Big Day for David Valentine, UCSB Oil Slick Researcher

gas flare by Schristia

Researcher: we’re not doing enough to track oil spill
[Via Ars Technica]

The US has a fleet of research vessels that it could deploy to monitor the spread of oil trough the Gulf of Mexico, and deploying them would cost a few million dollars or less. That argument comes courtesy of the University of California’s David Valentine, who makes a plea for action in an editorial released by Nature over the weekend. Although most of the editorial focuses on what the vessels might do to track the size and spread of the spill, Valentine wraps up by pointing out that unless there’s a concerted effort by the research community to spur the government into action, inertia might end up leaving the research vessels on the sidelines.

Valentine, who’s based at UC’s Santa Barbara campus, points out that nobody is even sure how much oil is coming out of the ruptured well; published estimates have ranged from 1,000 to 100,000 barrels daily. Although we can track some of the oil that has made its way to the surface, it has become increasingly clear that a large portion of the leak is spreading through currents that travel at intermediate depths. Without knowing how much is there or where it’s headed, just about everything we need to do about the spill—plan for mitigation, assess damage, assign liability—is a matter of educated guesswork.

His solution would be to turn the methane spewing from the leak, which caused problems from day one, into a tool. BP has said that about 40 percent of the leak, by mass, is methane (even if we consider most of what the company has said so far as unreliable, the amount of methane appears to be substantial).


Well, the same day this editorial is being discussed, he gets a major grant from the NSF to research the oil slick. I hope he is able to do some methane monitoring. Maybe that is in another grant.