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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 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.

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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