Photo: NASA, public domain.
Worst Case Scenario (But Not So Improbable)
It goes from bad to worse to ARGH... All the attempt to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico have failed so far (even if the top kill seemed to be succeeding at first), and even the latest attempt to cut-and-cap the well has hit a snag when a diamond-bladed saw operated by a remote-controlled underwater robot got stuck in the riser pipe. All of this is making experts skeptical of BP's time estimates, and if we have a rough hurricane season, things could get apocalyptic. Read on for more details.
Ending the year with a still-gushing well would mean about 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf, based on the government's current estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels leaking a day. That would wipe out marine life deep at sea near the leak and elsewhere in the Gulf, and along hundreds of miles of coastline, said Harry Roberts, a professor of Coastal Studies at Louisiana State University.
So much crude pouring into the ocean may alter the chemistry of the sea, with unforeseeable results, said Mak Saito, an Associate Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. (source)
How Long to Plug Oil Leak?
If the relief well misses the target and takes longer to complete because of hurricanes. Other unforeseen technical problems could happen... It's not that far-fetched to imagine that the leak could still be gushing oil in the fall of 2010, and even the winter. That would be worst case scenario, but so far, we're pretty far from the best case scenario. It might turn out that we can plug the well within a couple of months, but that we discover that a lot more barrels were leaking each day than we first thought (maybe because of those underwater oil plumes that BP says don't exist).
More on BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
Sarah Palin Defends "Drill, Baby, Drill" on Twitter
BP Denies Existence of Giant Underwater Oil Plumes
Will a Rough Hurricane Season Worsen the BP Oil Spill?
"BP Cares" T-shirt (With Oil Stains)