You know when you go to get your oil changed, and that thick black stuff comes out of the crank case? That isn't what came out of the gusher.
'Clean' non-used motor oil isn't even what gushed.
Estimates have the spill at up to
four million barrels (170 million gallons). So we'll assume that is the high mark.
What the 'oil' actually was is what's been under-reported to this day. Without understanding what crude is, and what the gushing actually consisted
of, it's hopeless trying to measure the amount of "oil".
Sweet light crude oil isn't all what we envision when we think of oil.
Instead it's roughly:
75% VOC's (gasoline, diesel, acetone, paint thinners, etc).
20% waxes (candles, baby oil, etc).
5% asphaltenes (road asphalt, roofing tar, etc).
Guess what: the (75%) VOC's literally evaporates into thin air
. That's what all of the respiratory problems people were having was
But wait: 40% of the gushing was natural gas. No, not gasoline, natural gas... an actual gas, not a liquid. VERY different than "oil".
60% of 4,000,000 barrels leaves us with 2,400,000 barrels of actual crude.
So that means...
There was roughly 1,800,000 of VOC's (that should be about all evaporated by now).
That leaves about:
480,000 barrels of waxes and...
..........(oil) drum roll please..........
120,000 barrels of asphaltenes.
And that is going by the high estimates!
Now the crude is a 'even' mixture of all of the above, but as it hits the mile of water at high pressures it would separate faster than if not. The
orange "mousse" in the early photos was a good example of the solvents and waxes still together, but mostly lacking tar. Tar generally ends up
sinking, the waxy stuff floats away. But after long enough the different compounds mostly tend to separate into their own elements.
Perhaps most importantly: Asphaltenes aren't acutely toxic. Picture a large blacktop a mile beneath the surface.
What does suck however is those pesky dispersants. While a million gallons sounds like a awful lot, consider that the dynamic gulf is about 642
TRILLION gallons. But what the dispersants (that also evaporate) did do was thin the tar out (some of it anyways).
[edit on 18-8-2010 by IgnoranceIsntBlisss]