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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.

Oil Continues to Spread in Gulf of Mexico

28.8N 88.5W

May 3rd, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters

Oil Spill (Multispectral/Radar Composite), Gulf of Mexico - May 2nd, 2010

Oil Spill (Multispectral/Radar Composite), Gulf of Mexico - May 2nd, 2010

Oil Spill Detail (Mutispectral/Radar Composite)

Oil Spill Detail (Mutispectral/Radar Composite)

Oil Spill Detail (Radar Image)

Oil Spill Detail (Radar Image)

As President Obama traveled to Louisiana on Sunday for a first-hand briefing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, federal officials in Washington said they were putting their hopes on drilling a parallel relief well to plug the unabated gusher. Drilling such a well could take three months, the NY Times reports.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Sunday restricted fishing for at least 10 days in waters most affected by the oil spill, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.

The slick, emanating from a pipe 50 miles offshore, was creeping into Louisiana’s fragile coastal wetlands as strong winds and rough waters hampered cleanup efforts. Oil could hit the shores of Alabama and Mississippi on Monday. Here, the slick can be seen spreading towards the coasts from the image center.

The environmental disaster was set off by an explosion on April 20 at the Deepwater Horizon rig in which 11 workers were killed. Two days later, the rig sank, leading to the first visible signs of a spill.

The objective of drilling a relief well parallel to the original rig would be to pour cement into the damaged well and plug it. Efforts to turn off the ruptured well by using remotely operated underwater vehicles working a mile below the surface have failed so far.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that offshoots from the spill had made their way into South Pass, an important channel through the salt marshes of Southeastern Louisiana that is a breeding ground for crabs oysters, shrimp and redfish sold by a number of small seafood businesses dependent on healthy marshland for their livelihood.

There was concern that if the spill is not plugged, oil could seep into the Gulf Stream, the current that warms seawater and influences the climate in places as remote as Newfoundland and Europe. If that happens, slicks of oil could travel around the thumb-like tip of Florida and make it way to the eastern beaches.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Reaches Louisiana Coast‎ – April 30th, 2010

29.0N 88.9W

April 30th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day

Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico - April 29th, 2010

Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico - April 29th, 2010

Oil Spill Detail (Radar Image)

Oil Spill Detail (Radar Image)

The massive oil spill pouring from a ruptured oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has reached the coast of Louisiana, threatening an environmental catastrophe in the region.

The first fingers of oily sheen reached the mouth of the Mississippi River on Thursday evening local time, 24 hours ahead of previous estimates by the US Coast Guard.

Oil is escaping from the well at a rate of about 5,000 barrels a day, five times faster than previously estimated. At that rate, the volume of the leak will exceed Alaska’s 1989 Exxon Valdez accident by the third week of June, making it the worst U.S. oil spill.

As the sun began to set over the fragile wetlands surrounding the Mississippi, the oil was slipping into the South Pass of the river and already lapping at the shoreline in long black lines.

Although US government agencies and BP set up 100,000 feet of booms to protect coastal areas from the slick, rough seas sent five foot waves of oily water over the top of the booms into the river.

The oil slick is on its way to becoming America’s worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife in one of the world’s richest marine environments.

Even before the spill neared the coast, wildlife experts said a toxic mix of chemicals was poisoning the waters of endangered marine life and fisheries, including one of only two breeding grounds world-wide for Atlantic blue-fin tuna.

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.

Oil Leak threatens Gulf of Mexico – April 26th, 2010

29.3N 88.3W

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

Gulf of Mexico - April 25th, 2010

Oil Leak (false colors), Gulf of Mexico - April 25th, 2010

Original Full Resolution Satellite Image

Original Satellite Image

Aerial photo of the area

Aerial photo of the area

An oil slick caused by the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is developing into an environmental disaster.

It could take hours or it could take months to stop a 42,000 gallon a day oil leak polluting the Gulf of Mexico at the site of a wrecked drilling platform. Whether the environmental threat grows many times bigger depends on whether the oil company can turn the well completely off.

Crews are using robot submarines to activate valves at the well head in hopes of cutting off the leak, which threatens the Gulf Coast’s fragile ecosystem of shrimp, fish, birds and coral. If the effort fails, they’ll have to start drilling again.

The submarine work will take 24 to 36 hours, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP Exploration and Production, said Sunday afternoon.

Oil continued to leak nearly a mile underwater Sunday at the site where the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on Tuesday. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead.

For the second consecutive day, high waves prevented boats and equipment from going out to clean the spill. Airplanes sprayed chemicals to break up the oil.

The spill initially appeared to be easily manageable after the oil rig sank Thursday about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, but it has turned into a more serious environmental problem. Officials on Saturday discovered the leak, which is spewing as much as 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) of oil each day.

The oil spill has been growing – officials said the oily sheen on the surface of the gulf covered about 600 square miles Sunday. The environmental damage would be especially serious if it reaches land.

The spill was still about 70 miles from the mainland, but only about 30 miles from an important chain of barrier islands known as the Chandeleurs.

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