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Macondo Well Blowout’s Environmental Assessment Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 1st, 2022

Introduction

The Macondo Well oil blowout is the event that has shaken the minds of the whole world. In fact, the consequences of the disaster are so enormous that there is an essential difficulty in separating myths from facts. The ecological assessment of the catastrophe may be performed from various angles, nevertheless the actual importance of the assessment is explained by the necessity to minimize the crucial consequences of the catastrophe. The key aspects of assessment are the water contamination, changes in chemical characteristics of water, influence of the spill on the life of sea organisms, soil, atmosphere and hydrosphere. In spite of the fact that the disaster itself has been already stopped, and the consequences of Macondo Well blowout have been localized, the results of the spill may be disastrous for the ecosystem of Mexican Bay. The aim of the paper is to review and analyze these consequences.

Blowout Analysis

In fact, it is difficult to find the truth in the whales of facts and myths associated with the spill itself, as well as the consequences of the blowout. BP is an interested participant of the accident, journalists often prefer the surface overview of the events and consequences, while reliable experts’ information is either withheld or concealed in order not to let panic spread. The ecosystem is endangered, and the consequences of the blowout have already reached Canada which is separated from Mexican bay by thousands of miles. Nevertheless, the blowout itself is stopped, and, in spite of the scales of the consequences, the well itself can not be regarded as the main reason of the disaster. In accordance with the experts’ estimations, the main reason of the blowout are the geological changes which caused the emission of methane. Hence, if this is the reason of the spill, shipping will not be restored in this region, as this part of the bay will become another Bermuda Triangle. Methane emissions lower the density of the water; hence, vessels will not be able to float on the surface. (Gillis, Fountain, 2010).

The scales of the catastrophe may be measured by the volumes of spilt oil, the square of the oil slick and the estimates of water, soil and air contamination. Hence, in accordance with the data stated by Reddall (2010), the estimates of the spill, when the leak was stopped, were the following:

The well cap was installed after the spill had released about 4.9 million barrels of crude oil. It was estimated that 8,400 m3 per day were escaping from the well just before it was capped. It is believed that the daily flow rate diminished over time, starting at about 62,000 barrels per day (9,900 m3/d) and decreasing as the reservoir of hydrocarbons feeding the gusher was gradually depleted.

Consequences for Biosphere

First, it should be stated that the official BP estimates of the spill reach more than twenty five thousand cubic meters of oil spilt. In spite of the fact that these are the estimates of the worst scenario, the scales of the disaster are drastic even considering the lesser volumes of spill. While some experts consider that the reason of the catastrophe was the drilling itself, the others claim that the catastrophe was inevitable as lithosphere has already born some tectonic changes associated with the changes of geological structure of the region. In accordance with the concept explained by Robertson and Krauss (2010), the regarded changes were caused by the global climate modifications which caused the accumulation of methane gas which can no longer be kept under the ocean floor.

The oil spill was the reason of forming the oil film on the surface of the ocean. This may become the reason of massive death of birds, fish, sea mammals and sea flora. Considering the fact that the thickness of this film is very small, the square of the slick is enormous. The estimated square of the oil slicks is up to 20 thousand km2, however, up to 50% of the oil is within a foot under the surface, which means that the square will be constantly increasing until all the oil is gathered. (Collins and Dearen, 2010) Additionally, the creation of the oil slick is not the only drastic result of the spill. The oil is spread by the winds along the ocean surface; dissipation of the oil slick caused the penetration of the oil chemical components into the atmosphere with the evaporation of water from the ocean surface.

In fact, in accordance with the scientific estimations, up to 40% of the spilt oil may have evaporated from the surface of the ocean. Moreover, winds from storms helped the spilt oil to disperse, and increase the geographic scales of the disaster. The dissolved oil has spread with cyclones, and caused acidic rainfalls in northern parts of the continent. The consequences of these rains are crucial, as the plants are seriously damaged with acidic wastes, and the leaves are burnt. Additionally, these rains may cause the infertility of soils and contamination of fresh water sources, as well as the contamination of distant ocean territories.

As it was stated by Schneyer (2010), the emission of greenhouse gasses may be another aspect of the spill:

The global climate change predicament has brought to bear an understanding regarding methane gas which can no longer be overlooked. With enormous amounts of methane dissolving into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and even greater amounts being released into the atmosphere above the Gulf, we see the development of a potentially volatile situation.

In the light of this statement, it should be emphasized that the actual importance of the ecological assessment is explained by the statement that the consequences of the blowout may be minimized, if the analysis is performed properly. However, the results of the disaster itself are enormous, and complicate the existing ecological problems, let alone providing additional ones.

The effects of the spill on the atmosphere is drastic not only with the spread of greenhouse gases, as methane causes the violation of homeorhesis of the biosphere in general. Considering the fact that all the components of biosphere are closely interconnected (atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere), and the atmosphere is regarded as the main nexus of the biosphere, the penetration of oil components and hydrocarbon into the atmosphere. (Brenner, Pitt, 2010)

The atmosphere wastes will have the crucial consequences for the hydrosphere, as the biodiversity of the Caribbean region is endangered. Additionally, the salinity of soils, acidity of water and precipitations are changed. The emission of greenhouse gasses is enlarged. It seems that the consequences of the disaster will never be prevented, and the humanity should think over the opportunity of minimizing the drastic effects of the spill.

Hundreds of miles of the coastline are tainted, and the losses are immense. Numerous tourist operators had to stop their activity, as they were dependent on the tourism in this region. Fishing, recreation, tourism, and other activities will be impossible for the nearest several decades. This is confirmed by the statement that the BP has already allocated $ 360 billion for cleaning the coastline, and the works for recovering the coastline are planned for the nearest 7-10 years (Resnick-Ault, Wethe, 2010). The measures that are taken involve up to 2000 volunteers assisting the cleanup process, and up to 140 commercial fishing boats are involved into the process. Additionally, BP has arranged the campaign for cleaning the biosphere of Mexican Bay, and up to 95 000 responses were received.

The dispersants are used in order to disperse oil on the surface, however, the deepwater oil requires additional measures, as the underwater slick continues spreading along the coastline with the winds and currents. Though, the sea animals and birds have already suffered, BP, volunteers and everyone who is not ignorant do everything possible in order to minimize losses for nature.

Conclusion

The oil spill in Mexican Bay caused serious consequences associated with the contamination of biosphere (including air, soil, water resources and ocean floor), as well as the biological catastrophe for sea animals and birds. The results of the catastrophe can not be estimated accurately, nevertheless, the provoked methane emission will increase the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere, as well as make the region unsuitable for sailing. Additionally, the region will require immense efforts in order to restore recreation.

References

Brenner, Noah; Pitt, Anthea 2010 BP calls in FPSO for Macondo. Upstream Online (NHST Media Group). Web.

Collins, Jeffrey; Dearen, Jason 2010. .

Gillis, Justin; Fountain, Henry 2010. . The New York Times.

Kirkham, Chris. 2010. Media, boaters could face criminal penalties by entering oil cleanup ‘safety zone’. Times-Picayune.

Reddall, Braden. 2010. Transocean rig loss’s financial impact mulled. Reuters. Web.

Resnick-Ault, Jessica; Wethe, David. 2010 BP Oil Leak May Last Until Christmas in Worst Case Scenario. Bloomberg.

Robertson, Campbell; Krauss, Clifford. 2010. . The New York Times.

Schneyer, Joshua 2010. U.S. oil spill waters contain carcinogens: report”. Reuters. Web.

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