A Volcano Of Oil: 200,000 Gallons A Day Polluting Gulf Of Mexico
May 4, 2010: Daily Mail Reporter / The Daily Mail – May 4, 2010
Experts fear it could take three months to stop oil gushing into the ocean from the leaks off America’s Gulf Coast. The warning came as the looming environmental disaster claimed its first wildlife victims. More than 20 sea turtles have washed up dead on Mississippi’s beaches. So far, winds have kept the growing oil slick away from land.
But even if it stays mostly offshore, the consequences could be dire for dolphins, turtles and other deepwater marine life, as well as plankton and other tiny creatures that are a staple of larger animals’ diets.
Governor of Florida Charlie Crist said: ‘I’m very, very concerned about this filth in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not a spill, it’s a flow. I envision a sort of an underground volcano of oil and it keeps spewing over 200,000 gallons every single day, if not more.’
His comments came as a plan was hatched to freeze the oil in an effort to stop its flow. That would involve injecting liquid nitrogen into pipes beneath the sea bed, a task BP spokesman Charlie Holt said was incredibly difficult. ‘It’s probably easier to fly into space than do some of this,’ he said.
Dr Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies said it was too soon to say whether oil contamination had killed the turtles. None of the creatures was covered by oil, but Dr Solangi said they could have ingested oily fish or breathed in the toxic slick on the water’s surface. He said that it was highly unusual to have them turning up across such a wide stretch of coast, which covers nearly 30 miles.
Admiral Thad Allen, head of the U.S. Coast Guard, said yesterday that it will take about 90 days ‘if we’re lucky’ to cap the oil leaks. Although winds held the spreading slick offshore over the weekend, experts fear the Gulf Stream will carry the oil into the Atlantic Ocean and towards Florida’s tourist beaches.
BP chief executive Tony Hayward, who is in Louisiana to oversee the mammoth operation, said crews are using underwater robots to try to fix a broken valve at the top of the sunken well. ‘It’s a bit like doing open heart surgery 5,000ft below the surface,’ he said. Emergency workers are hoping to fit a dome – described as being ‘like a hood on your oven’ – on top of the leak to channel the oil through a massive siphon to a barge waiting at the surface over the next few days.
BP has now also started drilling a second, parallel relief well to draw oil away from the leaks. Mr. Hayward said the ‘unprecedented’ use of a chemical dispersant to treat the oil has helped prevent some from reaching the surface. ‘So far we have been successful in not letting this get to the shore and we are absolutely focused on that,’ he said.
At the rate of 200,000 gallons a day, the leak will eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill – which dumped 11 million gallons off the Alaska coast – as the worst U.S. oil disaster in history in just a matter of weeks. Earlier this week President Obama travelled to the region, mindful of the criticism his predecessor George Bush received due to the perceived slow response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He stumbled in dealing with that disaster and left the impression of a president distant from immense suffering. His presidency never recovered.
As the president reiterated his belief that BP was responsible for the oil slick, the firm’s chairman went on U.S. television to defend the company’s safety record. Lamar McKay told ABC’s This Week that he could not say when the mile deep well might be plugged. But he said a 74-ton metal and concrete box could be placed over the well in six to eight days. He added that BP officials were working to reactivate a “blow-out preventer” meant to seal off the geyser.
In a 2009 exploration plan and environmental impact analysis for the Deepwater Horizon well, BP said an accident leading to a giant crude oil spill – and serious damage to beaches, fish and mammals – was unlikely, or virtually impossible. The document, filed with the U.S. government’s Minerals Management Service, said it was “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities”.
BP spokesman Steve Rinehart went further, saying that the failure of a blow-out preventer “seemed inconceivable”. He added: “I don’t think anybody foresaw the circumstance that we are faced with now. The blow-out preventer was the main line of defence against this type of incident, and it failed.”
Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commander, said the volume of spewing oil could climb to 100,000 barrels a day in the event of a total wellhead failure, a much greater breach than is believed to exist now. He spoke to the obvious urgency of stopping the flow of crude. ‘The difference between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels a day (original estimates), when you look at the potential discharge of 100,000, leads me to believe that there are a lot of inaccuracies associated with trying to estimate flow from a broken pipe at 5,000ft,’ he said. ‘That’s the reason it’s so very, very important we focus on stopping this leak right away.’
BP tried to salvage its battered reputation in the U.S. last night saying it would meet the cost of the environmental disaster – while insisting ‘it was not our accident’. Chief executive Tony Hayward admitted: ‘The worst-case scenario is that we would need to contain this for two to three months whilst a relief well is drilled’. He added that BP is pulling out all the stops to try to keep the 170-mile long oil slick from coming ashore in the next few days. But he was at pains to stress the cause of the accident was a blast at the Deepwater Horizon rig last month, killing 11 people, and operated by a Swiss-based company, Transocean. ‘This is not our accident but it is our responsibility to deal with it,’ said Mr Hayward. The clean-up is already costing Britain’s second-largest company £4million a day.
The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: Contrary to BP chief executive Tony Hayward, the oil has already reached the coastline as seen in the image above. Below are a series of images of this catastrophic disaster… – SJH
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