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Al Fin

Al Fin

Al Fin runs a number of very successful blogs that cover, energy, technology, news and politics.

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The Greatest Manmade Oil Spill

Take a good look at the graph below. It shows average annual oil spills into the ocean in thousands of metric tonnes. Nature spills more oil than man, but of all manmade oil spills, the greatest by far is the oil that leaks onto the highway or is intentionally poured out, which is carried downstream by rainfall, down to the sea. Consumption spills and leaks amount to almost 500,000 metric tonnes a year, which is about 3.5 million barrels a year, or roughly 150 million gallons a year of oil.

Petroleum Spills

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spills by Size

You can see that the 1979 Ixtoc 1 spill off the Mexican coast into the Gulf of Mexico spilled roughly the same amount of oil over 10 months as humans spill from ordinary activities every single year, 3.5 million barrels or about 150 million gallons. (The black bar indicates Al Fin's estimate for total net spillage from Macondo and was added to the graph's original blue -- initially compiled early in the history of the spill)

The BP TransOceanic oil spill, according to Al Fin's best estimates, spilled very close to 80 million gallons of oil (or about 2 million barrels) -- which places it around number 2 on the Gulf of Mexico list and close to 7 on the all time discrete human oil spill list. This number assumes that the spill rate was roughly 25,000 barrels per day until around the first of June, when manipulation of the riser and BOP caused the flow rate to increase to roughly 35,000 barrels per day. It also subtracts from the total any oil recovered by the LMRP cap and the "top kill manifold." The 80 million gallon number is probably still too high, given the high volatility of much of the hydrocarbon spillage -- which evaporated almost immediately into the warm air of the Gulf.

Update 3August10: The New York Times reports that "federal scientists" are reporting that the Macondo spill released 4.9 million barrels of oil, with 800,000 recovered by BP. This new figure represents an incredible windfall for government revenues, since the federal government stands to recover almost $20 billion in fines ($4,300 per barrel) plus royalties for every barrel recovered -- even if BP burned the recovered oil. "Federal scientists" must have had a lot on their minds when choosing between the vast range of flow estimates available. Now with an officially sanctioned number to quote, everyone can finally "know" the true spill quantity, right? Not exactly. There is no way the "federal scientists" can prove their number -- but they don't have to, they're the government.

The estimates of Al Fin engineers remain the same.

Oil Spill Estimates

This chart comes from a NASA website. It is measured in millions of gallons per year, per source. NASA puts consumption spills well above natural seeps -- which is not consistent with much other oceanographic research. But it is clear that consumption spills should be considered the largest source of manmade oil spillage.

Source of oil pollution

This chart from the UN places ordinary human consumption spills far above natural seeps. Offshore drilling and refinery accidents are just tiny purple and lavender slivers of the pie. This chart minimises the contribution of natural seeps, but the UN environmental organisations are controlled by the huge environmental lobbies, which often find it difficult to admit that mother nature can cause problems all on her own.

Natural Oil Seeps

In reality, natural seeps have been occurring for over a billion years -- as long as there has been oil. Oil has probably been leaking since before life evolved, and if not oil, then at least gas. Abiotic gas is a fact of life -- present in large quantities on other planets and in interstellar space. Terrestrial abiotic oil is likely in short chain form, but is still controversial in longer chain hydrocarbons.

Terrestrial abiotic oil

So nature has been primed by billions of years of natural hydrocarbon spillage. Bacteria evolved to feed on hydrocarbons. Such bacteria are present in and around every oil and gas deposit on earth. Each type of bacterium specialises in a particular hydrocarbon chain length, and they operate together as an assembly line. Munching and crunching their way down the hydrocarbon chain until all that is left is CO2 and H2.


Natural Oil Slicks

So if you want to locate the biggest manmade oil spill by far, look around your neighborhood, your home town, your county, province, state. You sir, you madame, you are the leakers, if your car is leaking oil, or if you dump used oil to dispose of it.

With that in mind, consider how displaced was all the media, government, and faux environmental hysteria over the Deepwater Horizon / Macondo oil spill. But then, that is how the media sells advertising, how government grabs ever more power, and how the faux environmentalists deceive gullible contributors into supporting their multi-billion dollar industry.

By. Al Fin

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