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True impact of Oil Spills?

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posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:00 PM
Help me understand the long term effects of oil spills. It's more than obvious that oil spills have an immediate impact on areas directly effected. But what are the true long term effects? I'm hoping to get help in gathering data to understand it fully, and I've identified 3 major target areas to focus in on.

The 3 target areas are the Santa Barbara coastline, Galveston Bay, and the Persian Gulf. It just so happens that each is not only ideal, but also provides 3 different regional scales for this study.

It could come about that I might need to depend on seafood in an area that I believed would be directly impacted by the current spill. This drove me to attempt to understand the true effects. In the process I noticed many myths and perspectives I hadn't known before that. This prompted me to start my OILPOCALYPSE!? thread where I was quickly shouted down as some sort of Big Oil shill. But I genuinely desire to understand the true threat level here, and in this thread I hope to keep it focused on productive facts, figures, data and etc. In the process we'll all gain a better understanding of the current leak crisis.

So I have here 3 worst case scenario locations. The challenge: to identify the total extent of the environmental threats of each, and then the actual long term impacts. Any and all data is the promised land, whether it shows negative or marginal impacts.

I've had an 'easy' enough time finding info about some of the incidents or variables affecting each area, but not as much luck finding hard data to paint a portrait with. So to begin I will be mostly covering the threats, not the impacts.

#1: Santa Barbara, CA:

SB is home to the worlds largest Natural Oil Seep. It has had a constant flow of crude oil from under the oceans surface for thousands of years. So much so that it has formed multiple undersea "Asphalt Volcanos"!

Now, imagine 8 to 80 times the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez accident.

According to new research by scientists from UC Santa Barbara and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), that's how much oil has made its way into sediments offshore from petroleum seeps near Coal Oil Point in the Santa Barbara Channel. Their research, reported in an article being published in the May 15 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, documents how the oil is released by the seeps, carried to the surface along a meandering plume, and then deposited on the ocean floor in sediments that stretch for miles northwest of Coal Oil Point.

Oil seeps occur naturally all along the coast of California, notably in the Santa Barbara Channel near Coal Oil Point. The widespread nature of oil seeps in this area is well documented by early explorers and by coast-dwelling Chumash Indians.

The Coal Oil Point seep field offshore from Santa Barbara, California is a petroleum seep area of about three square kilometers adjacent to the Ellwood Oil Field, and releases about 40 tons per day of methane and about 19 tons of reactive organic gas (ethane, propane, butane and higher hydrocarbons), about twice the hydrocarbon air pollution released by all the cars and trucks in the county in 1990.[1] The liquid petroleum produces a slick that is many kilometers long and when degraded by evaporation and weathering, produces tar balls which wash up on the beaches for miles around.[2]

This seep also releases on the order of 100 to 150 barrels of liquid petroleum per day. The field produces about 9 cubic meters of natural gas per barrel of petroleum.[2]

Meaning this single location releases about 45,625 barrels per year, or 4,562,500 barrels per 100 years.

An asphalt volcano is a rare type of submarine volcano (seamount) first discovered in 2003. Several examples have been found: first, along the coasts of America and Mexico, and, recently, all over the world; a few are still active.[1] Resembling seamounts in structure, they are made entirely of asphalt, and form when natural oil seeps up from the earth's crust underwater.

I found a detailed report on the seepage that happens there, but it doesn't satisfy my desire to understand what the actual environmental impacts are.

#2: Galveston Bay, TX:

It wasn't until deep into my OILPOCALYPSE thread did Galveston hit my radar. That area has been directly hit by constant oil spills, and a hodge-podge of other environmental threats, including Natural Oil Seeps.

This map showing gas production wells & platforms depicts some of the potential threats:

The oil spills that Galveston has felt effects from (excluding Tampa):

Ixtoc I
The largest oil spill in North America occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. The 200-foot-deep exploratory well, Ixtoc I, blew out on June 3, 1979, in the Bay of Campeche, Mexico, releasing 10,000 - 30, 000 barrels (0.4 - 1.2 million gallons) per day for nine months. Nearly 500 dispersant air sorties were flown in Mexico. Manual cleanup in Texas was aided by storms. Though the blowout preventer (BOP, valve designed to seal off a wellhead) failed, injection of metal and concrete balls into the well slowed the release. By the time the well was brought under control in March 1980 by drilling two relief wells to relieve pressure, an estimated 113 million to over 300 million gallons of oil had spilled (10 times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez). Oil travelled 800 miles to the north, oiling more than 150 miles of shoreline in Texas and unknown miles of shoreline in Mexico.

Hurricane Katrina
More than 250 oil-related pollution incidents were reported in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, releasing an estimated total of 8 million gallons of oil directly into inland waterways and wetlands. Because many spills went unreported and others were never attributed to a specific source, the actual amount of oil released into the environment will never be known. Shallow nearshore areas, coastal and inland wetlands, and sand beaches were among the numerous habitats impacted by these spills. A variety of cleanup methods were employed including in-situ burning, mechanical cleanup (heavy equipment, vacuuming, etc.), and manual recovery and removal of oil. However, many marsh areas were left to recover naturally because the impacts associated with cleanup of the oil would have exacerbated damage to these sensitive marsh environments.

Burmah Agate

On November 1, 1979, the M/V Burmah Agate collided with the freighter Mimosa southeast of Galveston Entrance in the Gulf of Mexico. The collision caused an explosion and fire on the Burmah Agate that burned until January 8, 1980. An estimated 2.6 million gallons of oil were spilled, and an estimated 7.8 million gallons were consumed by the fire. Oil traveled more than 200 miles, impacting Matagorda Peninsula and Padre Island. Marshes were not cleaned because response efforts could have caused more damage than the oil.

[edit on 18-5-2010 by IgnoranceIsntBlisss]

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:01 PM


The Megaborg released 5.1 million gallons of oil as the result of a lightering accident and subsequent fire. The incident occurred 60 nautical miles south-southeast of Galveston, Texas on June 8, 1990. Most of the released oil burned during the initial response. Once the fire was controlled, an oil slick formed and began to spread to the north-northwest of the site. A cadre of volunteers was mobilized to help with cleanup efforts, but little shoreline oiling resulted from this spill. Calm seas and warm weather aided off-shore skimming activities and increased evaporative losses of the oil. A small portion of the slick was also effectively treated with dispersants. The oil slick weathered and degraded into tarballs. The fate of these tarballs is unknown, but they were not seen on beaches that were monitored.

On July 30, 1984, T/VAlvenus grounded in the Calcasieu River Bar Channel southeast of Cameron, Louisiana, spilling 65,500 barrels (2.7 million gallons) of Venuzuelan crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil travelled more than 100 miles to the west, where it came onshore on the Bolivar Peninsula and entered Galveston Bay. The oil smothered marine life attached to groins and sea walls, but despite the presence of thousands of birds on sand islands, few were injured. A large amount of oiled sand was removed.

This bit of info on Burma Agate is important:

Marshes were not cleaned because response efforts could have caused more damage than the oil.

The wikipedia pollution section for Galveston Bay offers more environmental insight:

The Bay receives the fourth highest level of toxic chemicals in the state from bayside industrial discharge, in addition to pollutants washing in from the Houston Ship Channel.[37] Although contaminants from the major industrial complexes along the Bay contribute substantially to bay pollution, most is the result of storm run-off from various commercial, agricultural, and residential sources.[38] In recent decades, conservation efforts have been enacted which have substantially improved water quality in the Bay.[39] Though concerns have been raised about the safety of seafood obtained from the Bay the Texas Department of Health have stated that fish from the Bay is "safe for unlimited consumption."[40] Excessive ozone levels can occur due to of industrial activities; nearby Houston is ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States.[41] The industries located along the ship channel are a major cause of the pollution.[42]

Other hurricanes such as Ike also add to it:

About half the crude oil was reported spilled at a facility operated by St. Mary Land and Exploration Co. on Goat Island, Texas, a spit of uninhabited land north of the heavily damaged Bolivar Peninsula. The surge from the storm flooded the plant, leveling its dirt containment wall and snapping off the pipes connecting its eight storage tanks, which held the oil and water produced from two wells in Galveston Bay. By the time the company reached the wreckage by boat more than 24 hours after Ike's landfall, the tanks were empty. Only a spattering of the roughly 266,000 gallons of oil spilled was left, and that is already cleaned up, according to Greg Leyendecker, the company's regional manager. The rest vanished, likely into the Gulf of Mexico.

More spills:

However, in the period from 1970 to 1990, there were five spills of more than 10,000 barrels in or near Galveston Bay. Three of these occurred in the Houston Ship Channel: the Bayou Lafourche in March 1973 spilled 10,000 barrels, the Chevron Hawaii in September 1979 spilled 20,000 barrels near Deer Park; and the Olympic Glory in January 1981 spilled 20,000 barrels. The most recent large spill occurred when several Apex barges ruptured in a collision in mid Galveston Bay and 16,476 barrels of oil escaped. The largest spill in the region occurred in November 1979 when the tanker Burmah Agate was involved in a collision that ruptured its tanks and 254,761 barrels of crude oil leaked in the Gulf at the entrance to the Galveston Jetties. Only a small amount of oil was transported into the bay and polluted the area around Smith Point (NOAA, 1992).

Small scale spills:

A total of 3,196 spills were reported in the Lower Galveston Bay watershed by the GLO during the period 1998-2007.
Oil spills are classified according to three types of sources: facility, vessel, or unknown. Vessel spills accounted for 1,377 spills (43 percent) of total spills. 1,178 spills (37 percent) were reported as being of unknown origin 641 spills (20 percent) were attributed to facilities.
While analyzing the number of spills is one way to quantify oil spill data, it is also interesting to look at the nature of oil spills in the Galveston Bay system according to the volume of petroleum products spilled. For the period 1998-2007 a total of 383,897 gallons of petroleum products were reported by the GLO as spilled in the Lower Galveston Bay watershed. As seen below, Harris County and Galveston County had the largest reported spill volumes (224,311 gallons and 138,799 gallons, respectively).

Natural oil seeps:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2000) — Twice an Exxon Valdez spill worth of oil seeps into the Gulf of Mexico every year, according to a new study that will be presented January 27 at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

But the oil isn't destroying habitats or wiping out ocean life. The ooze is a natural phenomena that's been going on for many thousands of years, according to Roger Mitchell, Vice President of Program Development at the Earth Satellite Corporation (EarthSat) in Rockville Md. "The wildlife have adapted and evolved and have no problem dealing with the oil," he said.

A potentially useful resource:

#3: The Persian Gulf:

The Persian Gulf War Oil Spill was history's largest oil spill, where almost 3 times the amount spillage of Ixtoc I occurred, in a smaller more land locked body of water.

It caused considerable damage to wildlife in the Persian Gulf especially in areas surrounding Kuwait and Iraq. Estimates on the volume spilled range from 42[citation needed] to 462 million gallons (67 to 739 Ml);[1] the slick reached a maximum size of 101 by 42 miles (4242 square miles or 6787 km²) and was 5 inches (13 cm) thick in some areas. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the size of the spill, figures place it 5 to 27 times the size (in gallons spilled) of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and more than twice the size of the 1979 Ixtoc I blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico.

On January 21, 1991, Iraqi forces opened valves at the Sea Island oil terminal and dumped oil from several tankers into the Persian Gulf. The apparent strategic goal was to foil a potential landing by US Marines. The oil moved southward, ending up on the north coast of Saudi Arabia, endangering the fragile intertidal zones and mangrove forests and destroying wildlife habitats.

The oil moved southward and began to accumulate on the north coast of Saudi Arabia, endangering the fragile intertidal zones and mangrove forests and destroying wildlife habitats. The spoiled shallow coastal areas normally provided feeding grounds for birds and feeding and nursery areas for fish and shrimp. Because the plants and animals of the seafloor are the basis of the food chain, damage to the shoreline had consequences for the whole shallow-water ecosystem, including the multimillion-dollar Saudi fisheries industry. During this period various Saudi governmental agencies as well as oil companies and other nations started the difficult task of trying to measure the amount and location of the oil in order to determine where to concentrate resources to combat it. This instructional module outlines a simple approach, using satellite imagery and basic mathematical logic, to identify the amount and location of an oil spill.

[edit on 18-5-2010 by IgnoranceIsntBlisss]

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:01 PM
The Persian Gulf, being the worlds oil nerve center, surely faces ongoing spills of all different scales. One example is history's 5th largest spill:

The Nowruz oil field, in the Persian Gulf, Iran, was the site of several 1983 oil spills.[1] One spill was initially caused by a tanker hitting a platform.[2] In March, 1983, the platform was attacked by Iraqi helicopters and the spill caught fire. The Iran–Iraq War prevented technicians from capping the well until September 18, 1983.[3] Eleven people were killed during the capping. A separate spill occurred when Iraqi helicopters attacked a nearby platform in March 1983. The well was capped in May, 1985. Nine men were killed during the capping. Approximately 733,000 barrels (100,000 tonnes) of oil were spilled because of this incident.[2] Overall, 80 million gallons (about 260,000 tonnes) of oil were spilled.[4]

Reports claim that there was marginal long-term damage to the Gulf. But is that true, or is it deceptive propaganda? Surely you all can help find the data, as with the other 2 case examples. Masses of people are out there screaming about total destruction with the current leak crisis. I've provided 3 choice regions to study to find out the truth of the long term effects of this sort of crisis, so lets see where that gets us....

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:21 PM
All the examples,graphics and research you so diligently provided are of no comparison to the Gulf BP blowout.

You need to realize the LEAK ISN'T PLUGGED. All the discussion about other disasters are of no comparison here.

Video of well head above blowout preventer spewing, and pipe on sea floor spewing with little drinking straw pipe stuck into it: and FL Sen. Bob Nelson provide video

Video of pipe with straw from

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:34 PM
Well,I am strangely amazed to see some one else beating me to this post.

Petroleum is a NATURAL product of the earth.

Always has been.

As you have so eloquently shown it also comes out of the earth naturally with no assistance of man in most areas of the world.

There are exposed tar pits through out 'Kalifornia" and even the Caribbean islands.

On the island of Trinidad there is Pitch lake a lake of asphalt which is petroleum a natural occurring earth product.

The liberal elements of the world may decry the situation in the Gulf and those who abused the sea life while mass harvesting the fishes that live there may lose a season or two,but nature will eventually equal it self out.

One good hurricane and all evidence of this spill will become history.

FYI,The 80 times the Exxon Valdez spill seeping off the Kalifornia coast in the Santa Barbara channel along with all the offshore oil platforms safely pumping oil,can easily be seen from Al Gore's new multi-million dollar mansion in Montecito..

Now,that is what I call a real "inconvenient truth.

[edit on 18-5-2010 by Oneolddude]

[edit on 18-5-2010 by Oneolddude]

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:43 PM
reply to post by 1SawSomeThings

Um, these vast examples of areas constantly exposed to oil leakage aren't relevant in trying to understand oil spills / leaks such as the one in the Gulf?

And let me guess, this thread is just "propaganda"?

Anyways, I've provided you with a great starting point to go dig up data showing how disastrous oil truly is.

reply to post by Oneolddude

Wow! I hadn't known about Pitch Lake. I don't think I'd want to be messin around walking on that thing.

[edit on 18-5-2010 by IgnoranceIsntBlisss]

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 06:51 PM
reply to post by Oneolddude

Sorry Einstein, the tar pits and natural sub-sea oil leaks don't spew out 2.5 million gallons daily (lowest +/- 20% conservative estimate from non-oil-payroll Purdue Univ. professor) at Lafayette IN

Besides as the other guy (OP) said, much of the natural seepage is geo- and bio-filtered and stripped before it gets to the ecosystem.

To try and compare a 1 mile deep hole in the ocean floor, with pipe going to 18000 feet, to natural oil seepages in shallow bays and lakes is not very "Einsteinian". Sorry to say.

Why don't y'all do a write-up on the LaBrea tarpits to show how harmless the Gulf oil volcano is????

[edit on 18-5-2010 by 1SawSomeThings]

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 07:57 PM
reply to post by 1SawSomeThings

I'm not sure what the depth of the pipe has much to do with anything?

How is oil seep oil different, when they both come from subterranean oil fields?

Of course the more you 'pump' into a 'closed' system the more damage it will do in the immediate area.

I think the point of this thread tho was more to assess the long term effects of oil spills. I think I even provided the ultimate 3 case points so you and others could dig up info to paint a picture of what we're looking at with this or any other oil spill.

You keep talking about the new oil leak. But what is there to talk about without perspective from other spills/leaks?

Surely with these 3 examples you can dig up endless long term damage data to shock us all out of sleeping tonight. You can even take data from other historical examples for all I care.

[edit on 18-5-2010 by IgnoranceIsntBlisss]

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 08:12 PM
reply to post by IgnoranceIsntBlisss

Surely with these 3 examples you can dig up endless long term damage data to shock us all out of sleeping tonight. You can even take data from other historical examples for all I care.

My purpose is only to get people to wake up ASAP and get their so-called representatives of congress to stop this disastrous leak ASAP. PLUG IT OR KILL IT. Whatever it takes.

If anyone loses sleep over what I've posted, I apologize. I have lost much more than sleep over the destruction of the Gulf.

[edit on 18-5-2010 by 1SawSomeThings]

posted on May, 18 2010 @ 08:18 PM
reply to post by 1SawSomeThings

Well, everyone knows about the leak. And most in the know realize that the government doesn't represent them. But if it did what is congress or Obama for that matter going to do?

All irrelevant.

"Destruction" of the Gulf? Can you describe this destruction with historical data to show what we face here? That's what I'm begging but it sure seems like nobody can? Maybe there's nothing to worry about in the absence of historical long term data? If you want to wake people up I've provided you with a blueprint for how to do it.

posted on May, 19 2010 @ 04:36 AM
Wow. The crickets in this thread are deafening. Are there not long term effects of oil spills to concern ourselves with?

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