Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The plot thickens on Corexit and the oil estimates at Mocambo/Deepwater Horizon

Seems like an appropriate image for BP and their collaborators

I find it baffling that the EPA and the Coast Guard (USGC) are seemingly justifying BPs use of the toxic Corexit dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico: Erika Bolstad and Lesley Clark, Government defends BP's use of dispersants, but worries linger McClatchy Newspapers 08/02/2010.

So far as I can see, the only benefits from using the dispersants accrued exclusively to BP. It helped their public relations by reducing the amount of visible surface oil. And it made accurate estimates of oil "spilled" by their Deepwater Horizon oil geyser more difficult to develop, helping BP limit their financial exposure from fines and legal actions.

But by minimizing the amount of oil that came to the surface or remained there, it made removal of the oil more difficult. Surface oil can be skimmed off. The underwater oil plumes are much harder to clean out to put it mildly. And it likely increased the risks of the oil to the food web, as Bolstad and Clark report:

Other scientists have linked subsea plumes of oil to the well, and fear that the tiny droplets 4,300 feet below the surface of the Gulf will be more readily absorbed and ingested by marine animals.

"These particles of dispersed oil are small enough to be easily absorbed by filter feeding animals such as oysters, and also absorbed into the bodies of crabs and shrimp," said Gina Solomon, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Big globs of oil wouldn't get into these creatures as easily. That may mean a higher likelihood of contamination in the food chain, which would be bad news for predators in the ocean and also maybe for humans if seafood becomes more contaminated with oil residues."
Based on the finds of a team of scientists working for the feds, the Coast Guard is now estimating a higher amount of oil spewed into the Gulf from BP's oil disaster than they did previously: Dan Froomkin, Feds Dramatically Increase Oil Spill Estimate, Making BP's The Worst Oil Accident In History Huffington Post 08/02/2010; Erika Bolstad and Lesley Clark, Gulf oil flow was 12 times more than feds' original estimate McClatchy Newspapers 08/02/2010. Their estimate comes to around 270 million gallons. I've bolded the part that most leapt out at me from Froomkin's article:

A federal scientific task force, finally allowed access to the wellhead just prior to it being capped on July 15, took elaborate pressure readings and other measurements to reach its conclusions.
The Obama administration allowed BP to lead them around by the nose on much of the hard data coming out on this disaster. It's not surprising but still stunning that it took the federal government three months to get their own team of scientists into place to do a realistic on-spot estimate.

Nor do I assume this is the final word. If the EPA and the Coast Guard is willing to flack for BP on the use of Corexit, they may be flacking for BP on the overall spill estimates.


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