Popcorn is the latest tool to simulate oil spills. As carried out by Brazilian Petrobras Oil Company last Thursday, hundreds of kilos of them were thrown away into the main affluent river of the Amazon, the Black River. Contained by 2,000 metres of floating barriers and collected by five skimmer ships, more than 30 supporting vessels took part of it. This action intended to reproduce the disastrous hypothetical spill of 800,000 litres of oil. Popcorn acquires a similar behaviour to actual oil when floating on water, thus biodegradable, in comparison to toxic polyethylene particles, which were formerly used for such experiments.

Disaster simulations do prevent a lot of further damage. However, after seeing the geography of offshore oil infrastructures below, it is astonishing how complex and haphazard  such a methodical and rational industry can look like. The Gulf of Mexico already suffered its consequences.

An extremely chaotic extraction labyrinth results from a private benefit-oriented exploitation of the area. More than 3,500 platforms, drills and pipes from different companies overlap, making most of them redundant and potentially menacing. As posted by F.A.D.:

“Without a master plan, the body of conduits, drills and platforms extends and bifurcates in the x,y and z planes over an archipelago of deep-sea rental properties.  In a waterscape of competitive and symbiotic patchwork dynamics, Texaco and Shell’s pipelines traverse through Chevron, Castex and British Petroleum’s surfaces, and vice-versa.”

Although more than improbable, I wonder how many fields of corn would be needed to test the effects of a general collapse in the whole system.

(source & image1> popcorn oil spill simulation by Petrobras in the Rio Negro via elpais) (image2> popcorn oil spill simulation via oilspillsolutions) (images3-5> The Gulf of Mexico – A Geography of offshore oil by nationalgeographic and offshore magazine, both via F.A.D.)

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