11) Reevaluating Oil Rig Noise
In the wake of Deepwater Horizon spill, the federal government has implemented new drilling regulations and the oil industry has developed new safety standards to prevent another disaster. But for Michael Stocker, director of the non-profit Ocean Conservation Research, one area of petroleum safety remains woefully unfunded.
He says that it's time to take a hard look not only at the mechanisms for preventing spills, but also at the sound and vibrations that deepwater oil operations produce.
"These things can be real screamers," says Stocker. "When you have gas oil water and sand all moving at high pressures, it's just going to roar."
The BP oil spill was difficult to plug both because of the depth and enormous well-head pressures in excess of 13,000 lbs per square inch. When mixtures of oil, gas, brine and sand emerge from a reservoir at such pressures into a wellstem they can create loud broad-band noise. But these sounds have never been measured before using underwater microphones (hydrophones).
"Aside from anecdotal comments from people who work in the industry, we haven't had the opportunity to go out and measure this," says Stocker.
Deepwater oil production is one of many sources of noise in the ocean that have scientists worried. The world's ocean is steadily growing noisier with human activity many areas are 10 times louder than they were just 50 years ago from shipping traffic alone. Global expansion of deepwater oil exploration and production is exacerbating this problem. Some studies have shown that rising noise levels are disrupting marine animal communication.
For instance, seismic air guns -- which shoot loud pulses of air into the ocean to probe the seafloor for petroleum -- have been shown to disrupt whale migration and feeding behavior, as well as compromise fisheries
|Contact: Jason S. Bardi|
American Institute of Physics