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Oil Spill Continues to Spread in Gulf Mexico

29.3N 89.2W

May 31st, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters

Gulf of Mexico, USA - May 28th, 2010

Gulf of Mexico, USA - May 28th, 2010

Anger and despair intensified across the Gulf Coast on Sunday as BP — after the failure of the “top kill” — planned to attempt yet another short-term fix to contain the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and fouling Louisiana wetlands, one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.

Sunday afternoon, the White House press office announced that the latest plan — to cut off the broken riser pipe at the top of the well and to cap the new opening — could temporarily increase the oil flow by 20 percent. The belief that the increase will be temporary hinges on BP successfully attaching the cap to the top of the well’s failed blowout preventer.

The White House’s statement paints a picture that is slightly worse than what BP Managing Director Robert Dudley described on the morning talk shows. Dudley said that his company has been very careful not to do anything that would make the situation worse.

“There may be a small increase,” Dudley told CNN. “But we should not expect to see a large increase, if any, by cutting this off and making a clean surface for us to be able to put a containment vessel over it.”

To many, news of another attempted solution only reinforced the sentiment that BP has no plan to deal quickly with the out-of-control well, while the long-term solution of drilling relief wells continues.

So far, the company unsuccessfully has tried to seal the broken blowout preventer, put a containment box over a different leak and built a smaller containment device called a top hat, but decided not to use it. Last week BP tried sealing the well with drilling mud, a move known as a top kill; sealing it with a shot of junk rubber, dubbed a junk shot; and combining the two by sealing it with drilling mud and pieces of junk rubber.

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.

Oil Coats Louisiana’s Shorelines and Reaches into Marshes, USA – May 25th, 2010

25.6N 92.4W

May 25th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day

Gulf of Mexico, USA - May 21st, 2010

Gulf of Mexico, USA - May 21st, 2010

Crews try to clean an island covered in oil on the south part of East Bay May 23rd, 2010. (© REUTERS/Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace)

Crews try to clean an island covered in oil

Over one month after the initial explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, crude oil continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico, and oil slicks have slowly reached as far as 12 miles into Louisiana’s marshes. According to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, more than 65 miles of Louisiana’s shoreline has now been oiled.

BP said it will be at least Wednesday before they will try using heavy mud and cement to plug the leak, a maneuver called a “top kill” that represents their best hope of stopping the oil after several failed attempts.

Based on low estimates, at least 6 million gallons of crude have spewed into the Gulf so far – though some scientists have said they believe the spill already surpasses the 11 million-gallon 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska as the worst in U.S. history.

Oil Spreading Throughout the Gulf of Mexico, USA – May 17th, 2010 – UPDATE

29.0N 88.7W

May 17th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day

Spread of Oil in Gulf of Mexico from April 26th to May 18th, 2010

Spread of Oil in Gulf of Mexico from April 26th to May 18th, 2010

Oil Spill seen from ISS - May 4th, 2010 - © NASA

Oil Spill seen from ISS - May 4th, 2010 - © NASA

The series of ASAR images in this animation show the spread of oil, originating from a deepwater oil well 5,000 feet (1,500 m) below the ocean surface, in the Gulf of Mexico over the last three weeks. The spill is threatening to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez leak off Alaska as the United States’ worst environmental disaster.

The oil spill began with an explosion and fire on April 20th and has been releasing between 5,000 to 100,000 barrels (210,000–4,200,000 US gallons; 790,000–16,000,000 litres) of crude oil per day, although the exact rate is part of an ongoing debate.

The resulting oil slick covers a surface area of at least 2,500 square miles (6,500 km2) according to estimates reported on May 3, 2010, with the exact size and location of the slick fluctuating from day to day depending on weather conditions, as one can observe from the animated imagery.

In addition, on May 15 researchers announced the discovery of immense underwater plumes of oil not visible from the surface, one of which is 10 miles (16km) long and a mile wide. Researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology said they had detected the slicks lurking just beneath the surface of the sea and at depths of 4,000ft (1,200m).

The US has said the success of a move by oil giant BP to curb a leak in the Gulf of Mexico is “not clear” and the technique provides “no solution”, in response to BP’s move to siphon oil from the leaking well head to a tanker on the surface.

This was the third attempt it had made to insert a long narrow tube into the leaking pipe, using underwater robots. It is thought that BP’s 6in-wide (15cm) tube and stopper could capture more than three-quarters of the leak, although a smaller spill nearby also has to be contained.

Oil Continues to Gush in Gulf of Mexico, Endangering Marine Life

29.0N 88.5W

May 11th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters

Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico - May 7th, 2010

Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico - May 7th, 2010

Cloud Streets Near Spill - May 8th, 2010

Cloud Streets Near Spill - May 8th, 2010

Oil Spill Highlighted by Sun Glint - May 8th, 2010

Oil Spill Highlighted by Sun Glint - May 8th, 2010

Radar Image of the Oil Spill - May 9th, 2010

Radar Image of the Oil Spill - May 9th, 2010

May 11th is the 22nd day of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with an explosion and fire on April 20 on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment of the environmental disaster. The blast killed 11 workers.

Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well at about 210,000 gallons per day. At least 4 million gallons of oil have spilled since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. At that pace, the spill will surpass the 11 million gallons spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster by Father’s Day.

The spill can be seen in the bottom right corner of the main image thumbnail, taken on May 7th, although it is best viewed by opening the full version due to the slight difference in color between the black oil and the navy blue gulf waters making it difficult to discern. Easier to see is the city of New Orleans to the northwest. However, the spill is easily spotted in the May 8th image details due to sun glint, causing it to appear much lighter than the surrounding waters. These images also show several parallel lines of clouds, an atmospheric phenomenon known as cloud streets, in the skies near the spill.

Top hats and junk shots are on the list of possible next steps to contain the gusher as BP, casting about after a 100-ton containment box failed, settles in for a long fight to stop its uncontrolled oil gusher a mile under the Gulf of Mexico. Engineers at BP PLC were wrestling with a shopping list of ways to plug the well or siphon off the spewing crude, including a smaller containment box, dubbed a top hat, and injecting debris into the well as a stopper, called a junk shot.

Helicopters dropped large sandbags in Louisiana to try to protect the Lafourche Parish marshes from the massive oil slick. The spill began creeping farther west of the Mississippi River last week. About 300, one-ton sandbags were expected to be used as a makeshift boom to protect the coast.

Battered by hurricanes, weakened by erosion and flood-control projects, the sprawling wetlands that nurture Gulf of Mexico marine life and buffer coastal sites from storm surges now face another stern test as a monster oil slick creeps ever closer. About 40 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands are clumped along southern Louisiana, directly in the path of oil that was still gushing Monday from a ruptured underwater well. Roughly 4 million gallons have escaped in the three weeks since the oil rig explosion, and some is bearing down on the marshes as workers rush to lay protective boom.

BP  said Monday the spill has cost it $350 million so far for immediate response, containment efforts, commitments to the Gulf Coast states, as well as settlements and federal costs. The company did not speculate on the final bill, which most analysts expect to run into tens of billions of dollars.

Early finger-pointing began among companies involved in the oil rig explosion on the eve of the first congressional hearings into the accident. A top American executive for BP, Lamar McKay, said a critical safety device known as a blowout-preventer failed catastrophically. Separately, the owner of the rig off Louisiana’s coast said that BP managed it and was responsible for all work conducted at the site. A third company defended work that it performed on the deepwater oil well as “accepted industry practice” prior to last month’s explosion.

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