Bid to plug oil leak continues amid uncertainty

May 29, 2010 by Karin Zeitvogel
A protester looks on after pouring mock oil over herself outside a BP gas station in New York on May 28. Engineers pushed forward with efforts to plug a disastrous Gulf of Mexico leak as locals and officials crossed their fingers that the untested "top kill" process would work.

Engineers pushed forward with efforts to plug a disastrous Gulf of Mexico leak Saturday as locals and officials crossed their fingers that the untested "top kill" process would work.

A day after President visited the region for the second time since the oil spill began in April, energy giant BP could offer little but assurances that the bid was ongoing, but that it was too early to judge its success.

"It's not a nice little black and white operation and they've got to take it as it comes," said Robert Wine, a spokesman for the British firm.

"None of it's a firm deadline because we're not, if you like, working to a clock, we're working to the intimations of the well."

Wine said crews were continuing to pump heaving drilling fluid called "mud" into the leak, and had also tried a "junk shot," where various type of debris are placed into the leak site to try to clog it up.

But he reiterated that BP would not know if the bid was working until at least Sunday afternoon.

In an attempt to bring new urgency to the effort, Obama toured some of the spill-affected areas in Louisiana on Friday and pledged "to continue to do whatever it takes to help Americans whose livelihoods have been upended by the spill."

Clad in hiking boots, Obama said he would triple the number of workers clearing up soiled beaches, after he saw the effects of the spill up close, picking up and examining tar balls that washed ashore in Louisiana.

"I'm here to tell you that you're not alone. You will not be abandoned. You will not be left behind," he promised to local residents. "We are on your side and we will see this through."

Since the oil spill began, after an April 20 explosion tore through the Deepwater Horizon rig killing 11 workers, an estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude a day have been gushing into the Gulf.

BP has sought to assure locals and the government it is doing all it can to stop the spill, but the depth of the leak -- some 5,000 feet below surface -- and the environmental damage already apparent has left many angry at the firm.

On Friday, Admiral Thad Allen, the former Coast Guard commandant charged with overseeing the spill response said intial signs suggested the "top kill" was working.

"They have been able to push the hydrocarbons down with the mud. The real challenge is to put enough into the well to keep the pressure where they can put a cement plug over the top," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

But the New York Times said Saturday that the bid was marked by "an apparent lack of progress," and suggested that official might soon move to their next available option -- a containment dome that could capture the leaking oil.

The disaster has already closed stretches of coastal fishing waters, endangering livelihoods which are also dependent on tourism, and threatening a catastrophe for Louisiana marshes, home to many rare species.

Government data released Thursday suggested between 18.6 million gallons and 29.5 million gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf -- far more than the roughly 11 million gallons of crude spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

Amid the environmental catastrophe, there were also growing fears for the health of cleanup workers exposed to the oil and chemical dispersants.

Four more crewmen aboard ships helping burn off surface oil were evacuated to hospital late Friday after falling ill, a day after the US Coast Guard announced that seven workers were evacuated for medical emergencies.

Obama said 910,000 meters (three million feet) of hard boom had already been deployed in an effort to stop the oil spill reaching wetlands and beaches. But he admitted "there's a limited amount" available.

"We're going to try to get more boom manufactured, but that may take some time," he said.

The commander of a federal research ship who has spent five days out at sea on the edges of the slick said a heavy smell of oil hung over the area.

"It's a strong smell out there," said commander Shepard Smith of the Thomas Jefferson, a 204-foot survey vessel. "It smells like freshly creosoted railroad ties."

BP said Friday the oil spill had cost the firm about 930 million dollars, while the company's market value has also dropped by billions.

Explore further: Obama visits oil spill zone, 'top kill' results awaited

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5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2010
Nothing like the summer breeze wafting smells of freshly creosoted railroad ties through your vacation home window.
5 / 5 (2) May 29, 2010
How difficult is it to hit the main well with relief wells at that depth? I've done a little research- can't find any discussion on how it's done or what the chances are of connection. They're trying to hit it at 18000 ft, right above the oil deposit.
5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2010
men with guns are stopping journalists from examining and reporting on spill site.
not rated yet May 30, 2010
otto1923, you bring up a good point, made now even more relevant given the failure of the topkill attempt. Also, given BPs track record with this oil leak, how much trust can we put in estimates of early August for the relief wells to stop this leak? Is this when they expect to connect with the oil reservoir? How long will it take to relieve the pressure on the leaking well once the relief well(s) tap into the reservoir? Days, weeks, months?
not rated yet May 30, 2010
-And if the leak cant be fixed and is left to drain by itself- 7 years. Of course they would try to extract as much from the reservoir as they could by drilling independent wells... or they could just use a freaking NUKE and prove to the world that we still have the Knoebels to use them. It would certainly make the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference interesting. That, and russias nuclear space ship which they plan to build.
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2010
Why isn't everyone involved with this project on trial for serious jail time? Why aren't BP executives on site cleaning up the oil with the other relief crews?

How is 3 months @ 19,000 barrels/24 hours remotely acceptable.
4.9 / 5 (45) May 31, 2010
Why would anyone go to jail? What crime occurred? If we want to live in a free modern society, we are complicit in these spill, until alternatives on the same scale can compete. As long as oil is extracted from the earth, accidents like this will occur, and we will wonder why the oil companies didn't already have a "proven" plan to prevent it. Why do 40,000 people die every year in auto accidents, is that acceptable (?), why aren't ford executives tending funerals themselves (?)... can't we stop this MUCH worse problem from occurring, ....[more bed wetting drivel], etc

The equivalent naive reactionary leftist solution would be to ban cars outright, or mandate restriction plates to prevent cars from going over 20mph.

1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2010
The crimes that occurred were multi-fold. Contamination of the environment, lack of contingency plan, lack of action despite having foreknowledge of the design issues leading directly to the accident, directly causing the sickness of relief crews by not mandating gas masks, and the eventually premature deaths and/or loss of livelihood for millions of Americans.

If you or I were responsible for this through the actions of our own enterprise, we would absolutely be jailed. Ordinary citizens go away for causing destruction on far smaller scales. If it's a question of proportions, after taking into account how much sickness, death, and loss of livelihood will be directly or indirectly caused by this spill, the executives to be consistent with the laws applied to the common man, the decision makers need to be fined for the value of the company and their personal assets, and then sentenced to death row or multiple life sentence.
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2010
Lack of grammar check, last sentence should read "... caused by this spill, to be consistent with the law applied to the common man the decision makers need to be fined for the value of the company and their personal assets, and then be sentenced to death row or multiple life sentences."

This of course won't happen, but their actions don't deserve less.

And yes, many people die from natural and unnatural causes. If you see that as a justification for anarchy by lack of personal accountability, feel free to reneg on the social contract you implicitly signed and go live in the woods doing whatever you like. As long as these executives and project leaders haven't ascended to the heavens they must be put to justice by this nation's laws.
4.9 / 5 (45) May 31, 2010
Again, what laws did they break? They didn't break any specific law. It was a industrial accident. Anarchy is when emotional tree-huggers want to put to death executives of large companies for not having absolute control of all time and space.

The closest thing I can think of to help you, would be criminal negligence, but that does not apply here although one would think they would have the tech to resoundingly cap a damaged well ahead of time. BP is paying for the clean up,.. that's called taking responsibility.
4.9 / 5 (45) May 31, 2010
.....need to be fined for the value of the company and their personal assets, and then be sentenced to death row or multiple life sentences.

This is a stupid and outrages statement, typical of irrational reactionary bed-wetting tree-huggers. There is no law stating anything remotely close to such lunacy. Again, that modern society uses oil induces the potential for such accidents. It is simply a necessary risk, like allowing cars on the road even though 40,000 die every year in them and they emit CO2, and are the reason for oil drilling in the first place.

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