Drill, Baby, Drill!

But if you have a spill, then Burn, Baby Burn! This is especially proper for oil spills in deep water.

Several months before the Exxon Valdez accident, tests were performed on burning off oil spills. These tests showed burning to be one of the best responses for deep water spills. They did try burning of the Exxon Valdez spill but then abandoned the approach due to weather. Others, including those watching at home, thought they should just burn the ship once they unloaded as much oil as possible. Why save the ship? Why not attack the oil when it was most contained? Containment is the first step in controlling oil spills.

The BP oil platform spill / leak is a prime candidate because it is in 5,000+ feet of water. And they did do one burn and then stopped due to weather – read that as waves.

Burning burns off the volatile fluids and gases. The remaining oil is heavy and thick, almost tar like, which sinks to the bottom. This heavy thick substance is not very reactive which means it doesn’t interfere with, or dissolve into, the ecosystem. Or if it does, at a very limited extent. It is less desirable in shallow water because sea life at the bottom is much greater than in deep water. Even an inactive substance on the bottom could affect bottom dwellers and reproduction cycles of a number of species. In 1994, federal agencies produced a plan for Gulf spills that called for immediate burns.

Update: More on Burn the Spill

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