BP to Try ‘Anything, Everything’ to Stop Gushing Gulf Oil Well
By Jessica Resnick-Ault
May 3 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc, owner of the Gulf of Mexico
Macondo well that has been spewing oil 5,000 feet below
the water’s surface since April 20, outlined a battery of
techniques it will use to attempt to stem the leak.
Plans include chemical injections, containment domes and
new pressure equipment, Bob Fryar, senior vice president of BP’s
operations in Angola, said yesterday in Houston. U.S. President
Barack Obama visited Louisiana yesterday and said the government
would protect the natural resources of the region and rebuild
the area. He said the U.S. had coordinated a “relentless
response” to a “potentially unprecedented” disaster.
Admiral Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commandant overseeing
efforts to control and clean up the spill, described the dark,
mile-deep region where the oil is leaking as “inner space” that
can only be tackled using remotely controlled devices.
“What we’re doing is closer to Apollo 13 than the Exxon
Valdez,” Allen said, referring to the 1989 tanker spill that
dumped 260,000 barrels of oil off Alaska.
BP, based in London, said it has no way of knowing how much
oil is leaking because it can’t get data from the well. It
hasn’t been able to use the so-called blowout preventer, which
may have become corroded with sand. Pressure is being applied to
the apparatus to seal the leak, Fryar said. BP may also try to
“snap on” a second blowout-preventer stack, he said.
Domes on Leaks
The first of two domes to contain the crude at the sea
floor will be put on one of three leaks in six to eight days, BP
said. The second dome will take eight to 12 days. A valve, which
the company said may be in place in 24 hours, will be tried on
the most significant leak.
“I reiterated my commitment to the White House today that
BP will do anything and everything we can to stop the leak,
attack the spill off shore, and protect the shorelines of the
Gulf Coast,” BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, who
arrived in the Gulf area late May 1 to oversee containment
efforts, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Admiral Allen said federal agencies are preparing for a
sustained effort as BP technicians try to figure out how to stop
the leaks. Allen said in an interview he is seeking to improve
communications and supply chains for distributing equipment and
chemicals used to disperse the oil. “I am looking over the
The spill has grown so large, Allen said, that he is
concerned there may be a shortage of booms, such as those used
on the open sea to help contain the slick.
The spill is 9 miles (14 kilometers) off the coast of
southeastern Louisiana, Obama said at a press conference in
Venice. BP said the weather forecast shows the slick won’t move
over the next three days.
Obama, who was briefed on BP’s efforts to cap the well, met
with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal after getting off Air Force
One. The Coast Guard has said it has been unable to get an
accurate estimate of how much oil is leaking and is preparing
for a worst-case scenario.
More than 2,000 people have been deployed to protect the
shoreline and coastal wildlife, according to a statement from
the multiagency Joint Information Center coordinating the
A so-called relief well is due to be completed in about 90
days, Michael Abendhoff, a company spokesman, said yesterday in
a phone interview from Robert, Louisiana.
The oil spill followed an April 20 explosion on a drilling
rig leased by BP. The rig, owned by Transocean Ltd., sank two
days later. Obama has ordered that no new offshore drilling
leases be issued until a “thorough review” of the incident is
The attorneys-general from Alabama, Texas, Mississippi,
Florida, and Louisiana met yesterday in Mobile, Alabama, to
discuss legal options and strategies. Mississippi Attorney
General Jim Hood said the uncertainty of the oil slick’s size is
the biggest concern.
Alabama Attorney General Troy King said the fund created
after the Exxon Valdez tanker spill may need changes to
meet the damages from the current incident in the Gulf.
BP has released 156,012 gallons of dispersant so far to
break up the oil, said Bill Salvin, a BP spokesman. The company
hasn’t been able to fully assess the efficiency of the method,
Abendhoff said. BP was unable to spray dispersants yesterday
because of weather conditions, said Steve Rinehart, another
Strong winds and 7-to-10-foot waves make it impossible to
measure whether the dispersants lowered the volume of oil
emerging on the sea surface, Abendhoff said. The response teams
opted against conducting flyovers yesterday due to continued
foul weather, Rinehart said.
Surface estimates of the size of the slick and skimming
efforts were hindered as the Coast Guard ordered boats and
aircraft back to port because of stormy weather. Salvin said
23,968 barrels of crude and other material has been picked up by
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
previously estimated the well is spewing 5,000 barrels of oil a
day. At that rate, the volume of the spill would exceed Alaska’s
Exxon Valdez accident by the third week of June.
While BP has begun an investigation into the cause of the
explosion and resulting leak, it hasn’t set out a timeline for
the project, Rinehart said.
About 6.2 million cubic feet of gas production was halted
May 1 as environmental and safety concerns stopped
operations at two offshore platforms and prompted one to be
evacuated. That’s less than a 10th of 1 percent of U.S. output.
“This is an American Chernobyl,” said Louie Miller, 55,
senior representative for the Sierra Club in Mississippi,
referring to the explosion at a Ukrainian nuclear reactor in
1986 that killed 56 people, destroyed wildlife and contaminated
waterways. Oil “may not be radioactive, but it’s toxic.”
The NOAA yesterday closed commercial and recreational
fishing in parts of the Gulf affected by the spill for a minimum
of 10 days, effective immediately. The agency said in a
statement that it’s working with state governors to evaluate the
need to declare fisheries a disaster to get federal aid to
fishermen in the area.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals advised
residents not to swim or fish in affected waters and to prevent
young children, pregnant women and pets from entering
The impact on wildlife “depends on the tides, weather and
other factors beyond our control,” Jay Holcomb, director of the
International Bird Rescue Research Center, said in a statement.
The group has set up bird-rescue centers in Louisiana and
Commercial shipping on Mississippi River fairways hasn’t
been significantly affected so far, though that may change if
cleanup efforts are implemented, Admiral Allen said earlier
yesterday. Traffic may be halted in contaminated areas or ships
will have to be washed after passing through oily waters.
St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana will employ local fishermen
to deploy protective booms after training them on the procedure
on May 1, the parish said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved a request by Jindal
to mobilize as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to add
security, medical support, engineers, communications capability
and cleanup crews to the oil slick containment effort, spokesman
Geoff Morrell said late April 30.