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Fluctuations in Size and Location of Oil Slick, Gulf of Mexico – May 26th, 2010

28.8N 88.7W

May 26th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day

Gulf of Mexico, USA - May 21st - 24th, 2010

Gulf of Mexico, USA - May 21st - 24th, 2010

Over a month after the spill began, oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. The exact spill flow rate is uncertain –in part because BP has refused to allow independent scientists to perform accurate measurements– and is a matter of ongoing debate.

It is estimated that the resulting oil slick covers a surface area of at least 2,500 square miles (6,500 km2), although the exact size and location of the slick fluctuate from day to day depending on weather conditions. This animated image shows the fluctuations of the slick between May 21st and 24th.

As this environmental disaster continues, more than 22,000 people and 1,100 vessels are now involved in the onshore and offshore exercise to control the slick that is affecting approximately 65 miles of the Gulf coast.

It was reported this week that BP is recovering 40pc less oil than previously claimed as it prepares fourth attempt to halt leak. The oil giant admitted it was recovering less oil from a tube inserted into the mile-long pipeline that snapped after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded with the loss of 11 lives a month ago.

BP initially said that most of the estimated 5,000 barrels a day spewing out of the well was being collected and taken a mile to the surface but yesterday the company disclosed that the average daily recovery is running at just over 2,000 barrels.

BP conceded that the siphoning system involved “significant uncertainties” because of its novelty and said that it was impossible to “assure its success or put a definite timescale on its deployment”.

The use of a special tube to collect the oil is the third technique used by BP to control the flow after the failure to reactivate the blow out preventer and erect domes over the damaged seabed installations.

Now BP is pinning its hopes on operation “top kill” involving the injection of heavy drilling fluids to stop the flow and sealing the well with cement to end the nightmare. Engineers hope to start work on Wednesday while work continues on the slower process of drilling two relief wells.

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