June 3, 2010

BP Finally Sees Break In Oil Efforts

BP has successfully sliced off the top of a damaged riser in its latest attempt to contain the undersea oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday.

This is the first sign of success in putting a stop to the oil spill, which government estimates say has been spewing 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf each day.

The British energy giant has been unsuccessfully going toe-to-toe with the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history for six weeks now after an April 20 explosion left 11 workers dead.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen called the development a "significant step forward." 

Originally, BP planned to cut the pipe with a diamond saw, until the blade got stuck.  This left the company with the only option being to use giant shears to cut the pipe.  Shears create a rougher cut than the saw.

However, the new attempt to cut the pipe did not allow for a snugly fit containment dome.  Allen said some oil could continue to leak through the summer until BP is able to put relief wells in place.

"They need to be relentless to try and contain this leak because we shouldn't have to wait until August," Allen told CNN.

Workers have been using robotic submarines working in cold waters a mile below the surface to attempt to stem the flow of oil, which was closing in on Florida beaches.

Allen said that it is unclear how much oil will continue to flow out of the rupture undersea well.

According to a White House statement released Thursday, President Barack Obama will return to the Louisiana Gulf Coast on Friday " to assess the latest efforts to counter the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's most recent projection shows the oil slick is just seven miles off the coast of Florida.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist warned forecasters "are projecting weathered oil from the leading edge could impact the Florida Panhandle as early as this week, possibly in a day or two."

"We are watchful, we are monitoring the situation, and we will do everything to protect our beautiful state," he told a press conference, warning "thousands of tar balls" could be approaching the state.

A University of Miami study showed the oil slick's surface area now stretches across 9,435 square miles of the Gulf. 

Experts warn that the vast majority of the oil is contained in underwater plumes that cannot be seen from above.

Florida would be the fourth state hit by the oil since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Over 125 miles of Louisiana coastline has been contaminated with oil.


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