USA — Officials Report on Oil Spill Response

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2010 — Though oil still con­tin­ues to leak into the Gulf of Mex­i­co after an oil rig off the Louisiana coast explod­ed April 20, offi­cials in charge of clean-up oper­a­tions say they’re doing the best they can to con­tain the spill.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry, com­man­der of the 8th Coast Guard Dis­trict based in New Orleans, said on a con­fer­ence call yes­ter­day that all pos­si­ble mea­sures are being tak­en to stop the leak and con­tain the oil that has spilled so far.

Though the spill has not reached the shore­line, Landry said, she has coor­di­nat­ed with Gulf Coast states so they’re pre­pared should the slick head their way.

The Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon, leased to British Petro­le­um by Transocean, an oil min­ing con­trac­tor, caught fire after an explo­sion and sank last week. Eleven work­ers still are miss­ing. The rig, with a plat­form big­ger than a foot­ball field, was one of the most mod­ern and was drilling in 5,000 feet of water about 40 miles from Venice, La.

Landry cau­tioned peo­ple not to be over­ly con­cerned with the area cov­ered by the spill – about 3,200 square miles. Though the area is large, she said, the spill is not con­tin­u­ous or con­sis­tent across that area. Some parts mere­ly have a rain­bow sheen that indi­cates some oil emul­si­fied in the water, she explained, while some areas have more-dense pock­ets of oil and gas. Some areas have lit­tle or no oil at all, she added.

Crude oil is emp­ty­ing into the Gulf at a rate of about 1,000 bar­rels a day. Doug Sut­tles, BP’s chief oper­at­ing offi­cer, said it should take two to four weeks to clean the spill.

Sut­tles said clean-up crews are “at pace” to con­trol the leak and to gath­er oil that has spilled into the Gulf. More than 1,100 bar­rels — near­ly 50,000 gal­lons — of oily water have been col­lect­ed so far.

Efforts also are under way to bring oil at depth in the Gulf to the sur­face, so it, too, can be col­lect­ed. BP is attempt­ing to drill two “relief” wells that will divert oil flow to new pipes and stor­age equip­ment. Sut­tles added that work is ongo­ing to build a dome to cov­er the leak area and gath­er leak­ing oil into a new pipe. The dome tech­nique has been used in shal­low­er water, but nev­er at this depth, he said.

Lars Herb­st, direc­tor for the Gulf of Mex­i­co Region of Min­er­als Man­age­ment Ser­vice, said BP and Transocean both have clean safe­ty and main­te­nance records. Find­ing the cause of the explo­sion and leak and then tak­ing pre­ven­tive steps dur­ing future deep-sea drilling oper­a­tions, he said, are pri­or­i­ties in the inves­ti­ga­tion.

“We want to leave no stone unturned in ensur­ing noth­ing like this ever occurs again,” he added.

Char­lie Hen­ry, lead sci­ence coor­di­na­tor for the Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion, said three sperm whales had been observed swim­ming near the spill, but that there was no indi­ca­tion they had been affect­ed.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)