Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of mexico on April 20th, the estimated fallout has increased rapidly. BP initially claimed the rate of spillage to be around 1,000 barrels of oil per day but we are slowly coming to the realization that this will be one of the largest spills of all time. Whilst BP continues to attempt to downplay the media reaction, the Flow Rate Technical Group has upped the estimate of the flow rate to between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels every day. To put this in perspective the spill has already far eclipsed the Exxon Valdez disaster, previously the largest spill in US history. Instead, this flow rate is approximately equivalent to an Exxon Valdez sized disaster every single week.
We’ve put together the above graph to help visualize the extent of the spill. Current estimates of Deepwater Horizon put it between 2.1 & 3.7 million barrels, which mean some believe it is already larger than the largest historic spill from a well: Ixtoc I which took place place in Mexico in 1979. The graphic also shows how small the Exxon Valdez disaster was in comparison.
The largest ocean spill of all time took place during the first gulf war, when Iraqi forces dumped the oil from a series of tankers in the Persian Gulf in an attempt to prevent the advance of US marines. However, this is no longer stands that much taller and its looking increasingly possible that this could be exceeded.
The only larger spill in history was on land, in California, when the Lakeview Oil Company caused a huge underground oil reserve to erupt whilst searching for Natural gas in 1909. The resulting spill is estimated at around 9 million barrels, which sadly isn’t out of the question for the current spill. Hard to understand how BP exec Tony Hayward deems it acceptable to find time to sail whilst the fishermen of the Gulf remain rooted to shore.