Gulf oil spill - Now it could be 60 000 barrels a day.......

BP officials told members of Congress in a closed-door meeting that the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico could be spewing as much as 60,000 barrels of crude a day, well over an earlier estimate of 5,000 barrels a day, according to reports on Wednesday.

Officials said the larger figure represents a worst-case scenario. BP spokesman Toby Odone declined to comment on the 60,000 barrel figure, which was reported by The New York Times. The official tally remains up to 5,000 barrels a day, he said.

BP's Odone said a 40-foot steel containment dome is due to leave port in Port Fourchon, La. on Wednesday for deployment at the site of the leak, which is centered about 41 miles offshore on Mississippi Canyon block 252. The funnel-like device is designed to suck up excess oil and water for processing at a nearby ship. The technique has been used in shallow water but never one mile below the surface.

The oil slick remains off the coast of Louisiana for now, as the spill moved into its third week since a BP-leased rig caught fire on April 22 and sank two days later.

BP also said it stopped one of three existing leak points on the damaged MC252 oil well and riser in the Gulf of Mexico, which it said won't affect the overall rate of flow but will reduce the complexity of the situation being dealt with on the seabed.

BP also announced that it has made $25 million block grants to each of the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to help accelerate the implementation of Area Contingency Plans, which it added do not affect the MC252 response or existing claims process.

BP could pay up to $2 billion to bring the well under control, 65% of the estimated $10 billion cost on damage to fishing and tourism and punitive damages of $75 million unless BP is found to be grossly negligent or engaged in willful misconduct. But it should get some tax benefits.

Even if oil never washes up in the refuge, the region's birds may be silenced if the crude lingers deep in the Gulf of Mexico, experts say.

All that oil is poisoning the plankton, sand crabs, and fish larvae, among others — at the base of the region's food web.

If the oil spill can't be contained, the Gulf of Mexico could have another "dead zone in the making," according to Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

Often caused by algal blooms, dead zones are swaths of ocean devoid of life, save for hardy bacteria.

When there's turbulent weather—as the Gulf of Mexico has experienced over the past few days — the dense oil mixes with water to form an emulsion, a sort of gooey, chocolate mousse-like substance.

The emulsion is toxic to birds, baby sea turtles, fish embryos, crabs, and shrimp larvae, not to mention sea grasses and marshlands.

"Impacts to the birds will be the thing that is most visible to the public, but it is not just their deaths that we should be concerned about," said John "Wes" Tunnell, associate director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

Infauna, or small organisms such as clams and tubeworms that live in ocean sediments, are vital food sources for shorebirds and other coastal animals.

After the 1979 Ixtoc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the area's infauna were reduced by up to 90 percent, Tunnell said—a potential reason many bird species left the area in the wake of the nine-month-long spill.

However, there may be a bright side: Organisms at the bottom of the food chain reproduce more rapidly than bigger animals, Tunnell pointed out by email. After the Ixtoc spill, infauna returned to pre-spill levels within about a year.

Some scientists also worry about one of the joint federal-industry response team's methods for controlling the oil: dumping chemical dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico.

These chemicals merely break up the oil into smaller droplets, making it less likely to spread—but more likely to drift down and choke life on the seafloor.

"We're wiping out critical elements of the base of the food chain of the Gulf," Texas Tech's Kendall said. "This is an ecotoxological experiment underway in one of the world’s most productive and fragile ecosystems."

If exposed to oil, these Louisiana wetlands—which human development has already diminished by 40 percent—may wither away, leaving just the open ocean.


The situation with the Gulf oil spill disaster has taken a turn for the worse - to say the least.......

British Petroleum have confirmed the gulf oil spill is up to five times as bad as first estimates reported.

Estimates now say that approximately 5000 barrels of oil, is leaking from three leaks, per day.

It has also come to light that a remote controlled shut-off switch which is used in other Oil Rigs, required in Norway and Brazil, was not in use on this Rig

Reports say the Deepwater Horizon did not have the acoustic switch, with which a crew can try to activate an underwater valve that will shut down the well. Although this switch is usually a last resort, it would appear the chance would have been a welcome chance at this point with the language used by officials working on the problem becoming increasingly desperate as this develops:

Chief Operating Office Doug Suttles "somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels a day is the best estimate we have today" of oil gushing from the site off the coast of Louisiana.

Suttles said the U.S. Coast Guard burned off oil from the water's surface on Wednesday and that the effort worked successfully to reduce some of the oil in the water.

In a separate interview on NBC-TV, Suttles said oil rigs at the site will begin drilling relief wells and that the effort could take about 90 days to have an effect on the leak.

Suttles told Matt Lauer the oil company will "take help from anyone," including the U.S. military.

"We're working with the experts across the industry," Suttles said. "We're applying absolutely the best science we know. We welcome the help of the government. We're not interested in where the idea comes from. What we're interested is how do we stop this flow, and how do we stop it now?"

Plans to extend offshore drilling, by the Democratic government may well be hampered by public opinion in the face of what is sure to be some very ugly pictures of the devastation about to be wreaked upon the southern states' coastlines.


The recent gulf oil spill from a British Petroleum operated Oil rig which sank off the Mississippi river delta is a disaster of potentially epic proportions

British Petroleum has deployed, to a gulf oil spill, 32 ships, two rigs, five airplanes and over 1,000 people , to work on preventing a major disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded and sank in the Gulf 40 miles from the Mississippi delta, costing 11 oil workers their lives as 126 made their way to safety in life rafts. The cause of the explosion is not yet clear.

The cleanup is said to be about to cost around USD200 million before you factor in possible lawsuits and the losses incurred from the gulf oil spill and the huge stock value losses as a result of the fears of investors in the face of a major ecological disaster.

One of the major problems is the fact that an oil spill at depths of 5000ft or more is extremely difficult. This will test the will of the public to endorse exploration in deep sea drilling which has recently been touted as the new frontier in oil exploration.

On Monday crews were dispatched in frantic attempts to shut off the gulf oil spill using remote submersible craft where about 40 000 gallons a day are pouring out into the ocean.

The alternative to shutting the flow off, is to bore another pipe to redirect the flow – this could take up to two months while tones of oil washes up on the neighboring beaches from Louisiana to Florida.

Presently the gulf oil spill is 1800 sq miles or about 48 by 39 miles wide and will reach the shore in a matter of a few days. The changing winds and currents make it difficult to predict when and where the oil will make first landfall in any of the four affected states. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are prime fishing grounds as well as hugely popular tourist sites apart from ecologically important.

On Monday afternoon, viewing the site from the air showed little sign of a major clean up, with only a few vessels in evidence. Aaron Viles, director for the New Orleans-based environmental group Gulf Restoration Network, said he flew over the gulf oil spill on Sunday and saw what was likely a sperm whale swimming near the oil sheen.

"There are going to be significant marine impacts," he said. Concern Monday focused on the Chandeleur and Breton barrier islands in Louisiana, where thousands of birds are nesting.

"It's already a fragile system. It would be devastating to see anything happen to that system," said Mark Kulp, a University of New Orleans geologist.

Oil makes it difficult for birds to fly or float on the water's surface. Plant life can also suffer serious harm.

Whales have been spotted near the oil spill, though they did not seem to be in any distress. The spill also threatened oyster beds in Breton Sound on the eastern side of the Mississippi River.

"That's our main oyster-producing area," said John Tesvich, a fourth-generation oyster farmer with Port Sulphur Fisheries Co. His company has about 4,000 acres of oyster grounds that could be affected if the spill worsens.

If the oyster grounds are affected, thousands of fishermen, packers, processors might have to curtail operations.

In Louisiana, containment booms, which float like a string of sausage links to hold back oil until it can be skimmed off the surface, are being deployed to protect the Pass A Loutre wildlife area, a 115,000-acre preserve that is home to alligators, birds and fish near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Heavy seas over the weekend hampered efforts for containment by 32 vessels.

23,000 feet of containment boom have been deployed, 70,000 more are being deployed when the effort resumes, and another 50,000 feet are on order.

There are more articles, like this one on the gulf oil spill, here

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