The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Oil Spill Response in the Gulf

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted April 26, 2010

A veritable army of people, technology and equipment has been deployed by BP to manage the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to reports, there are 700 people, 32 response vessels, five aircraft, and 100,000 gallons of dispersant, which is one-third of the world's dispersant supply, on the scene now along with BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward.

"We are attacking this spill on two fronts--at the wellhead and on the surface offshore," Hayward said. "The team on the ground and those at sea have the Group's full resources behind them."

The well is leaking about 1,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Early yesterday, choppy surface conditions, with some waves reaching 8 to 10-feet high, were preventing skimmers from removing the oil-water mixture from the Gulf's surface, but the skimmers were expected to be deployed under calmer weather conditions last night. The Coast Guard reported Sunday that some 48,000 gallons of mixture had been collected so far and that dispersants were working. (The New York Times)

It also was reported yesterday that the spill is likely to remain off the coast for three days. As Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry explained, "Our overarching goal is to secure this well while the oil is as far offshore as possible." (The Wall Street Journal)

To that end, remote-controlled robots working deep below the surface have examined the entire length of the riser (a specialized 21"-diameter steel pipe) from the wellhead to the end that had been connected to the Deepwater Horizon. They have confirmed that oil is flowing from the end of the riser.

At a news conference yesterday, the Coast Guard reported that the riser is bent in a 90-degree angle about five feet above the wellhead and is reducing the flow of oil like a kink in a garden hose. The massive 450-ton blowout preventer positioned directly on the wellhead is not fully activated, and therefore, is allowing some oil to escape.

deepwater horizon.jpg

BP and Transocean are hoping to use ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to fully engage the blowout preventer to staunch the oil flow. BP's Doug Suttles calls the task "highly complex." (Reuters)

If it's not successful, BP is preparing to drill relief wells to permanently secure the well. The drilling rig Development Driller III is moving into position. BP also is considering placing a dome over the wellhead to collect the oil below the water's surface. This technique has worked on wells in shallower water.

While the energy companies and government agencies work feverishly to address the oil spill, the families of the 11 crew members are mourning their loss. The Coast Guard called off the search on Friday night, saying the workers are presumed dead.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and the entire oil and natural gas community today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.