Trying to burn the spill before it reaches shore

Houston Chronicle:

With a sprawling oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico expected to reach the Louisiana shore by as early as Friday, the Coast Guard and BP stepped up efforts to brace for the impact and halt the advancing slick today by lighting portions of it on fire. (See a map of the spill here.)

Teams scrambled to create a buffer zone from mouth of the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana to Mobile Bay in Alabama, with officials acknowledging in the frankest terms yet that the spill will likely reach shore.

"It’s premature to say it’s catastrophic. I will say it’s very serious," said Rear Adm. Mary Landry, commander of the Coast Guard’s District 8, in a press conference.

Meanwhile, BP officials said they remained unsuccessful in plugging a damaged well, a mile below the water’s surface, that is adding 1,000 additional barrels of oil to the spill each day.

The huge slick — estimated to be 600 miles in circumference — began when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank into the Gulf after an apparent blowout sent the facility up in flames on April 20. The rig, owned and operated by Swiss-based Transocean, had been drilling a well at BP’s Macondo prospect some 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana when the accident occurred. Eleven of 126 workers aboard are still missing and presumed dead.

BP CEO Tony Hayward said today he was "shocked" upon learning about the accident. "I was very angry, actually, about how could — the hell could this happen?," he told CNN in an interview. But he said it was too early to place blame.

The Coast Guard started a controlled burn of thick, clumpy pockets of crude within the slick late this afternoon and stopped at nightfall. Weather permitting, burns were to continue Thursday morning.

Under the process, work boats use 500-foot-long sections of containment boom to tow oil to remote ares for "small, controlled burns of several thousand gallons of oil lasting approximately one hour each," the Coast Guard said.


There are concerns that the wind may shift and blow the leaking oil toward the Louisiana coast. As the weather begins to heat up that is even more likely because of the summer weather pattern of winds building during the day and becoming stronger late in the day as the ground heats up and sucks the wind from the Gulf.

The subs they are using to attempt to get the shut off valve closed do not appear up to the job at this point. They need to try to get mini subs like those used to find the Titanic or some of those developed for the Navy SEALs special ops so they can get down there and get a closer look at the problem. As this thing grows, I would think that both groups would be willing to volunteer their efforts to help shut off the flow of oil.


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