Oil Rigs, perrenial leaks?

Oil Rigs, perrenial leaks?

Postby Aaron Winkler » Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:59 pm

Hi Lewis (and others). Fun topics for conversation, all around. I saw your piece in the NYC today and thoroughly enjoyed it, as well as some of the posts on your site. Here's my question/thought, prompted by the Deep Water Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back: If civilization topples, what will stop the many hundreds of deep water oil rigs from eroding, collapsing and leaking out oceans of oil? Would anything stop that from happening? It was so interesting to watch us attempt to close just a single hole with all the tools civilization can provide. And we've drilled ever so many. Would anything stop the holes from leaking if there was no civ around to plug them? I think the rigs are built with auto-stop plugs but clearly those don't necessarily work as planned. Which then brings up the question of how long it would take before a bacteria found a way to thrive on oil and simply ate it all up.

Anywho, fun times. Best of luck with the book release,
-Aaron Winkler
medical student, Wake Forest University, NC
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Re: Oil Rigs, perrenial leaks?

Postby lewis » Mon Mar 31, 2014 11:32 am

Cheers Aaron, I think you raise a very good point. As you say, oil rigs are fitted with multiple fail-safes to try to prevent catastrophic leaks, but would these definitely all work as planned, particularly as the machinery rusts and degrade? It would only take one failure to release a very large oil slick that would take years or decades to disperse naturally. Nuclear power stations would be another risk - the fission-dampening control rods will automatically drop into the reactor (for example, falling down under gravity once the power fails to the electromagnet holding them up) but this will only prevent power plants going critical or suffering melt-down immediately. It will do nothing for the radioactivity of the fuel rods as the power station deteriorates around them.
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