“There’s two ways things go bad,” says Eustis. There’s new stuff, like Deep Water Horizons: under-tested, in deep water, under high pressure, and far from land. But that new stuff is, as you can now guess, rare. Many more leaks come from rust bucket rigs that are chronically broken and patched, instead of rebuilt, says Eustis. These rigs are usually close to shore, have changed hands a few times, and are now operated by the subcontractor of a subcontractor of a subcontractor of a subsidiary of a major oil company. “That’s where the oil production started,” MacDonald says. “Everything close to land is 20, 30 plus years old.” And the older they are, the more they leak.Trump will fix this, of course, by freeing us from "regulations."
Many aren’t even operational anymore. According to Henderson, about 36,000 abandoned wells dot the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, sites where the oil companies either drilled and didn’t find anything below the sediment, or sapped a reserve to the point where it made more sense to move resources on to other, juicier wells.
But that doesn’t mean that these wells are exhausted: in many cases small (or not so small) amounts of oil are still hanging out in the reservoir or the pipes connected to it. “There’s all these ticking time bombs out there rusting,” Henderson says. “And it’s inshore too. Thousands of wells and pipelines in the wetlands were abandoned with oil still in them, and because of rising sea levels and coastal erosion, now they’re sitting in salt water and they’re corroding and leaking.” Or sitting in the path of some future hurricane.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
It happens all the time
The big spills get all the attention but the little spills and leaks are the chronic problem.