How long was 86 spill days in consumption time?
On April 20th, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform catastrophically
exploded. Eleven people died in the explosions and fire, and the vessel sank. For the next 86 days, an
uncontrolled release of crude oil caused what has been termed the worst oil spill in
Efforts to stop, slow, or capture the crude oil flowing into the Gulf ecosystem were pursued
until the well was capped, along with efforts to prevent and mitigate damage to fish, wildlife, and coastal resources.
146 days after the accident, relief wells permanently killed the exploratory well.
Research on these issues will continue for years. You can read more
on the official Deepwater
Horizon Spill Response Website.
Calulating the Impact of the Spilled Oil
Initial spill estimates by BP plc, operator of the
Deepwater Horizon, were about 5,000 barrels per day
, but they have since revealed that the worst-case scenario is 100,000 barrels per day
. A team of scientists originally estimated that the oil spill rate was 12,000 to 25,000
barrels per day4
, then, on June 10th, the estimate was increased to between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels per
On June 15th, the estimate was updated to 35,000 to 60,0000 barrels
We may never know for sure which release rate is correct ? and in fact the release rate may
have varied over the duration of the spill.
You can use this list to see what the lost transportation energy would have been under various
If the spilled oil had been refined to fuel in a typical US refinery, it would have produced
gasoline, diesel fuel, and fuel oil capable of powering these vehicles:
- Cars for a year, and
- Trucks for a year, and
- Containership days, and
- Other petroleum products
What Does That Mean to Me?
The video below illustrates the spill volume in terms of petroleum consumption. For the
nation, see the National Petroleum Clock, which illustrates that Americans use as much
petroleum in less than 5½ hours of one day. For Delaware, see the bar chart that shows
the spill volume would serve less than 70 days of petroleum demand in our state. If you
are from another state in the Continental US, see the map for an estimate of the days that
spilled Gulf oil would have met your needs.
Oil Days and Hours in Terms of Gulf Spill from James Corbett on Vimeo.
Want to learn more?
» What do we get from a Barrel of Oil
» Deepwater Drilling is a Risky Decision
» America's Spill Video
» Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Portal
Professor James J. Corbett works on energy and environmental solutions for transportation
in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of Delaware.