Introduction

It is early July as this is written and 72 days since the Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred. There is no shortage of news about the catastrophe ongoing in the Gulf of Mexico. But there is a shortage of usable information about the science and technology of deep water oil drilling and the risks involved. One purpose of this website is to provide that information.

There are some obvious questions. How could such a thing happen in the first place? Why is it so hard to stop an oil leak? Is this going to happen again? This website will try to answer these questions.

Current Situation

The government estimate of the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico is 35 to 60 thousand barrels per day--a figure that has been revised upward several times. Only a small fraction of it has been captured or burned. If the higher figure is accepted, over 3 million barrels have escaped. That would make the Deepwater Horizon spill nearly equal to the Ixtoc Gulf of Mexico spill of 1979. That was the world's largest ocean spill. If the lower figure is accepted, the Deepwater Horizon spill is 10 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill. The Deepwater Horizon blowout could continue until late August or, some say, even December.

The New York Times has a spill tracker which is updated daily. The same data are presented dynamically here.

A Few Thoughts

Is there a limit to the amount of environmental degradation acceptable in the quest for energy? What is the role of government in regulating energy businesses? Who should pay for cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon mess? Who should pay for the destruction of the seafood industry and the tourist industry?

The magnitude of the catastrophe will likely change the general attitude toward these questions. That makes the Deepwater Horizon blowout a pivotal event. It is well worth understanding it.