Science Scope

The Deepwater Horizon disaster set off an uncontrolled oil geyser

Posting in Energy

As the oil continues to gush into the Gulf for the foreseeable future, BP tests ways to stop the leak.

The rescue team shoved Pepto-Bismol down the bird's beak in case it swallowed any oil. Four people, 300 gallons of water, and a 36-minute Dawn soap lathering session later, the bird was clean.

What happens after that is anyone's guess. But it's becoming clear that a perfect storm is brewing in the Gulf: It's rather unsettling that the conditions are this ripe for disaster. For one thing, its the type of crude oil that mixes well with water. And the marshlands can be hard to clean.

The disaster could very well trump the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. In fact, the Boston Herald says it's not even comparable to that disaster because the oil that leaked was in limited supply.

We are unfortunately dealing with unlimited amount of oil this time. And the other major problem is that we've never had to plug up a leak so deep in the ocean.

As a result, BP faces a number of civil claims and criminal action suits, as more than 200,000 gallons of oil spill out into the Gulf everyday. In response, BP has come up with several ways to try to keep this disaster from turning into our nation's worst ecological nightmare.

BP engineers are working 24/7 — and the office is beginning to look like NASA's Mission Control. Thankfully, the underwater cameras on the remote controlled vehicles haven't been covered in oil and still offer some insight into what is happening in the Gulf.

The engineers have come up with a number of solutions, including:

But where an oil spill happens matters more than how much, reports The Economist. Information from U.S., European, Canadian, and Japanese satellites are helping draw a clear picture of where the oil is heading. NOAA takes the data and puts them into computer models to predict how the wind and ocean current will carry the oily slush.

According to a statement, Clark University's engineering professor Poojitha Yapa, who is advising NOAA with his computer model, says:

Predicting where the spill will go depends on many factors, Yapa said, including how much natural gas has been released along with the oil. “Typically in most cases when there is oil released underwater there is also gas. And that makes it more complex," he says.

Yapa said that the mixture coming out is both oil and gas. “And you’re talking here about extremely high pressure -- 5,000 feet underwater -- and you have all kinds of things taking place,” he says. Also affecting the predictions are currents, the amount of salt in the water and water temperature.

In the meantime, the oil is leaking like crazy. If the oil isn't plugged by June, perhaps the Hurricane season will naturally help vacuum up some of the mess.

But I hope it doesn't take another disaster to fix this one.

Related Posts:

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Is the gulf oil tragedy changing Obama's mind about offshore drilling?

Image: ESA

Updated for clarity.

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure