Stopping The Flow
Over the weekend, BP inserted a tube into the well that is gathering about 1,000 barrels per day. From the Washington Post:
“As of now there are still reasonably substantial amounts of oil coming out” of the damaged pipeline into the ocean, said Andrew Gowers, an executive vice president at BP. “That is in part a factor of the pressure we are bringing to bear in producing the oil.” He added that the amount of oil brought up the new line would “be steadily increased.” He cautioned “this is a gradual, carefully calibrated process aimed at steadily reducing the leak rather than a magic bullet.”
In another room, about a hundred BP employees work on a “top kill”—the main option being explored to shut off the ruptured well. That starts off with a “junk shot,” in which material such as rubber tires and golf balls is pumped into the shut-off valve, or blowout preventer, that sits atop the well.
The procedure was simulated on land to model potential obstacles. For instance, the elaborate system of manifolds and pipes had to be designed to avoid any 90-degree corners, so the bulky material used in the junk shot didn’t get stuck.
With that leak sealed, the plan is to inject heavyweight “kill mud” into the lower part of the blowout preventer, followed by cement that will effectively entomb the well.
Extent of the Oil
The New York Times reported that the team aboard the R/V Pelican found large subsurface oil plumes. However, NOAA called media reports “misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate.” This NPR interview with Dr. Vernon Asper gives a nice overview.
More from Reuters on the dangers of oil spills in a hurricane.
The top Interior Department official who oversees offshore oil and gas drilling for the Minerals Management Service will resign May 31.
Slate Magazine is soliciting your suggestions for how to stop the oil spill. Got something better than golf balls and pet hair? Submit it here.