Mile Long Tube to Mitigate Gulf Spill

Today, the Unified Area Command for the response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill successfully inserted a mile long, four inch wide, riser pipe to the major leaking pipe behind the spill. The initial media estimates report that the tube can divert some of the oil from the pipe behind 85% of the spill to the surface.

Carrying the diverted spill, will be the Discoverer Enterprise Drillship, a modern marvel of engineering itself, deemed worthy of this bombastic promotional video by Deepwater. Perhaps their the BP PR squad thought that American’s could rest easier with the Enterprise in control.

The riser tube insertion is the first truly good news from the Gulf since the Rigs Explosion. While a containment dome was placed over one of the main spill areas, it did not change the rate of flow from the spill to the ocean, instead diverting the spill to the other ruptures at a higher rate of flow.

There is no guarantee of the success with the Riser tube, despite the good news. While its insertion was the first ever success at such depths, the pipe can still fail over the coming week. Methanol must continually be pumped into the pipe at over 120 degrees to prevent the formation of ice-like crystals in the pipe, and the hardware must hold up at extreme depths. The blowout preventor site is still badly leaking, and may still require a Junk Shot to be plugged. Furthermore, millions of gallons of oils are still spilling into the gulf, the well has not yet been plugged, and a relief well, the only sure fix, is still months away.

This comes as the US calls the riser pipe, “No Solution”to the spill, and scientists have discovered ten-mile wide, three miles across, hundreds of feet thick, up to four thousand feet beneath the Ocean’s surface. These slicks are set to become megaliths demarking Oceanic Dead Zones the size of Manhattan. In these areas, Oxygen levels are down more than 30% already, making it doubtful any life could survive. If the oil spill is to benefit anybody (aside from Halliburton), it’ll be the scavenging Giant Isopods.

The trajectory of the Oil spill can be tracked today, as always, via NOAA. The spill is now looming over the Mississippi delta, despite the Miles of boom line. NOAA, as well as the New York Times Spill Tracker, do not take into account the underwater plumes, and still use the rosiest possible estimates. The best bet for spill tracking, as showcased last week on GeoCurrents, remains SkyTruth.

For those interested to researching the historical parallels between the Deepwater Horizon Spill and Response and its most comparable predecessor, the IXTOC-1 spill, NOAA’s Incident Report, is an invaluable resource. The IXTOC was the most devastating spill to date, and layers of IXTOC oil can still be found in Texas beaches. The leak spewed for almost ten months, at twice the depths, until a relief well ended the crisis. While this did not carry the same urgency as the Deepwater Horizon Spill, and technology has improved at extreme depths, there are a number of historical lessons to be take from this case.

Attached below is the Spill’s trajectory forecast for today from NOAA. Even this report admits that Tarballs should begin to hit the Gulf-Stream Loop Current this week. There are already reports surfacing of a strong petroleum smell nearing Tampa, Florida.

There’s a lot riding on that 21 inch wide pipe.