BP Gulf Oil Leak Is Claimed to Have Stopped
BP succeeds in stopping oil flow – at least for now
Energy giant BP’s risky “top kill” of its ruptured Deepwater Horizon well appears to have stopped the flow of oil and gas off the Louisiana coast, but new data released on Thursday showed the Gulf of Mexico leak is already the worst in US history.
Moving to ensure there is never a repeat of the disaster, President Barack Obama was clamping down on the oil industry, putting on hold deepwater oil exploration and drilling for six months.
He denied on Thursday that his administration’s response to the leak had been slow, saying the entire government was focused on stopping the spill.
“The United States government has always been in charge of making sure that the response is appropriate,” Obama said at a press conference.
Coast Guard chief Thad Allen, who is co-ordinating the US government’s battle against spill, said the “top-kill” manoeuvre begun on Wednesday had stopped the gush of oil from the mile-deep well.
But he cautioned it was still too early to declare victory as BP pumps heavy drilling liquids, dubbed mud, into the fractured wellhead, before sealing it with concrete.
The work is being carried out by remote-controlled robotic submarines, 1.6 kilometres below the surface.
“They’ve been able to stabilize the wellhead, they’re pumping mud down it. They’ve stopped the hydrocarbons from coming up,” Allen told local radio WWL First News.
This was the first good news for BP in the five weeks since Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers.
But government scientists confirmed fears that the Gulf of Mexico spill is set to be the worst in US history, saying oil was flowing out at a rate up to four times higher than previously thought.
Unveiling new data, they said the oil had been gushing from the burst pipe at a rate of between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. The previous estimate was 5,000 barrels a day. – Source
Here is a slideshow of the Gulf leak from reuters.com
Here is a video showing where the oil will eventually go “in the world”.
Crews to set fire to oil leaking in Gulf of Mexico
by Kevin McGill and Cain Burdeau
NEW ORLEANS — Crews geared up to set fire to oil leaking from the site of an exploded drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, a last-ditch effort to get rid of it before it reaches environmentally sensitive marshlands on the coast.
A 500-foot boom will be used to corral several thousand gallons of the thickest oil on the surface, which will then be towed to a more remote area, set on fire, and allowed to burn for about an hour, the Coast Guard said. Such burns will continue throughout the day if they are working.
It was unclear what would be used to set the oil on fire and how far from shore it would burn. The slick was about 20 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
About 42,000 gallons of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf from the blown-out well where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank last week. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead. The cause of the explosion has not been determined.
Greg Pollock, head of the oil spill division of the Texas General Land Office, which is providing equipment for crews in the Gulf, said he is not aware of a similar burn ever being done off the U.S. coast. The last time crews with his agency used fire booms to burn oil was a 1995 spill on the San Jacinto River.
“When you can get oil ignited, it is an absolutely effective way of getting rid of a huge percentage of the oil,” he said. “I can’t overstate how important it is to get the oil off the surface of the water.”
He said the oil will likely be ignited using jelled gasoline and lit rags soaked in oil. What’s left afterward is something he described as a kind of hardened tar ball that can be removed from the water with nets or skimmers.
“I would say there is little threat to the environment because it won’t coat an animal, and because all the volatiles have been consumed if it gets on a shore it can be simply picked up,” he said.
Authorities also said they expect no impact on sea turtles and marine mammals in the burn area.
A graphic posted by authorities fighting the slick shows it covering an area about 100 miles long and 45 miles across at its widest point.
Louisiana State Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham told a legislative committee Wednesday morning that National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration projections show a “high probability” oil could reach the Pass a Loutre wildlife management area Friday night, Breton Sound on Saturday and the Chandeleur Islands on Sunday.
The decision to burn some of the oil comes as the Coast Guard and industry cleanup crews run out of other options to get rid of it.
Crews operating submersible robots have been trying without success to activate a shut-off device that would halt the flow of oil on the sea bottom 5,000 feet below.
Rig operator BP Plc. says work will begin as early as Thursday to drill a relief well to relieve pressure at the blowout site, but that could take months.
Another option is a dome-like device to cover oil rising to the surface and pump it to container vessels, but that will take two weeks to put in place, BP said.
Winds and currents in the Gulf have helped crews in recent days as they try to contain the leak. The immediate threat to sandy beaches in coastal Alabama and Mississippi has lessened. But the spill has moved steadily toward the mouth of the Mississippi River, home to hundreds of species of wildlife and near some rich oyster grounds.
The cost of disaster continues to rise and could easily top $1 billion.
Industry officials say replacing the Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and operated by BP, would cost up to $700 million. BP has said its costs for containing the spill are running at $6 million a day. The company said it will spend $100 million to drill the relief well. The Coast Guard has not yet reported its expenses.
Associated Press Writer Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge contributed to this report.