Oil Spills – Worst Oil Spills List Man Made Disasters List Part 4

  • lakeview gusher plaque

    Lakeview Gusher Plaque

    Lakeview Gusher: Lakeview Number One Well began drilling Jan. 1, 1909, and was done by the Lakeview company. While they continued drilling, they were only finding natural gas, amid financial difficulties, so they partnered with the Union Oil Company which in turn wanted to construct large storage tanks on the Lakeview property. On March 14, 1910 as the drilling reached 2,440 feet, they hit a high pressure gusher for which they did not have the technology to contain at the time. The high pressure eruption blew out at least part of the well casing which is the steel pipe-liner that contains the oil as it is pumped to the surface and also serves as a guide for the drill shaft during drilling operations. The gusher was 20 feet in diameter and 200 feet high, and instead of reducing over time, it grew stronger by the day.

    Lakeview Gusher Stream

    Lakeview Gusher 'Trout Stream'

    The flow from the gusher initially was 18.8k barrels per day, while the peak was estimated at 90k barrels per day. This gusher also developed a stream at it’s base, which was nicknamed the ‘Trout Stream’, and created a river of crude oil through every nearby ditch and gully running downhill from the site as crews attempted to contain the river with sand bags. The gusher lasted for 18 months until it was brought under control in October 1910, and was finally finished September 10, 1911 when the well caved in and sealed itself. One interesting fact is that the oil from the Lakeview Number One well never ignited.

    Lakeview Gusher

    Lakeview Gusher

    The sand bag dams and dykes built crew created 20 large, open air sumps, where a four inch pipeline led the oil to 8 55k barrel tanks 2 1/2 miles away, where it was carried by an 8 inch pipeline to Port Avila, CA on the coast. Nealy 40% of the oil from the gusher was recovered by this process. What was feared at the time were early rains, which could have created a flash flood and spread the ocean of oil down over the valley below the site. Charles ‘Dry Hole’ Woods and an army of 600 crew went up into the hills and dammed ip the mouths of the canyon with earth walls 20 feet high and 50 foot thick. The lake was so large that people had to cross it in boats!

    By some miracle, fire was avoided over the course of the 18 months that oil gushed from the well. Today, remarkably, the evidence of the Lakeview Gusher is minimal with some blackened areas and patches of hardened asphalt.

    San Joaquin Geological Society: “The Lakeview Gusher”

  • Gulf War Oil Spill: Another of Saddam Hussein’s last ditch efforts to thwart the US from retaking Kuwait and kicking his rear end, the Iraqi forces opened the valves at the Sea Island oil terminal and dumped the contents of several oil tankers into the Persian Gulf. The goal of this operation was suspected to thwart a land invasion from the gulf by the US Marines. The gates were opened on January 23, 1991 and created considerable environmental damage and damage to the regions wildlife. The slick from the oil spill reached 101 miles by 42 miles at it’s height, and in some areas reached a level of 5 inches thick. By volume it was figured to be several times that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Initial estimates of the spill were 11 million US barrels, but were downgraded to 2 to 6 million barrels by both government and private researchers after more detailed studies were conducted.

    The New York Times reported that a 1993 study found that the these oil spills did little long term damage. Estimates are that half of the oil evaporated, 1 million barrels were recovered and that 2 to 3 million barrels washed ashore, mostly in Saudi Arabia. Recent studies tell a different story of this man made disaster, as marshlands and mud tidal flats still contained large amounts of oil even after 10 years, and that a full recovery for the region could last decades. The long term effects turned out to be significant, according to Dr. Jacqueline Michel, a US geochemist confirmed in a radio interview in 2010.

    “The long term effects were very significant. There was no shoreline cleanup, essentially, over the 800 kilometers that the oil – – in Saudi Arabia. And so when we went back in to do quantitative survey in 2002 and 2003, there was a million cubic meters of oil sediment remained then 12 years after the spill…. [T]he oil penetrated much more deeply into the intertidal sediment than normal because those sediments there have a lot of crab burrows, and the oil penetrated deep, sometimes 30, 40 centimeters, you know a couple of feet, into the mud of these tidal flats. There’s no way to get it out now. So it has had long term impact.”

    What we do know for sure is that the 1991 Gulf War brought a new meaning to the term ‘Environmental Warfare’!

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