Sunken Oil Rig Now Leaking Crude; Robots Head to the Rescue

By Andrew Moseman | April 26, 2010 2:16 pm

100422-G-8093-004-Deepwater HorizonWhen we last reported on the Deepwater Horizon, the oil rig had sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, but at least the Coast Guard saw no new oil leakage happening. Over the weekend, though, things went from bad to worse as response teams began to see crude oil leaking into the Gulf. Now, the Coast Guard says, 42,000 gallons per day are leaking into the sea, and it may be 45 to 90 days before the leak can be stopped.

Deepwater Horizon, under lease by BP, had been drilling into an oil reserve 5,000 feet below the surface of the water. When the burning rig sank, its 5,000-foot pipeline crumbled like a giant broken straw. The biggest leak has been found at the first crook. The well valve is holding for now but there’s at least one more leak [ABC News]. The Coast Guard couldn’t see the oil so deep under sea right away, which is why the initial assessment wasn’t this bad.

Cleanup teams have now deployed undersea robots to try to stem the oil spill. The best hope is that the remote-operated submarines—at least four are deployed at the scene–would be able to activate a huge device on the sea floor called a “blow-out protector,” a series of valves meant to control pressure in the well. “This is a highly complex operation,” said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP’s exploration and production division. “And it may not be successful” [National Geographic]. If that doesn’t work, the next option would be to drill a relief well to ease the pressure. BP has brought in ships for such an operation, but it would require months to complete.

As we noted on Friday, the spill occurred dangerously close to the United States’ Gulf Coast—within 50 miles. The Coast Guard said the oil spill was expected to stay 30 miles off the coast for the next several days [CBS News]. But as of yesterday, the surface spill had already spread to cover 600 square miles. Whether it gets closer to U.S. shores depends on how the weather changes. Louisiana is already taking precautions, deploying containment booms around particularly sensitive areas along its coast. The oil spill is reportedly edging closer to the Chandeleur Islands, which are part of a wildlife refuge for pelicans and other seabirds; the fish and shrimp that live in Louisiana’s rich coastal ecosystems could also be threatened.

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Image: United States Coast Guard

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • S Nold

    Will there be further debate on increasing offshore drilling? It’s similar to the rattlesnake warning; you may hear the rattles of the warning and if you proceed, you get the bite and the venom!

  • Joshua

    The environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sinking into the Gulf of Mexico will be felt for years to come. The financial impact is already being felt.

    As it sunk, the rig began spilling tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the water per day. Nearly a half-million gallons have already spilled and the toll could be worse than that of the Valdez accident.

    Fears are that oil from the well on the sea floor will begin making its way to the surface. Just 41 miles from the coast, the rig is situated so that this incident has brought a lot of business to a halt on the seas, and for those who depend on the Gulf along the shores. As the slick spreads across the Gulf, more and more business is impacted each day. This delay is likely to total in the millions of dollars until the site is cleaned.

    And clearly, the impact of sea life in the Gulf is immediate and could be felt for years. Those waters serve as home to numerous fish species and shellfish like shrimp, mussels and oysters we find at markets. Not only is it next to impossible to farm these animals under such conditions, the water quality is sure to be jeopardized by the massive oil spill.

    Please read this site for more information on the environmental and economic damages this explosion, fire and spill have caused:

  • http://www.carbon2 carbon


    i would think to use liquid nitrogen to make a cap of ice… but if that made the leak expand and erode the seabed that would not be good. and dispensing liquid nitrogen at depth pressure is not my cup of tea… the liquid nitrogen would make the water expand and hopefully not damage the existing pipe…

    the only other thing i would try since i heard that there is another leak 5000 meters into the pipeline in the seabed, is to fit a segment of pipe inside the existing pipe and lowering that secondary pipe past the 5000 meter leak in the original pipe and put a cap on the inserted pipe… in hopes that the original pipe does not have a drill bit blocking the original tube, or a bend or dent in the original pipe could prevent the new pipe from being lowerd, even a tear or a rough edge at the leak point or fracture point would prevent the secondary pipe from being lowered any farther into the original well pipe.

    hopefully the rig is not completely covering the original pipe…
    without obstrucions the new pipe could be lowered down inside the existing pipe and clamped on and clamped closed

    seemingly better than liquid nitrogen ice capping…

    i dont know who to contact with this idea so plz forward this message if it seems like a good idea… the leak just needs to be stopped.

  • don

    Just a thought….could the Navy use depth charges to collapse the opening….organic material
    applied to the dense portion of the spill for easier cleanup..(Leaves/grass/volcanic ash?) etc..
    just a thought.

  • Dr. Cody

    I have my PHD, and i think that this is all fake, your all fools. I am a very well known DOCTOR, in my hometown. I have many leather bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany, and Merlin Olson comes over from time to time.

  • steve

    your an idiot Dr. CODY

  • Dr. Cody

    Well Steve, Do you have your PHD? yeah, yeah.. thats what I thought, So shut up . I know what I’m talking about! So STEVE what do you have better than a PHD?

  • Eliasis Yahwehei

    Cleveland 07/08/10

    Gentlemen,..Gentlemen,.?!? Cool it,.! Some of the Best Inventions/Inno-vations were and are the work of people that had,..or do not have PHd,
    BS, BA,..probably not a Degree at all,..Heck,.!? I’m only working on
    a Degree of Whatever,..BS – BA,..?

    I am John W. Yates Jr. in these Disiplines(sp) – Meanwhile, I am Eliasis
    Yahwehei,..And, if you care to consult with your state’s Congressional
    people,..on my contribution,..At least ten (10) of the Natiobn’s best
    thoughts/contributions be mine,..And,..Oh,.Man,..?!? I am good at that I
    do,.Well., for close up,..just go to: or, Eliasis Yah-
    wehei,..for sample thoughts,.That do not come from a sick mind,..

    Oh,..and, contribution to the B.P. mess just might take care of the
    problems they’ve been having,.

    Eliasis Yahwehei ( The Main Man )

  • Eliasis Yahwehei

    I hope you will all visit with you Congressional people,..Talk at least about, contributions at your earliest,..I would appreciate your efforts,..

    EYW f / UTO


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