Monday, May 3, 2010

how much is 5,000 barrels a day?

i wanted to understand how much oil was being spilled daily in the gulf. so i calculated the volume of a gallon, a barrel, and then began arranging it in various ways. it dawned on me that it was getting close to a familiar size.

the volume shown is not of barrels stacked together but just the contents of those barrels.

BP is now saying the spill may be as much as 60,000 barrels a day. This is the equivalent of ALL the painted ladies on Steiner.

since posting this, it has been picked up by the architect's newspaper, the wall street journal, and in a story in the washington post.

a common theme i've heard from some is that after seeing this, it doesn't seem so bad. my point in making this was not to highlight how bad it is, but rather get a true sense at the volume of oil. having said that, i think the reaction of it not being that bad relates to two perceptions (or misperceptions).

1) that victorians in san francisco are small. this perception is due, i believe, to the rooms in victorians being so small, the lack of access to natural light in most victorians, the fact that most victorians serve as multiple unit homes, and the fact that they are crammed tight to each other. in actuality, a standard victorian is LARGER than most american homes. in this example, the victorian is 3.5 stories at about 5,500 square feet. with that, at least two floors of the victorian have ceilings of at least 11 feet.

2) the amount of contamination or spread that oil has. in some very brief research on my part, i found that 1 gallon of oil can contaminate up to 1,000,000 gallons of water, and that 1 gallon of oil can create an oil slick as large as 8 acres. this means one day of the spill at 5,000 barrels is potentially contaminating 210 billion gallons of water and potentially creating an oil slick that is 2,526 square miles daily. that is the equivalent of 51 san franciscos or 13+ lake tahoes.

from the washington post article mentioned above is a site developed by a google earth engineer (paul rademacher) that allows you to overlay the actual observed spill onto any geographical site you wish. enter your town and the spill will overlay. it is devastating.

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