May 12, 2010 5:24 PM by Melissa Canone
By The Associated Press
Events May 12, Day 23 of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began
with an explosion and fire on April 20 on the drilling rig
Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC,
which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11
workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a
blown-out undersea well at about 210,000 gallons per day.
Rep. Henry Waxman said his committee's investigation into the
Gulf oil spill revealed that a key safety device, the blowout
preventer, had a leak in a crucial hydraulic system. The California
Democrat said in a second day of hearings into the spill that the
investigation also discovered that the well had failed a negative
pressure test just hours before the April 20 explosion.
A SMALLER FUNNEL
BP PLC announced Wednesday that a new containment box - a
cylinder called a "top hat" - was on the sea floor near the wild
well that has spewed at least 4 million gallons into the Gulf of
Mexico. Engineers hope to work out ways to avoid the problem that
scuttled an earlier effort with a much bigger box before they move
the cylinder over the end of the 5,000-foot-long pipe from the
well. The 100-ton box filled up with an ice-like slush of gas and
water, lifting it up and clogging its nozzle.
BP also has another plan it might try to siphon oil away from
the unchecked well. BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said
Wednesday that engineers hope to link a second pipe to the end of
the pipe that was supposed to pump oil from the sea floor before
the Deepwater Horizon sunk. The pipe will funnel away the oil
that's collected in that original piping, called the riser. Suttles
said it could arrive Wednesday and be usable by Thursday or Friday.
LIKE STEAM FROM A GEYSER
Video released by BP showed oil spewing from a yellowish, broken
pipe 5,000 feet below the surface. The oil looks like steam rushing
from a geyser. The stream occasionally can be seen becoming lighter
as natural gas mixes into the gusher. Natural gas has been flowing
from the well since the beginning. Suttles said the rate natural
gas has been flowing out hasn't changed in the 21 days since the
Deepwater Horizon exploded.
FOOTING THE BILL
The White House has asked Congress to raise a liability cap that
could limit how much BP has to pay in economic damages. The
administration also wants to increase a per-barrel tax on oil
companies to replenish a cleanup fund. President Barack Obama also
sent a proposal to bring more unemployment assistance and food
stamps to help fishermen along the Gulf Coast.
MORE TAR BALLS
The Coast Guard said 4-inch tar balls have been reported along
beaches in eastern Alabama. Scientists still have to test the oil,
which came ashore several miles west of the Florida state line, to
see if it came from the spill. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry
said Wednesday that testing has confirmed tar balls that washed
ashore west at Dauphin Island, Ala., on Saturday were from the
spill. Landry said the Coast Guard also found tar balls at South
Pass, La., at the end of the Mississippi River, and on the southern
end of the Chandeleur Islands, east of New Orleans.
A Minerals Management Service official said a blitz inspection
of deepwater drilling rigs turned up only "a couple of minor
issues." At a hearing led by the MMS and the Coast Guard in
Kenner, La., a Coast Guard official questioned whether the
government had an effective safety net for the manufacturing and
installation of blowout preventers. Michael Saucier of the MMS
testified the government isn't required to inspect the safety
devices before they are installed.
In the weeks after an oil rig exploded and killed 11 men in the
Gulf of Mexico, worried environmental groups scoured the water for
oil plumes, set up animal triage centers and stretched boom across
shorelines. Activists hope their involvement doesn't end there.
They contend this may be the catalyst that America's green movement
needs to get Americans to pump less gasoline, buy hybrids and
downsize their consumer lifestyle.
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig illustrates the
energy industry's push to drill ever deeper in search of huge oil
deposits, despite the mammoth risks and unique challenges
associated with exploration in such a hostile environment. The lure
of the deep is driven by technological advances that make
previously inaccessible oil now reachable, and dwindling supplies
at shallower depths due to years of exploration. High energy prices
and lucrative government incentives have also made it more
Federal wildlife officials are treating the deaths of six
dolphins on the Gulf Coast as oil-related even though other factors
may be to blame. Blair Mase of the National Marine Fisheries
Service said Tuesday that the carcasses have all been found in
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama since May 2. Samples have been
sent for testing to see whether oil contributed to the deaths.
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