Oil Plume from Well Macondo 242


Note: This post made me feel very bad. After I wrote it, the headache almost killed me. My clumsy fingers did give me much help. How can I get back my healthy?

I guess everybody still remember the surprising scene that oil flew into the ocean from the gusher Macondo 242.

Fig 1. An image from a live video feed the oil plume is seen on the BP.com website early Wednesday, May 26, 2010. The oil company planned a “top kill” designed to choke off the gusher of oil at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by force-feeding it heavy drilling mud and cement early Wednesday May 26, 2010.

Initially, people are concerning how much oil have leaked from the well. In the permit drilling the well, BP estimated under the worst scenario, the flow rate could be higher to 162,000 BOPD. Later, the internal document of BP exposed by Congressman showed the worst case flow could up to 100,000 BOPD. The official flow rate varied with the time from 1000 BOPD to 60000 BOPD. The final estimate reported that 53,000 barrels per day were escaping from the well just before it was capped on July 15. It is believed that the daily flow rate diminished over time, starting at about 62,000 barrels per day and decreasing as the reservoir of hydrocarbons feeding the gusher was gradually depleted. The media and the public was angry and surprised at the numbers and BP’s attitude on the numbers.

Later, the fate of the oil leaked into the ocean became the focus. Last week, Science Express published a paper named Tracking Hydrocarbon Plume Transport and Biodegradation at Deepwater Horizon by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). This paper was based on the results of the research in mid-June. The size and location of the oil plume questioned the government findings that the vast majority of the oil has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed and recovered from the well head or dispersed on August 4th. The WHOI scientists using three ways to track the dissolved oxygen within the oil plume: microelectrode sensors, “Winkler titration tests,” and mass spectrometry. Research showed that the dissolved oxygen level within the 22 miles long, 1.2 miles wide, more than 650 ft high, 3600 ft deep in the Gulf of Mexico had not dropped enough by mid-June to suggest bacteria were breaking down the oil.

But early this week, the Journal published another paper named Deep-Sea Oil Plume Enriches Indigenous Oil-Degrading Bacteria by scientists from Lawrence National Lab, which focus on the bacteria itself based on the same dissolved oxygen data. The findings are conflict to the previous paper. I am surprised at the quick response by the authors, and the journal. The team looked at water both inside and outside the plume, analyzing its chemistry, physics, and even the DNA of its inhabitants. The results showed that ocean bacteria are aware of the oily invasion of their territory, and they’re responding accordingly.

Again, I am surprised to see that within several days, Science Express (provides electronic publication of selected Science papers in advance of print. Some editorial changes may occur between the online version and the final printed version) published such two papers with conflicts. Which one is correct? To be honest, I do not know. If I am optimism, the second paper is my type; else, the first is my choice. Let’s wait and see the results of the following research work.

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One Response to Oil Plume from Well Macondo 242

  1. Pingback: Scientists Found Oil on the Gulf of Mexico Floor « Zinan Li's Blog

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