The Science Behind Taming the Deepwater Oil Spill

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Following unsuccessful attempts in May-June 2010 to contain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and with the relief well not expected to be completed until September, plans were drawn up to install a capping stack on top of the Macondo well to shut the flow of oil. This strategy was not without risks, stemming from concerns that the well casing might have been damaged during the initial explosion. The rising pressure in the well could force oil to leak out of the damaged casing, initiating a hydraulic fracture that could breach the seafloor. This would result in a renewed and uncontrolled flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico--a catastrophic development.

In this free public talk sponsored by the Peninsula Geological Society, US Geological Survey research ecologist Paul Hsieh presents some of the scientific analyses and behind-the-scene events that led to ending the spill. Hsieh was named Federal Employee of the Year in 2011 for this work.


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