All efforts to contain the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico have failed until this weekend (May 15/16) when BP successfully connected a mile-long tube into the broken pipe to start capturing some of the leaking oil, which is being siphoned to a ship at the surface, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
BP said it is capturing about 1,000 barrels per day, about one fifth of the 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 liters) that it estimates to be leaking daily, and hopes to increase that amount before trying to completely stop the leak later in the week, reports Reuters.
Some time over the next seven to 10 days, BP said it will try shooting drilling mud into the well, at a rate of 40 barrels a minute, to slow or stop the leak. And possibly use a “junk shot” method, using debris to plug the leak, which is currently being tested on land.
A plan to drill two wells at the spill site is already underway which will intersect the leaking well so mud and cement can be pumped down to permanently seal the well, which will take another two months to complete, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
During recent congressional hearings on the oil spill, BP, Transocean and Halliburton blamed each other for the disaster, while President Obama blamed the Minerals Management Service for having too close a relationship with the industry it regulates, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
Obama has called for a reform of the agency as well as a review of how the agency assesses the environmental impact of offshore drilling. However, Obama also added that oil exploration and drilling must still be part of the nation’s energy strategy.
In the meantime, the president has halted any new offshore leases until an Interior Department review determines whether more regulation is needed and has ordered inspections of existing rigs.
The president supports raising the limit on liability for oil companies for damages from an oil spill, which is currently capped at $75 million.
Obama administration officials have demanded “immediate public clarification” from BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward about the company’s intentions to pay cleanup costs in light of U.S. laws that limit the company’s liability at $75 million, reports Reuters.
Nearly 100 lawsuits have already been filed across the Gulf region, according to Reuters.
The Obama administration has stated BP is responsible for the cleanup costs. According to early estimates the spill could cost BP more than $4.6 billion in containment and clean-up expenses, as well as cost the Louisiana fishing industry about $2.5 billion and the tourism business along the Florida coast about $3 billion.
The administration has asked Congress for $118 million of emergency funding to cover costs related to the spill of which most will be recouped from BP.
Government officials have estimated that the well is leaking about 5,000 barrels a day of crude, or about 210,000 gallons. However, some scientists have estimated that the oil is leaking at a rate of between 25,000 to 80,000 barrels a day, reports The Lipman Times.
According to the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology’s latest sampling, they found plumes of oil coagulating up to 20 miles away from the Deepwater Horizon well head, reports The Guardian. The largest plume was 90 meters thick, three miles wide and 10 miles long.
Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia, who is part of a group of scientists gathering details about the spill told Bloomberg Businessweek that the use of chemicals — about 600,000 gallons so far both above and below the water’s surface — to disperse the oil below the surface may be contributing to the formation of oil-contaminated water deep undersea.
One concern is that the oil will reduce oxygen levels in the water, causing dead zones. In some parts of the Gulf, oxygen levels are already almost one third below normal, reports the Guardian.