“Volcano of oil” in Gulf may be unstoppable

The breached pipe in the video is 20 inches in diameter

The Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast is now being described as a “volcano of oil” under such high pressure at these depths that it may be impossible to stop.

According to one reading of the situation:

Reports about the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill have been largely underestimated, according to commentators, including Paul Noel, a Software Engineer for the U.S. Army at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. He believes that the pocket of oil that’s been hit is so powerful and under so much pressure that it may be virtually impossible to contain it. …Even the word “spill” is incorrect. This isn’t some ship of oil that spilled into the ocean — it’s a “volcano” of oil spewing from the belly of Mother Earth herself. It’s under extremely high pressure, it’s spewing a huge volume of oil directly into the ocean, and there so far seems to be no human-engineered way of stopping it (short of setting off an underground nuclear bomb near the well site).

This is potentially catastrophic on a global level as the oil is swept beyond the Gulf and into Atlantic currents which will take it around the world, devastating fishstocks and the communities dependent on them, animal and human.

As I wrote last week, it looks as if they may have been drilling deeper than the 20,000 feet allowed by the government. Estimates of the spill may have been vastly underestimated with the real tally being closer to a massive 25,000 barrels per day, five times the official figure. (EDIT: Some are now saying 70,000 barrels a day — one Exxon Valdez every four days.)

It also looks as if doubts about the safety of the drill-equipment were brushed aside with reports that all three companies responsible, “ignored tests in the hours before the 20 April explosion that indicated faulty safety equipment.”

No other facilities seem to have been shut down pending investigation. Quelle surprise.

Meanwhile, House Republicans have been holding an “oil and gas” breakfast fundraiser for Texas representative Kevin Brady who touchingly defends the safety of the industry.

More here. And a whole smorgasbord of oil spill horror from the Huffington Post.

When Rosa Luxemburg said the choice for us would be between socialism and barbarism, she wasn’t kidding.

Hat tip Gavin Martin. Thanks to Ollie for the video link. Let’s hope there’s a miracle and they close it off soon.

UPDATE: Deepwater Horizon oil rig didn’t have necessary permit for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

UPDATE 2: 17th June 2010. The well pipes below the Blow Out Preventer (BOP) may be being eroded to the point where the seabed collapses and the entire oil reserve is emptied into the ocean — Mother Jones and The Oil Drum.

Madam Miaow says … visit Anna Chen’s website here:


Anna’s food blog here:

6 thoughts on ““Volcano of oil” in Gulf may be unstoppable”

  1. I've tried reading more technical explanations of what's going on in the Gulf, but they're mostly too technical for me to understand. What I have understood is that the levels of pressure at these depths pose extreme difficulties for solving this problem. Whereas we do have the technology to drill this deep, the question is now posed whether we are sufficiently technologically advanced to resolve this crisis that resulted from the drilling. Two of the three methods of stopping this oil leak have already failed (activating the BOP and lowering a containment dome), what if the third one (drilling a relief well – which may take 2 to 3 months) fails as well? At those depths, there's no telling what else may yet happen.

    One thing I do know: the more I read about this (especially the technical stuff that I don't understand) the more I am panicking. It looks really, monumentally bad.

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