Oil Keeps Coming

When I blogged about the listing oil rig off of Louisiana, I stated that according to ABC News the rig had not hit oil yet. But as the area continued to leak some 42,000 gallons a day everyone wondered. It’s still leaking and robots are trying to cap it. The news also reported from the start that the explosion was from undue pressure. I thought, well there it is. If the solid area between the drill and the underlying pocket became so thin that pressure blew out causing the massive and quick explosion then it stands to reason that the ensuing oil leak would happen whether the rig made it all the way or not. It’s not much different than a volcano spewing pressurized air with the lava flowing out afterward. Well I found an interesting article on a very current discovery that undersea volcanoes spewed petro thousands of years ago and it solidified into massive domes of asphalt on the ocean floor! Scientists recently found some of the biggest to date off the coast of California.

The article on Science Daily’s website stated: “About 35,000 years ago, a series of apparent undersea volcanoes deposited massive flows of petroleum 10 miles offshore. The deposits hardened into domes that were discovered recently by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB). Some 700 feet deep in the waters off California’s jewel of a coastal resort, Santa Barbara, sits a group of football-field-sized asphalt domes unlike any other underwater features known to exist. []The largest [dome] is about the size of two football fields, side by side and as tall as a six-story building.”

A deep, submersible vehicle named “Alvin” with robotic arms was able to snap off a piece of the largest dome, put it in a basket and deliver it to a marine geochemist, Chris Reddy, who studies oil spills. He quickly ascertained that the chemical composition of the dome was “very unusual asphalt material. He said. “There aren’t that many opportunities to study oil that’s been sitting around on the bottom of the ocean for 35,000 years.” The domes didn’t bother the marine life. From what the scientists observed they were like an underwater oasis.

Reddy further reported:

The asphalt looked incredibly weathered, and that nature had taken away a lot of the compounds. [] To see nature doing this on its own was an unbelievable finding. A few asphalt-like undersea structures have been reported but not anything exactly like these…no large structures like we see here. He estimates that the dome structures contain about 100,000 tons of residual asphalt and compare them to an underwater version of the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A., complete with the fossils of ancient animals.

The researchers are not sure exactly why sea life has taken up residence around the asphalt domes, but one possibility is that because the oil has become benign over the years that some creatures are able to actually feed off it and get energy from it. They may also be ‘thriving’ on tiny holes in the dome areas that release minute amounts of methane gas.

So an underwater explosion, like a volcano, allowed oil not lava to naturally seep out onto the ocean floor in the past. But I have to think that this rig sported sophisticated equipment that senses when the drill enters that delicate area before pressure actually blows. If not, than like I said in the first place, we really don’t know what we’re drilling into down there.

Currently, officials state the oil spill is “48 miles long and 80 miles wide, … 100000 barrels of oil, or 4.2 million gallons, could spill into the Gulf…” Even if the robots cap it, couldn’t it start oozing up somewhere else if the pressure and ensuing explosion caused fissures all around? After all, it’s all happened before. We’ve got the domes to prove it.
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