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Gulf Oil Spill Cleanup: An Apollo 13 Mission

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 6, 2010

Trying to stop the oil leaks in the Gulf is similar to the Apollo 13 mission, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen told the Houston Chronicle yesterday. Allen said the well site, which is 5,000 feet beneath the water's surface, makes the response effort exceedingly complex and too deep for human access except with ROVs.

He added that the amount of oil that could leak is indeterminate. "That's what's maddening about it and makes it so much different from anything we've dealt with before," Allen said.

Allen also said that BP has surpassed the spill response plan that it filed with the Minerals Management Service (MMS) before drilling began. In a news release, BP this morning reported:

  • The containment chamber, measuring 40'X24'X14' and weighing nearly 100 tons, will be lowered to the sea floor today. If it is successful, it could collect the oil coming from at least one of the two remaining leaks and send it to the surface where it could be collected in a specially designed barge.
  • Drilling the relief well began on May 2, and according to one report, it has reached a depth of about 6,000 feet below the seabed. (Times-Picayune) The drilling is occurring at an angle and has at least 10,000 feet to go before it can reach the leaking well and plug it.
  • Another 80,000 feet of boom was deployed yesterday.
  • More than 11,000 volunteers have come forward to help in the clean up.

Speaking of volunteers, The New York Times reports that at least 400,000 lbs. of human and pet hair has been donated from salons and groomers in the United States for use in homemade booms. The Matter of Trust charity of San Francisco says hair is effective in soaking up oil. The hair is being sent to 15 collection sites and will be stuffed into pantyhose donated by hosiery companies.

Amanda Richardson-Bacon of Mobile, Ala., is helping to organize hose-stuffing events called "Boom-B-Qs." Matter of Trust says it hasn't coordinated its efforts with the official response team, so volunteers are planning to deploy the booms themselves.

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Update on May 6, 2010: Take a look at the photo below showing the first of two containment domes (cofferdams) leaving the Martin Terminal in Port Fouchon, La. The dome is headed to sea for a projected 12 hour trip to the Deepwater Horizon site. (Image Source: Times Picayune)

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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.