Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 21, 2010
Not even the Spanish Armada could compete with the number of boats and ships that are responding to the Gulf oil spill today. According to the latest Joint Unified Command report, 1,100 vessels and 24,000 people (excluding volunteers) are now grappling with the oil spill from the Macondo well.
As scientists are learning more about the spill and its environmental impact, decisions are being made to alter the response approach.Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered BP to stop using the dispersant that has been sprayed into and on top of the water. EPA wants BP to find a dispersant that has less impact on the environment. BP is hoping to obtain large quantities of another government-approved dispersant by Sunday.
BP also has acknowledged that the amount of oil flowing from the well is larger than first thought. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had estimated that 5,000 barrels of oil a day was leaking into the Gulf. However, BP is now collecting that much oil through a tube attached to a leaking pipe, and oil and natural gas still are bubbling into the water from two points in the bent and broken riser.
This weekend or early next week engineers will attempt a "top kill," which involves pumping heavy fluids into the well to prevent the pressurized oil and natural gas from surging upward. If it's successful, this process could kill the well.
In the meantime, BP has leased two rigs, each of which are drilling relief wells which could shut in the oil and natural gas permanently. The Macondo well is located in about 5,000 feet of water and is about 13,000 feet below the seafloor. Reaching that depth could take another two months.
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