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Robots Work to Stop Leak of Oil in Gulf – April 27th, 2010

29.0N 88.7W

April 27th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day

Oil Leak (Multi-spectral/Radar composite), Gulf of Mexico - April 26th, 2010

Oil Leak (Multi-spectral/Radar composite), Gulf of Mexico - April 26th, 2010

Oil Leak Detail (Radar Image)

Oil Leak Detail (Radar Image)

Oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday as the authorities waited to see if the quickest possible method of stopping the leaks would bring an end to what was threatening to become an environmental disaster.

Remote-controlled robots operating 5,000 feet under the ocean’s surface were more than a full day into efforts to seal off the oil well, which has been belching crude through leaks in a pipeline at the rate of 42,000 gallons a day. The leaks were found on Saturday, days after an oil rig to which the pipeline was attached exploded, caught on fire and sank in the gulf about 50 miles from the Louisiana coast.

The robots were trying to activate a device known as a blowout preventer, a 450-ton valve at the wellhead that is designed to shut off a well in the event of a sudden pressure release.

Officials had initially said that the operation, which began Sunday morning, would take 24 to 36 hours. But on Monday a Coast Guard spokesman said officials would keep trying as long as the efforts were feasible because “it’s the best option.” The other options – collecting the oil in a dome and routing it to the surface or drilling one or more relief wells – would take weeks or even several months to execute.

Wind has kept the spill from moving toward the coast. Officials said the spill had a 600-mile circumference Monday, but most of that was a thin sheen of oil-water mix. Only 3 percent of the area was crude oil with a “pudding-like” consistency, they said.

The wind was expected to change direction by Thursday, however, and the spill’s distance from the coast has not prevented a threat to marine life.

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