Oil Leaks Caused by Sunk Exploration Rig Could Take Months to Stop, Even With Robots


Photo: U.S. Coast Guard
Update: BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet: A Timeline of Unfortunate Events
1,000 Barrels of Oil Leaking Into the Sea Each Day
Last week, an exploration oil rig caught fire and sunk in the Gulf of Mexico. The latest news are that search-and-rescue operations have been suspended with 11 people still missing, and underwater robots have discovered at least two leaks that are dumping an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil per day in the sea. Officials said that it could take "months" to stop the spill. How will this impact the environment?
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard
Hard to Work at Those Depths
The oil spill has the potential to damage beaches, barrier islands and wetlands across the coastline, not to mention affect marine species (the destruction of plankton and fish eggs could negatively impact fish population for a while).

When the rig sunk, it detached from its riser, a 5,000 feet pipe that connects it to the well at the bottom of the sea. This caused the riser to twist and bend, and most of it has now sunk below 1,500 feet from the bottom. Remote-controlled robots were sent to have a look and discovered at least two leaks on Saturday morning.

Yesterday, the spill covered 600 square miles. It's estimated that it will remain at least 30 miles from shore for the next two days. Louisiana is deploying protective barriers around sensitive coastal areas as a precautionary measure.


Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

"[BP] has also brought in more than 30 cleanup vessels and several aircraft to spray dispersant on the floating oil," reports the BBC. "At the moment, the weather conditions are keeping the oil away from the coastline and it is hoped the waves will break up the heavy crude oil, allowing it to harden and sink back to the ocean floor."


What the oil rig looked like when it was still burning, hours before it sunk. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

The cause of the explosion is still uncertain. Some speculate that it might have been a "blowout", or a pocket of hydrocarbons that shoots up a pipe unexpectedly.

See also: 30+ Miles of Smoke: Satellite Photos Show Smoke Plume From Burning Oil Rig [Update: It Sunk]
BIG Oil Rig Explosion Off Louisiana Coast, 11 to 15 People Missing, Infernal Blaze

Via NYT
WATCH VIDEO: Planet 100: Offshore Oil Disaster

Tags: Energy | Oceans

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