Disturbing news from the Gulf of Mexico: the Coast Guard (working in conjunction with NOAA and BP) has confirmed that a large and growing sheen of surface oil has appeared over the Macondo drilling site that was the location of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is extremely disturbing news, because there is currently no drilling activity in this field: two years ago, the well was finally capped off and there has been no extraction. But the oil is similar to the oil spilled out of that site two years ago.
If there’s no drilling activity, where is the oil coming from?
During the original disaster, there were allegations that the majority of the oil leaking from the site was NOT coming through the bore hole. Matt Simmons, who I’ve mentioned here several times in connection with Peak Oil, was a highly regarded figure in the oil industry. And Matt Simmons came forward fairly early to say that the problem wasn’t in the bore. In Simmons’ view, the casing of the oil drilling equipment was destroyed, so drilling a relief well wouldn’t solve the problem. Simmons felt that the real problem was that the sea-floor above the oilfield had shattered, and oil was leaking out of the sea floor at multiple points. Under such a scenario, Simmons advocated for exploding a small-yield nuclear weapon above the ocean floor in the hope that it would fuse the rock back together again. He and others continued to advocate for this position even as BP ultimately capped the well. Simmons died in a hot-tub accident in August; the government announce that the well was ‘effectively dead’ in September of 2010. Despite this pronouncement, there have been continuing signs of problems in the Macondo field–oil-sheens were spotted in August 2011, and a ‘persistent seep’ was reported earlier this year.
If Simmons is right–if in fact a significant portion of the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico is compromised–putting a nuclear weapon in the oilfied is only part of the solution. Simmons had also posited that huge parts of the floor of the Gulf were sitting under hundreds of meters of toxic heavy oil that had leaked out of the various oil fields. It would take a minimum of a trillion dollars to clean up all the oil at the bottom of the Gulf–but left there, the Gulf turns into a toxic death-zone. And Simmons and others voiced a concern that no one wants to contemplate–would a Katrina-sized hurricane pull up that toxic oil and splash it all over the Gulf Coast?
Sorry to bring it up…