Early Morning Geologising…


…which basically means I am unable to sleep!

I promised a somewhat more geological blog post, so here you go! The single biggest geological story doing the rounds at the moment is the huge oil-slick in the gulf of mexico, caused by an explosion on a BP oil rig called “Deepwater Horizon”. The oil has been leaking for exactly a month as of tomorrow and was caused by a large combination of factors, primarily the failure of the blow-out preventer which should in theory have halted the flow of oil can capped the well the moment the pressure of the well increased. I’m not going to speculate as to who is to blame for the ecological disaster that will no doubt result, nor am I going to bemoan it because at the end of the day the earth will recover.

Firstly it should be noted that this is the first time this sort of event has occurred on a deep oil rig (i.e.: ocean depths >1km) and is not likely to be the last. When it happened, everyone started heckling and moaning at BP as if “they should have known better” but to be fair no-one has ever had to deal with this sort of thing before so who are you to judge? The company in question and it’s sub-contractors took (presumably) all the normal precautions involved in drilling the well, including employing the blow-out preventer which has now failed. Should they have employed more – back up – systems? possibly, but at the time the cost-benefit analysis probably meant it wasn’t worth it, and you’d only end up in an infinite regression…

“well what if the BOP fails?”

“oh… we’ll have a back-up.”

“and if that fails?”

….and so on. Which helps nobody.

So why don’t we wait until all the various senate committees have done their jobs before we go blaming BP? After all this problem will have to be faced repeatedly as oil companies have to constantly drill in deeper water because the shallow or terrestrial reservoirs run dry… all because modern society NEEDS oil so much.

 Anywho, something interesting occurred when BP tried to siphon off the oil with a funnel… the funnel filled with Gas Hydrates (or Clathrates) and this made it unstable – it started to float – which is fascinating… and I can’t wait to find out why these clathrates formed, something for my to-do list after exams!

I have a couple of Geology related links for people too if you want to have a look…

Palaeontologically, Archaeopteryx soft tissue preservation and a “missing link” between it and modern birds: Eoconfuciusornis has been found in china!

In the world of engineering vs. geology… rules for aviators have been relaxed so that airlines can fly with higher atmospheric ash concentrations caused by the volcano under Eyjafjallajökull glacier in Iceland… and yes that is the name of the Glacier, not the volcano… the volcano is called something far simpler but I cannot find out at present (media has decided it will be called Eyjafjallajökull so web swamped with this… probably because they put in so much effort learning to pronounce it).

Finally for tonight… The Science Museum bows to public opinion and sells out on anthropogenic climate change; something for which I think they should be very ashamed… it’s a SCIENCE museum… so report the damn science, not the general public’s (mis)conceptions of it!!!

Ben Brooks

Shortlink for this post: http://wp.me/pFUij-3C

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