In the eighty-seven days that oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon well this year, oil roughly equivalent to the volume contained within fourteen million people escaped into the Gulf of Mexico.
That’s about the population of Los Angeles or Lagos or Shanghai. It’s more than the population of Delhi or Beijing. It’s twice the population of London.
Imagine them all standing there, filled up to the brim with oil.
Or imagine them all floating in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Original Official Estimate Was Much Lower
The original estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – the federal agency whose job it is to monitor and report on the condition of the oceanic and the atmospheric conditions – was 5,000 barrels per day.
That is equivalent to 235,000 US gallons per day.
On June 15 the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command issued a revised estimate with a range seven to twelve times greater than the original NOAA estimate, stating that:
U.S. government and independent scientists estimate that the most likely flow rate of oil today is between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day.
That is equivalent to between 1,645,000 and 2,820,000 US gallons per day.
On August 2nd, the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command revised their estimate upwards and stated that
approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil have been released from the well.
That is equivalent to a total of approximately 230,300,000 gallons of oil that spilled into the Gulf over an 87 day period.
The Amount Of Dispersant That Was Sprayed In The Gulf
Then there is the 1.3 million gallons of dispersant spread to break the oil up into tiny droplets far smaller than the head of a pin.
I ignored that from the calculation – after all, it is not oil – but we should remember that this material was sprayed into the waters of the Gulf.
The Mathematics: How I arrived at the figure of Fourteen Million People
I made an assumption that the average human being weighs 160lbs (62kg).
The relative density or specific gravity of the human body is approximately 0.9. What this means is that the volume of a person is approximately 90% of their weight.
Now this is where the metric system proves itself, because weight and volume and specific gravity are all interlinked. Threfore we can immediately say that the volume of average human being is (0.9×62) = 56 litres.
56 litres is equivalent to 15 US gallons and so the total number of ‘oil-filled people’ is 206,000,000 divided by 15.
So Once Again – How Much Oil Escaped In The Gulf Oil Spill?
As I said at the beginning of this article, this means that in the 87 days that oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon well, an amount roughly equivalent to the volume contained within fourteen million people escaped into the Gulf.