The BP Gulf Oil spill ongoing and the possibility of capping operations causing a blowout (an explosion which would release more oil) of 240,000 barrels per day. Here is a consideration of the total volume of the oceans and the total volume of the world’s oil.
The total mass of all of the Earth’s water is about 1,400,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons (1.5×10^18 short tons) or 1.4×10^21 kg, which is about 0.023 percent of the Earth’s total mass. Less than 3 percent is freshwater; the rest is saltwater, mostly in the ocean.
The global economy consumes approximately 30 billion barrels of oil (1.2 trillion U.S. gallons or 4.8 billion m^3) each year.
There are 7.15 barrels of oil in one ton of oil. So about 4.4 billion tons of oil per year.
one cubic mile is about 26 billion barrels. The world is using just over one cubic mile of oil per year.
The world consumes approximately 3 CMO (cubic miles of oil or equivalent energy) annually from all sources. There are about 40 years of conventional oil reserves (1300 billion barrels of conventional oil reserves. Exploration could find more oil.
There are maybe 200 years using all the oilsands and oilshale. This varies based on recovery percentages (ie how much of the oil in place you can get economically).
If you mixed it all of the oil into the oceans then you would be looking at about 1 part per million. Which is about 35 times less than the EPA defined safe limit of 35 parts per million limit.
You would not have equal distribution so that is the cause of deadzones and what causes oil to wash up on shore and leave a big mess and why if you can disperse the oil safely then it is less of a problem.
The ocean volumes to the total world oil reserves is a volume and relative size comparison. Oil leaks do not have equal distribution or much mixing. Oil collects on the surface and the surface oil that does evaporate or get collected gets onto the shore.
There is natural seapage of oil into the Gulf of Mexico because there are natural oilfields that have natural leaks. This is estimated at about 2000 to 5000 barrels per day. Oil is something that bacteria can eat, so this is broken down or it evaporates.
A reminder is that the 1979 leak into the Gulf of Mexico was about the same size as the BP situation and the Gulf recovered to the extent that virtually no one remembers it. Certainly until this new situation it was far less famous than the smaller Exxon Valdez spill.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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