By Dr Ghayur Ayub
On April 20th as BP executives were celebrating the success of the Deepwater Horizon Rig in the Gulf of Mexico, a series of explosions hit its deck engulfing the rig in huge flames. Although this well cost BP over one billion US Dollars, executives were satisfied with paying this price as they were aware of its ability to produce oil worth $5,000,000 a day. This could be used to easily repay initial investments. In quantitative terms, this meant the rig was producing over 200,000 barrels a day with the capacity to increase quantity levels up to 500,000 or more. A reservoir nearing the size of 25,000 square miles, containing trillions of barrels of oil resulted in a financial heaven. The company was able to drill the seabed 5000 feet beneath the surface going 30,000 feet deep into the crust of the earth. However, the area chosen by the BP geologists was thought to be unstable, or worse, inherently dangerous because of vast quantities of methane gas the site contained.
12 months earlier, a few geologists confirmed that the Rig could possibly be erected directly above a huge underground reservoir of methane trapped in the form of a 15 to 20 mile explosive bubble. Methane gas is known to make coal mining operations hazardous and potentially results in horrendous mining accidents. According to another expert, a huge underground lake of methane gas—compressed by a pressure of 100,000 pounds per square inch (psi)—could also be released by BP's drilling; and that the engineering technology at hand could not contain the gas under such pressure. The independent geologists feared that such high pressure could burst the safety valves all the way up to the drilling rig and cause it to explode and sink despite maximum scientific efforts to contain it. A Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, claimed to have evidence which showed that Deep water Horizon’s managers were aware that the oil rig had major problems before its explosion.
Did they take the warnings seriously? No. Despite their celebrations, the rig exploded resulting in the deaths of 11 workers. Before the rescue team arrived, it sank. According to experts, ‘this catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is a million times more serious than most can imagine. It has the potential to finish off what's left of the economy in the US.’ Magrath, Alaska just had a price increase of over $3.00 a gallon. It is expected to go up to $10.00 per gallon. We are seeing a major historical and economic event taking place that could change the world as we have known it.
To understand the gravity of the situation, let us see what occurring amongst the depths of the ocean. As the rig sank, it flipped over and landed on top of the drill hole some 5,000 feet below. This resulted in a hole in the ocean floor, with a wrecked rig resting upon it spewing 200,000 barrels of oil (some believe it’s three times more) a day into the ocean. Rescuers must try to remove the oil rig off the hole in order to cap it. That operation alone would probably take months and hundreds of millions of dollars to accomplish. Some experts believe, the only piece of human technology that might address this is a nuclear bomb. They insinuate nothing short of that will work.
To make the situation worse, some believe that there might be more than one leak. Matt Simmons, an energy adviser to former president George W. Bush, recently went on national television and claimed that "there's another leak, much bigger, 5 to 6 miles away". According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Emergency Response document dated April 28th, "Two additional release points were found today in the tangled riser. If they fail to cap the holes, the leak will destroy the oceans of the world.” With each passing day, some of the most unique wildlife habitats of the world are being obliterated, entire species are being threatened with extinction and scientists inform us that the Gulf of Mexico will never be the same again during any of our lifetimes. The uncontrolled leak has the ability to destroy all life in the oceans of this planet, not to forget that oceans also maintain suitable oxygen levels in the atmosphere for human life.
Here is what happens when oil hits salt water. Some of it dissolves, some evaporates and some floats onto the shoreline and embeds about 18 inches deep in the sand causing toxic effects on tiny creatures beneath the surface for about 10 years. The remaining heavy fraction begins to sink and settles over the seabed in about 6 weeks. This is the effect of oil leakages from the surface. Nobody is aware of the effects of the leakage thousands of feet below the surface as in the Gulf of Mexico. The professionals believe that the leaked oil comes up with what they term ‘fractioning’. They state that due to this, far more ecological damage can be caused than a surface spill of a similar size.
The problem does not stop here. It is feared that the leak may remove two cubic miles of oil from the deposit resulting in the collapse of the sea floor. This may cause the escape of methane gas. According to worried geologists, the first signs that the methane may burst its way through the bottom of the ocean would be fissures or cracks appearing on the ocean floor near the damaged well head. Evidence of visible fissures on the seabed has been captured by robotic submersibles working to repair the ruptured well. It is noted that immediately following the rupture, the borehole pipe's casing blew away exposing a straight line 8 miles deep for the pressurized methane gas to escape causing a supersonic explosion completely annihilating the drilling platform. In support this finding, scientists have found concentrations of methane up to 10,000 times more than normal levels in Gulf waters.
Whichever way one looks at it, we could be heading towards a disaster of the highest magnitude not seen in recent millennia. One expert described it in a befitting manner. He admits that it is unlikely to happen but one should keep it in the realm of possibilities. According to him, with emerging evidence of fissures, the quiet fear now is the methane bubble rupturing the seabed and exploding into the Gulf waters. If this occurs, every ship, drilling rig and structure within the region of the bubble will instantaneously sink. All the workers, engineers, coast guard personnel and marine biologists measuring the oil plumes' advance will instantaneously perish. It will erupt with an explosive fury surging the gas upwards through miles of ancient sedimentary rock—layer after layer—past the oil reservoir. It will gush upwards propelled by 50 tons psi, burst through the cracks and fissures of the compromised seafloor, and rupture miles of ocean bottom with one titanic explosion.
The burgeoning methane gas cloud will surface, killing everything it touches, and set off a supersonic tsunami with the wave travelling somewhere between 400 to 600 miles per hour. While the entire Gulf coastline is vulnerable, the state most exposed to the fury of a supersonic wave towering 150 to 200 feet or more is Florida. The Sunshine State only averages about 100 feet above sea level with much of the coastline, lowlands and swamps near zero elevation. A supersonic tsunami would literally sweep away everything from Miami to the panhandle in a matter of hours. Loss of human life would be virtually instantaneous and measured in the millions. Of course the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and southern region of Georgia—a state with no Gulf coastline—would also experience tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of casualties. Loss of property is virtually incalculable and the days of the US position as the world's superpower would be gone in a flash due to the detonating methane.
He compared it with the Late Palaeocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM), which occurred around 55 million years ago and lasted about 100,000 years. It is believed that large undersea methane caused those explosions and mass extinctions.
In the end, he brought up the following pertinent points;
- There is no energy shortage.
- The oil men have been manipulating us for decades.
- Solving the energy needs of the world using oil is too costly and dangerous.
- Alternative energy is a much better option.
Finally, isn’t it sickening to hear Tony Hayward, the CEO of British Petroleum, telling NBC's Meredith Vieira on TV that his company was not responsible for creating the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but that they are responsible for cleaning it up. And isn’t it shameful that Transocean has announced that it will make a $270 million profit on the insurance policy for the damaged oil rig.