Gulf Spill Includes Methane Danger

Here’s another question BP CEO Tony Hayward likely can’t answer: how much methane is mingled with the crude oil that’s flowing into the Gulf water?  The AP looks at the danger, citing several scientists who worry the gas will kill sea life. Their main concern is that microbes in the water that are eating the oil and natural gas are also using up more oxygen as they eat.  That may lead to oxygen depletion in the water, essentially killing creatures or forcing sea life to go elsewhere.

One of the scientists studying the damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Samantha Joye, is looking at this.  Joye first reported the plumes of oil in the Gulf that BP says don’t exist (BP’s Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, who strongly rejected the idea of plumes at all: “It depends on how you define what a plume is.")

Joye spent two weeks in the Gulf, researching and blogging (and explaining plumes):

How serious is the oxygen depletion problem?

Potentially, this is a very serious problem.  At present, oxygen concentrations exceed 2 mg/L but if concentrations drop below that, it would spell problems for any oxygen requiring organisms.  The Southwest Plume is, at a minimum, 15 miles long x 2 miles long and the plume is about 600 feet thick.  Temperatures in the plume are about 8-12ºC.  We do not know the absolute oil content at this time.

The plume is largely water.  This is not thick oil like you see on the surface in some places, it’s diluted oil and it’s most concentrated closest to the leaking riser pipe.  Unlike a natural oil seep, which is most intense on the bottom and whose signal decreases with depth above the seafloor, the plume we are studying starts 200m above the seafloor and its intensity decreases horizontally with distance away from the leaking wellhead.

The specific gravity of oil is irrelevant to this discussion.  This is not oil like you buy at the auto supply store.  Think of it as gas-saturated oil that has been shot out of a deep sea cannon under intense pressure – it’s like putting olive oil in a spray can, pressurizing it and pushing the spray button.  What comes out when you push that button?  A mist of olive oil.  This well is leaking a mist of oil that is settling out in the deep sea.

 

Joye and her team are back on land, evaluating their data collection.

UTAH PRISONER EXECUTED BY FIRING SQUAD

Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad at the Utah State Prison, just after midnight.   He’s the third person to die in this manner since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.  Utah is the only state to still use a firing squad and that is being phased out.

In 1985, Gardner killed attorney Michael Burdell and wounded court bailiff Nick Kirk.  Gardner was in the courtroom for a hearing about the 1984 murder of bartender Melvyn Otterstrom, attributed to him.

Burdell’s father and fiancée both asked officials to spare Gardner’s life, saying the slain attorney would not have wanted the matter to end with an execution.  The widow of Kirk, who died 11 years after the shooting, says the rest of her husband’s life was filled with constant pain.  VelDean Kirk says her late husband supported Gardner’s sentence.  Otterstrom’s family also supported the death sentence.

INTERIM KYRGYZSTAN LEADER TOURS DAMAGED CITY

NPR’s David Greene says interim Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva is promising to rebuild the city of Osh, ruined after ethnic riots that broke out a week ago:

NPR's David Greene on interim Kyrgyz leader's visit to Osh

LOS ANGELES WINS NBA CROWN

The Los Angeles Lakers overcame the Boston Celtics last night 83 -79, taking their 16th NBA title.  NPR’s Tom Goldman was at the Staples Center in LA and watched the Lakers rebound to win Game 7 in the 4th quarter:

NPR's Tom Goldman on Lakers' NBA victory

LA’s Kobe Bryant is the MVP.  Tom’s full story is on Morning Edition.

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