It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Spill: Two Excellent Charts


While we're holding our collective breaths about the top kill operation, the oil remains out there. The New York Times has two excellent maps giving a sense of the extent of the damage and the risk.

This one shows the shoreline that has been impacted.

This one shows the development of the floating oil over time. Comparing the daily maps makes it apparent, as I said last week, that much of it is dissipating, so keeping the oil at sea is a good plan, at least insofar as the coastal impact is concerned.

I realize there's controversy about the booming strategy, but it seems to me that slowing down the progress of the oil to the shore has been a worthwhile proposition.

PS - Information I have just received while composing this is "So far the "top kill" effort, launched Wednesday afternoon by BP engineers, has pumped enough drilling fluid to block oil and gas spewing from the well".

This doesn't mark successful completion as I understand it, which admittedly is not that well. I believe they still have yet to kill the pressure at the surface. But it sounds like significant leakage is now, at least for the time being, stopped, and this is an important step to say the least. The prognosis for this amazing repair operation is now looking good.

Update: Here's the clearest simple explanation of the "top kill" I have seen, and it's consistent with the above.

Update: NASA time series video; h/t Andrew Sullivan and Houston Chronicle:




Image: clipped from the first New York Times link above

5 comments:

Jim said...

Cautious hope for top kill: Deepwater Oil Spill - Comparison of Flows.

Hank Roberts said...

"they've stopped the hydrocarbons from coming up" is the key quote there. Both the oil and the 'mud' erode the pipes, that was an early worry that the oil was carving bigger holes in the damaged pipe the longer it flowed.

So they're pushing mud into the BOP fast enough to balance the pressure of the escaping oil coming up into it from below; they'd be hoping some of the mud going in is actually pushing down the well?

Michael Tobis said...

Yes, that is the plan. They have evidence to that effect.

I think they need the mud to get all the way to the bottom before they can start forcing cement down the hole.

As I understand it, at last report they are close to that point but not there yet.

Hank Roberts said...

Oops, never mind; as of now:

"(Reuters) - BP (BP.L) is continuing with its "top kill" operation to try to plug its leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well but has no immediate update to give on whether it has succeeded, a BP spokesman said on Thursday.

Spokesman David Nicholas was responding to a Los Angeles Times report that had quoted a U.S. Coast Guard admiral leading the oil spill response as saying the top kill procedure had succeeded in blocking the leak."

Hank Roberts said...

Oops, never mind; as of now:

"(Reuters) - BP (BP.L) is continuing with its "top kill" operation to try to plug its leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well but has no immediate update to give on whether it has succeeded, a BP spokesman said on Thursday.

Spokesman David Nicholas was responding to a Los Angeles Times report that had quoted a U.S. Coast Guard admiral leading the oil spill response as saying the top kill procedure had succeeded in blocking the leak."