Deepwater Horizon Disaster May go Global

The incredible pressures at work three miles below the ocean may prevent capping or relieving the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. If it continues for months or years, the scope of the disaster could be global, warns James Moore.
May 4, 2010, 10am PDT | Michael Dudley
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Moore writes that the plans currently under discussion may be unable to block or ease the flow of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Experience with similar leaks shows that it could take as long as 9 months; yet the pressures at 18,000 ft deep may be so great that current technologies may be helpless.

"No one is going to honestly say how much time is needed to drill [relief] wells but consider the scope of environmental damage we are confronting if it requires at least as long as [the 1979 Ixtoc rig leak]. Nine months of 5000 barrels of crude per day ought to turn the Gulf of Mexico into a lifeless spill pond and set toxins on currents that will carry them to deadly business around the globe.

[The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] apparently believes the situation is on the verge of getting worse. A leaked memo suggests that the tangle of pipes on the ocean floor are covering and constraining two other release points. Pressure is likely to blow those loose and, according to NOAA, the gusher will increase by 'orders of magnitude.' In most interpretations, that phrase means a ten-fold rise in the flow, which will replicate the Ixtoc disaster in three days.

[T]there is no way to know when and even if the well will ever be capped. In fact, if there is no plug placed in the hole, it is not inconceivable that no part of the planet's oceans will escape harm."

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Published on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 in Huffington Post
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