The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Spill Response Update

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted April 27, 2010

To use the word "Herculean" to describe the efforts underway to respond to the Gulf oil spill would be an understatement. Here are some of the actions being conducted both on the water's surface and one mile down at the seafloor.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported this morning that more than 29,280 feet of boom (barrier) has been assigned to contain the spill. An additional 80,900 feet is available and 36,100 feet has been ordered.

To date, the oil spill response team has recovered 1,152 barrels (43,384 gallons) of an oil-water mix. Vessels are in place and continuing recovery operations.

By this morning, 49 response vessels were actively working on the spill, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels. Also, 29,140 gallons of dispersant had been sprayed to break up the oil and an additional 119,734 gallons were available for use.

And five staging areas were in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines. They are located in Biloxi, Miss., Pensacola, Fla. Venice, La., Pascagoula, Miss. and Theodore, Ala.

Meanwhile, BP's Doug Suttles told reporters late yesterday that his company is working on three solutions concurrently in hopes of stopping the oil from leaking through the bent drill pipe on the seafloor:

  • Four ROVs are making numerous attempts to activate the blowout preventer valves to pinch the pipe closed.
  • BP is moving two drilling rigs into position to drill relief wells. As Suttles explained yesterday, the new wells would have to be drilled to a depth of 18,000 feet--the same distance as the initial well--to prevent the oil from escaping. This very complex operation could take weeks or months to accomplish.
  • BP is in the process of fabricating a dome that could be placed over the leaking well to collect the oil, send it to the surface and process it safely without further environmental impact. BP reports that this device could be deployed within the next two-to-four weeks.

Meanwhile, an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil continues to enter the water every day. Fortunately, the prevailing winds are keeping it offshore, and the unified response effort is working to corral it. Yesterday a pod of whales--possibly sperm whales--were spotted near the vicinity of the spill, but the Coast Guard reported that they did not appear to have been affected by the spill.

Updates on the spill response are available here.

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.