Officials Report on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response

WASHINGTON – Though oil still continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico after an oil rig off the Louisiana coast exploded April 20, officials in charge of clean-up operations say they’re doing the best they can to contain the spill.Video

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry, commander of the 8th Coast Guard District based in New Orleans, said on a conference call yesterday that all possible measures are being taken to stop the leak and contain the oil that has spilled so far.

Though the spill has not reached the shoreline, Landry said, she has coordinated with Gulf Coast states so they’re prepared should the slick head their way.

The Deepwater Horizon, leased to British Petroleum by Transocean, an oil mining contractor, caught fire after an explosion and sank last week. Eleven workers still are missing. The rig, with a platform bigger than a football field, was one of the most modern and was drilling in 5,000 feet of water about 40 miles from Venice, La.

Landry cautioned people not to be overly concerned with the area covered by the spill – about 3,200 square miles. Though the area is large, she said, the spill is not continuous or consistent across that area. Some parts merely have a rainbow sheen that indicates some oil emulsified in the water, she explained, while some areas have more-dense pockets of oil and gas. Some areas have little or no oil at all, she added.

Crude oil is emptying into the Gulf at a rate of about 1,000 barrels a day. Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said it should take two to four weeks to clean the spill.

Suttles said clean-up crews are “at pace” to control the leak and to gather oil that has spilled into the Gulf. More than 1,100 barrels — nearly 50,000 gallons — of oily water have been collected so far.

Efforts also are under way to bring oil at depth in the Gulf to the surface, so it, too, can be collected. BP is attempting to drill two “relief” wells that will divert oil flow to new pipes and storage equipment. Suttles added that work is ongoing to build a dome to cover the leak area and gather leaking oil into a new pipe. The dome technique has been used in shallower water, but never at this depth, he said.

Lars Herbst, director for the Gulf of Mexico Region of Minerals Management Service, said BP and Transocean both have clean safety and maintenance records. Finding the cause of the explosion and leak and then taking preventive steps during future deep-sea drilling operations, he said, are priorities in the investigation.

“We want to leave no stone unturned in ensuring nothing like this ever occurs again,” he added.

Charlie Henry, lead science coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said three sperm whales had been observed swimming near the spill, but that there was no indication they had been affected.

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