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Gulf oil spill: Smaller offshore spills aren't uncommon

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Gulf Restoration Network, a group focused on ecological issues affecting the Gulf of Mexico, offers the following statistics on spills in the gulf:

"According to statistics on drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf from the Minerals Management Service, there have been 172 spills in the Gulf of at least 2,100 gallons in the last ten years. In 2008 alone, 125,034 gallons of oil and other toxic materials were accidentally discharged! Sadly, 65 individuals have lost their lives working offshore in the Gulf during that same period."

A glance at the charts compiled from the oil spill database of the Mineral Management Service shows there were 63 spills of more than 50 barrels in the gulf from 2004 to 2009. Some of those spills were a combination of oil, petroleum products and chemicals such as glycol and zinc bromide, according to MMS. Total barrels: 132. At 42 gallons per barrel, that's 5,544 gallons.

That's roughly the amount [update: of barrels] that BP says is gushing daily from the blown well head 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. There have been disputes over that spill rate, with one environmental group and a Florida oceanographer suggesting oil is gushing at five times that rate.

-- Geoff Mohan

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2010/05/gulf-oil-spill-smaller-offshore-spills-are-not-uncommon.html

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There are millions of gallons of oil that seep "naturally" in the Gulf.

Our first discovery was with trawls. We knew it was an area of massive seepage, and we expected that the oil seeps would poison everything around" the site. But they found just the opposite.

"On the first trawl, we brought up over two tons of stuff. We had a tough time getting the nets back on board because they were so full" of very odd-looking sea.floor creatures, Kennicutt said. "They were long strawlike things that turned out to be tube worms.

"The clams were the first thing I noticed," he added. "They were pretty big, like the size of your hand, and it was obvious they had red blood inside, which is unusual. And these long tubes -- 3, 4 and 5 feet long -- we didn't know what they were, but they started bleeding red fluid, too. We didn't know what to make of it."

The biologists they consulted did know what to make of it. "The experts immediately recognized them as chemo-synthetic communities," creatures that get their energy from hydrocarbons -- oil and gas -- rather than from ordinary foods. So these animals are very much like, but still different from, recently discovered creatures living near very hot seafloor vent sites in the Pacific, Atlantic and other oceans.

The difference, Kennicutt said, is that the animals living around cold seeps live on methane and oil, while the creatures growing near hot water vents exploit sulfur compounds in the hot water.

The discovery of abundant life where scientists expected a deserted seafloor also suggested that the seeps are a long-duration phenomenon. Indeed, the clams are thought to be about 100 years old, and the tube worms may live as long as 600 years, or more, Kennicutt said.

The surprises kept pouring in as the researchers explored further and in more detail using research submarines. In some areas, the methane-metabolizing organisms even build up structures that resemble coral reefs.

It has long been known by geologists and oil industry workers that seeps exist. In Southern California, for example, there are seeps near Santa Barbara, at a geologic feature called Coal Oil Point. And, Roberts said, it's clear that "the Gulf of Mexico leaks like a sieve. You can't take a submarine dive without running into an oil or gas seep. And on a calm day, you can't take a boat ride without seeing gigantic oil slicks" on the sea surface.

Roberts added that natural seepage in places like the Gulf of Mexico "far exceeds anything that gets spilled" by oil tankers and other sources.

://www.rense.com/general63/refil.htm

Edited by ##########

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Although accidents and hurricane damage to infrastructure are often to blame for oil spills and the resulting pollution in coastal Gulf of Mexico waters, natural seepage from the ocean floor introduces a significant amount of oil to ocean environments as well. Oil spills are notoriously difficult to identify in natural-color (photo-like) satellite images, especially in the open ocean. Because the ocean surface is already so dark blue in these images, the additional darkening or slight color change that results from a spill is usually imperceptible.

Remote-sensing scientists recently demonstrated that these “invisible” oil slicks do show up in photo-like images if you look in the right place: the sunglint region. This pair of images includes a wide-area view of the Gulf of Mexico from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on May 13, 2006 (top), and a close up (bottom) of dozens of natural crude oil seeps over deep water in the central Gulf.

The washed-out swath running through the scene is where the Sun is glinting off the ocean’s surface. If the ocean were as smooth as a mirror, a sequence of nearly perfect reflections of the Sun, each with a width between 6-9 kilometers, would appear in that line, along the track of the satellite’s orbit. Because the ocean is never perfectly smooth or calm, however, the Sun’s reflection gets blurred as the light is scattered in all directions by waves. The slicks become visible not because they change the color of the ocean, but because they dampen the surface waves. The smoothing of the waves can make the oil-covered parts of the sunglint area more or less reflective than surrounding waters, depending on the direction from which you view them.

The usual technique for mapping oil slicks from space uses radar, which bounces pulses of radio waves off the wave-roughened surface of the water and detects the amount of backscattered energy. The downside of using space-based radars to map oil slicks is that they don’t provide routine coverage of large areas, and oil slicks may evaporate or disperse significantly within a day. The researchers suggest that tracking oil slicks in the wide sunglint region of daily Terra and Aqua MODIS images may be a better avenue for comprehensive, near-real-time monitoring of large oil spills and natural seeps in marine ecosystems.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=36873

Are these better?

gulfmex_tmo_2006133.jpg

gulfmex_tmo_2006133_close.jpg

References

Hu, C., Li, X., Pichel, W.G., and Muller-Karger, F. E. (2009).Detection of natural oil slicks in the NW Gulf of Mexico using MODIS imagery. Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L01604.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data obtained from the Goddard Level 1 and Atmospheric Archive and Distribution System (LAADS). Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.

Instrument:

Terra - MODIS

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You got that from this guy? :rofl:

rjj4_2_forward.jpg

In California, if you went to Santa Barbara as a kid, you knew about the oil seeps off the coast California when you had to wash the tar off the bottom of your feet. I heard about the Gulf seeps from Haley Barbour when he was interviewed over the last couple of days.

Edited by ##########

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Bill, have you seen or read any reports on natural oil slicks from the NOAA? Certainly there are natural occurrences, but implying that a spill like this is comparable to the natural seepage in terms of coastal economies, not to mention habitat destruction is pretty outlandish even for you, Bill.

Jeff Rense is not the NOAA. Find a report by the NOAA on natural oil seepage.

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Here's one thing I found from NOAA's website:

Q. Do most oil spills originate from tankers?

A. Information from several sources tells us that the answer to your question is: No, as long as you consider spills of all sizes. But tanker accidents have accounted for most of the world's largest oil spills. They are less frequent than other kinds of oil spills, such as pipeline breaks, but typically involve large volumes of spilled oil relative to other kinds of oil spills. (To learn more about oil and chemical tankers, see the UN Atlas of the Oceans Web page, Tankers and Passenger Ships (link below).) Here are some sources of information on this topic:

Analysts for the Oil Spill Intelligence Report track oil spills of at least 10,000 gallons (34 tons). In their annual "International Oil Spill Statistics" report for 1999, they reported that in that year--the latest year for which they have analyzed data--about 32 million gallons of oil spilled into the water or onto land, in 257 incidents. Of those incidents, only 11 were spills from tankers, accounting for about 6.6 million gallons, or about one-fifth of the total volume of oil spilled. Twenty-five of the 257 spills were from barges and other kinds of vessels, such as freighters (totaling 1.5 million gallons). Eighteen spills were from trucks or railroad trains (totaling about half a million gallons). The largest number of spills, and the largest volume of oil spilled were from accidents involving pipelines or fixed facilities (131 pipeline spills, totaling about 18.8 million gallons; 66 spills from facilities, totaling about 4.7 million gallons). The percentages of oil spilled from different sources vary greatly from year to year; in some years, tanker accidents represent the largest single source of spilled oil, but only in a very few years is it the case that most of the oil spilled (in significant spills) during that year came from tankers. DeCola (2000) presents a graph showing the volume of oil spilled from various sources, including tankers, from 1978 to 1992.

However, tanker accidents have been the cause of most of the very largest oil spills. The Oil Spill Intelligence Report analysts also have found that of the 66 spills in which at least 10 million gallons (34,000 tonnes) of oil were lost, 48 were from tankers. Eight were from fixed facilities, especially storage tanks, five were from production oil wells, three were from pipelines, and two were from other kinds of cargo vessels.

Note that the above statistics are only for relatively large oil spills. Researchers from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution have estimated the amounts of oil that spill from small and large sources. The graph on their Web page, Oil Pollution, shows that much more oil is estimated to spill into the water from small sources than from major accidents. In Threats to the Health of the Oceans, they also estimate that just 5% of the oil that spills into the ocean comes from major oil spills. Check the State of Alaska's FY 05 Response Summaries to see that most accidental oil spills are much smaller than the major incidents that you hear about on the news.

You can see some more oil spill statistics at the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) Historical Data Web page.

Reference: DeCola, E. 2000. International Oil Spill Statistics: 2000. Arlington, MA: Cutter Information Corporation.

http://response.rest...?faq_topic_id=1

Edited by El Buscador

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