after an underwater robot “bumped” into the venting system. This system has been preventing the formation of the ice crystals that botched the first cap attempt.
According to Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the cap will be brought to the surface and then checked to ensure that ice crystals have not formed. If the system is still in operating condition, it could be placed back on the leak.