I have begun to wonder what if the leak caused by the blow out of the Deepwater Horizon rig is never capped or contained. What if, as some fear, the pressures have caused fissures in containment below the surface? What if dozens of leaks arise that simply cannot be contained?
So I wondered, how long could this go on? How long before all the oil would be gone? What kind of world would we be living in if it kept on?
Today, the technical committee empaneled by the federal government has increased estimates of the size of the flow from this accident to closer to 40,000 barrels of oil a day (up from an estimate of 12,000 to 19,000). This new estimate was necessary, because the new containment "top hat" and new riser installed June 3, made it possible to measure fairly accurately the amount of oil flow being captured -- which is about 16,000 to 17,000 barrels of oil per day. Given that there are still huge billowing clouds of oil that are NOT being captured, that pushed the overall estimate of the flow upwards. See the live images at http://globalwarming.house.gov/spillcam for confirmation.
The amount of oil proven reserves under the Gulf of Mexico is 3.655 Billion barrels of oil. I realize that these proven reserves are not all in one continuous field, but on the other hand, pro-drilling advocates have argued for years that 3.655 Billion barrels was only the proven reserves, that that were was probably much more oil under the Gulf.
So for the sake of argument let's imagine that the oil field that the Deepwater Horizon had tapped into is some 3 billion barrels of oil, and that the rate of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico is 40,000 barrels of oil a day. How long could that continue to flow at rate? About 205 years, that's how long.
So the deeply pessimistic side of me wonders, what if the Gulf of Mexico turns into a continuous, poison petroleum swamp for more than a 100 years? What happens to us then?