14 June 2010

Know Your Spills--Confusing Names and Oil Quantity Equivalents

Confused about the many names for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill? Here is a useful list of equivalents.
  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill--This follows the convention that spills are named after the vessel involved. The semi-submersible floating oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon was technically an oceangoing vessel, registered in the Marshal Islands. This term unfortunately suggests that the event is a "spill", an unintended release of oil from a container like a vessel, pipeline or tank. It is really a "blowout" or "gusher".
  • Macondo Blowout--The Macondo Prospect is an oil and gas prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, in which the Deepwater Horizon was drilling when the blowout occurred. This was the codename applied to the field during early exploration. "BP is the operator and principal developer of the oil field with 65% of interest, while 25% is owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, and 10% by MOEX Offshore 2007, a unit of Mitsui." [Source: Wikipedia.]
  • BP Oil Spill--BP plc has been named the responsible party in the incident by the U.S. government. It has the majority interest in the field, was in charge of its development, had leased the Deepwater Horizon and had contracted with various firms to carry out the drilling.
  • Mississippi Canyon 252 (MC‐252) Incident--The Macondo Prospect was referred to by the U.S. Minerals Management Service as "Mississippi Canyon Block 252" in its lease sale. This is the terminology often used by NOAA and other U.S. government agencies in official communications.
  • Gulf of Mexico Spill--This imprecise name is sometimes used in the media. There have been many oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, and there are probably several active ones there at the moment.
How Much Oil?

Press reports and official announcements about the quantities of oil, gas and other materials released from the blowout use various units. A million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking about a real mess. Here are some handy equivalencies.

one tonne of crude oil
approximately 7.3 barrels of crude oil
about 307 U.S. gallons of crude oil

one barrel of crude oil
42 U.S. gallons of crude oil
159 liters of crude oil

10,000 barrels of crude oil
420,000 U.S. gallons of crude oil
1,590,000 liters of crude oil
about 1,400 tonnes of crude oil

60,000 barrels of crude oil
2.5 million U.S. gallons of crude oil
9.5 million liters of crude oil
about 8,200 tonnes of crude oil

The conversions between weight measures (tonnes) and volume measures (barrels, gallons, or liters) depend on the density of the oil, which varies considerably.

Further useful conversion factors are here.

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