The US Coast Guard is currently considering whether or not to begin burning off the oil which is currently collecting in the Gulf of Mexico following the breakdown of the BP controlled Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon”.
Coast Guard Rear Adm Mary Landry, who is responsible for the American cleanup operation, told reporters today that the robotic submarines – widely reported by many news wires to be providing an “unprecedented” fix to the 42,000 gallons of oil that are currently pouring into the ocean every day – “could take months” to seal off the flow of oil.
BP, one of the firms leasing and in charge of the Deepwater Horizon when it sank, have been unsuccessful in their attempts to shut off an underwater emergency stop valve at the bottom of the riser, which sits 5,000 feet below the surface.
As a result, they must try to seal off at least two leaks and the open end of the drill pipe using “domes” which collect the oil and send it to ships waiting at the surface. Such a step has been successful in the past, but never in water this deep. It is expected to take between two and four weeks before this option could be operational.
BP are also set to drill a ‘relief well’ to stem the flow, but this measure, also described as ‘experimental,’ will take more than two months.
Following the unsuccessful emergency stop valve, this oil leak has the potential to become one of the worst in US history, hence the Coast Guards’ decision to undertake controlled burns on petroleum collected between special vessels, which would minimise the impact on the shore when the massive oil slick – now visible from space – meets with the Louisiana coastline.
The Deepwater Horizon oil slick now covers over 25,000 square miles and is within just 20 miles of the Louisiana coast.