Spilling Numbers

June 20, 2010 |  by

BP Oil Spill InfographicWith all of the interest being generated by the Deepwater Horizon spill, I decided to do a little research. Here is what I found:

  • This platform spill is extraordinary. It is the first in the US in 40 years (last year’s Montara spill in the Timor Sea, Indonesia, was the first major platform spill anywhere in the world in more than 20 years).
  • To date, the largest offshore spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred at the Ixtoc 1, a Mexican platform near Yucatán that blew out in 1979. It took Mexico’s Pemex almost ten months to stop the leak, by which time roughly 3 million barrels of oil had leaked—still the largest accidental spill in world history. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute estimates that oil is leaking between 23,810 to 59,524 barrels/day. This is very close to the National Incident Center’s June 15 revised estimate of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels/day.
  • It has now been two months since the April 20 spill. This means, by most estimates, the spill is already at least half of the total splled during the ten months of the Ixtoc 1 spill.
  • Tanker oil spills occur more frequently and release more oil than offshore drilling accidents, by a wide margin.  Over the last 50 years, offshore drilling spills, including the Deepwater Horizon, have unleashed a little more than approximately 6.4 million barrels; tanker accidents have spilled 25.4 million barrels.

In my next post, I’ll explain how I got the numbers — it is quite interesting.

The moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf is meant to give the government time to review the rules and oversight of such wells.

  • The full impact of the deepwater drilling moratorium is not known. In addition to fishing and tourism, deepwater drilling is crucial to the Gulf’s economy. The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association has warned that many of the affected rigs will seek to drill in other countries, imperiling about 800 to 1,400 jobs per rig, including personnel who provide third-party support.
  • At a congressional hearing last week, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), said that a temporary ban on drilling, even if it lasted only a few months, could affect as many as 330,000 people in Louisiana alone. Raymond James & Associates predicts that the moratorium could last well into 2011, directly jeopardizing 50,000 jobs in blue-collar communities.

Clearly, this spill will reach people and places far beyond the US Gulf Coast.



1 Comment


  1. This post is useful because the facts you have gathered are concise and context-lending. What do you think will be the long-term effects on the Gulf’s economy? Maybe cleanup efforts will spark a bit of job growth at least.

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