BP's Siphon is Sucking Up Just 2% of the Gusher & Obama Still Touts Offshore Drilling? Come On!

bp oil spill daily volume compared to nelson's column image

That's Nelson's Column, for anyone not up on their London landmarks. It's 169' tall. So pretty much all of Trafalgar Square to that height would've been filled with oil in the first two weeks of the spill. Graphic: Adam Nieman via flickr.

A couple things that grabbed my attention this morning in the ongoing oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico: First, President Obama says no more offshore oil drilling unless it can be ensured that nothing like this will ever happen again (not likely). Second, BP's siphon is sucking only one quarter the oil it originally was, while more and more estimates show BP's worst-case scenario has been the true situation the entire time. I'm not sure there's ever going to be enough time before this tragedy turns into comedy. It used to be right at the top of this Reuters article, but with the news that another one of BP's attempts to stop the flow of oil has been delayed it's been bumped to a middle paragraph, but the fact remains that the siphon isn't doing such a good job:

BP said the oil collected by the siphon tube was at times as low as 1,360 barrels of oil (57,120 gallons/216,200 liters) per day in the six days before May 23. On average, BP said, the oil captured during that period was 2,010 barrels per day. Last week the company said it had been siphoning as much as 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons /795,000 liters) per day.

The company had estimated that about 5,000 barrels have been leaking every day, although some scientists have given much higher numbers for the size of the leak -- up to 70,000 and even 100,000 barrels per day.

Considering that even the most cursory examination of the video footage with the siphon operating shows a gusher or three's worth of oil still flowing, one or more likely both of those 5,000 barrels a day estimates are off. So, basically, using the 70,000 barrel estimate at most the siphon is stopping only 2% of the gusher--down from an initial 7% or so.

Which brings us to President Obama, quoted in Reuters:

We must...pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30% of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again.

The President went on to talk about holding BP accountable and ensuring that they are transparent about the size of the leak and efforts to stop it, as well talking tough about making sure that laws to prevent such spills are both on the books and enforced.

Which all sounds good, but frankly when the consequences of a spill are so grave, it's just not enough.

The fact of the matter is no matter what laws are in place, no matter what penalties for violation are in place, no matter the assurances by oil companies that this won't happen, it will happen again. Perhaps not this year, next year, or in the next decade, but once is too often.

Does anyone actually believe assurances of oil companies (or frankly any fossil fuel company) about the safety of operations? Not me.

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More on the BP Oil Spill:
Must See Aerial Footage of BP Oil Spill Shows 'The Gulf Bleeding'
5 Reasons You Won't See the Worst of the Gulf Oil Spill
EPA Gives BP 24 Hours to Stop Dumping Toxic Chemicals on Gulf Spill
BP's Attempt to Plug Leaking Well With 'Top Kill' Delayed

BP's Siphon is Sucking Up Just 2% of the Gusher & Obama Still Touts Offshore Drilling? Come On!
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