Monday, April 20, 2020

Four Oil and Gas Spills that are Worse than we Thought

Fossil fuels are a leading cause of climate change and research shows that ubiquitous spills and leaks are often far worse than reported.  This is according to studies out of Stanford University,  the University of Miami, Florida State University, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the American Chemical Society (ACS) and North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Deepwater Horizon

Ten years ago BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months straight, resulting in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. More than 200 million gallons of light crude flowed into the sea, devastating marine life and fisheries. Now we are finding out that the toll on wildlife is even worse than originally thought. According to research out of the University of Miami, assessments of the spill looked at the surface slick which accounted for 70 percent of the spill an additional 30 percent was hidden below the surface. Research indicates the spill extended to the west coast of Florida, the Florida Keys, and Texas which is far beyond the area that was closed to fishing. This means that the devastation to marine life and fisheries was even worse than we imagined. The dangers have been revised due to the newly discovered phenomenon that reveals how oil interacts with ultraviolet radiation to produce what is called photo-induced toxicity.  This corroborates Stanford/NOAA research, as well as studies published in ACS and PNAS five years ago that looked at marine impacts.

Taylor Spill

A 2019 report states that a spill that began in 2004 may rival the Deepwater Horizon. According to new reports the Taylor spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been pouring thousands of gallons of oil into into the Gulf per day since it was damaged by a hurricane. This makes it thousands of times worse than original estimates of 3 or 4 gallons per day. According to CNN, the report was written by scientists at NOAA and Florida State University. In May 2019, the US Coast Guard installed a containment system and in September 2018 a NOAA research vessel was spotted at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico. Taylor Energy liquidated its oil and gas assets and ceased production and drilling in 2008.

Keystone XL

The now infamous Keystone pipeline was the source of another spill that was far worse than initially reported. As reported by Democracy Now, in 2019 North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality admitted that the Keystone spill in that state was 10 times bigger than initially reported by TC Energy Corp. (formerly TransCanada) which said over 380,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in a rural wetland after the pipeline ruptured on October 29, 2019. Frequent spills have contributed to the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL and other pipelines.

Ohio fracking well

Another epic spill that has turned out to be worse than originally thought is the 2016 Porter Ranch methane leak. At the time some had hoped that the spill would be a catalyst for change, instead we have come to realize that there may be even more devastating methane leaks that have not been reported. According to a study published in the PNAS, satellite monitoring reveals that a little known gas-well blowout at an Ohio fracking site may rival Porter Ranch as one of the largest methane leaks ever recorded on U.S. soil. The inference drawn by these scientists is that methane releases may be far more widespread than previously thought.

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