In the case of Deepwater Horizon, hot oil and natural gas erupted from the seabed and were rapidly mixed and dispersed due to the physics of the pressurized oil jetting from the tip of the wellbore. "Much of that oil never got to the surface, or ever could have gotten to the surface, calling into question the value of dispersant use at depth" argues co-leader Gary Cherr, director of UC Davis' Bodega Marine Lab. "We have generally hailed the use of [chemical] dispersants as helpful, but really are basing this on the fact we seemed to have kept oil from getting to the surface. The truth is much of this oil probably was staying at a depth independent of the amount of surfactants we dumped into the ocean. And we dumped a lot of dispersants into the ocean, all told approximately one-third the global supply."
The authors argue that had their newly-proposed oil spill model been in use, responders would have proceeded in a different manner. And in those critical early weeks and months of the unfolding spill, the response effort could have focused greater attention on the ecological communities most in harm's way.
As near shore, shallow-water oil reservoirs become depleted, the petroleum industry has transferred the focus of its marine exploration and production activities to deep (greater than 305 m) and ultra-deep (greater than 500 m) reservoirs similar to the one in which the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred. Yet the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act explicitly excluded the central and western Gulf of Mexico from the otherwise universal requirement to produce a development and production plan, which, the authors argue, effectively allows deep-water drilling to proceed without the need for a full assessment of risks.
"Our hope is that this paper brings attention to the fact that deep-water oil spill response efforts must be extensively revised so that we do not repeat the same mis
|Contact: Pat Dunleavy |
University of Georgia