US oil spill could reach Louisiana shore by Friday

April 29th, 2010 - 9:48 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 29 (DPA) Oil from an under-sea well that is spurting masses of
crude oil could be carried onto the sensitive shoreline of Louisiana by Friday, US

officials said Wednesday.

The information confirmed fears that the BP exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico,

torn open by a rig explosion last week, could create an environmental disaster for

the shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico.

Managers of shoreline wildlife refugees were preparing for the eventuality of having

to herd the birds away from the shoreline by firing propane cannons, mylar devices,

fireworks and shotgun shells, officials said.

The technique was used successfully after a pipeline spill in the Gulf during

Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Charlie Henry of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

Administration (NOAA) said.

The current trajectory for the slick puts the Mississippi River delta in Louisiana

on the “very leading edge” or “outer boundary” of the oil by Friday, he said.

The trajectory was based on “current flow and winds” which he expected to still be

coming out of the south-south-east Friday.

Plans to carry out earlier Wednesday a controlled burn on a small, cordoned-off area

near the spill site were delayed by weather, design review and other conditions,

said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP.

The burn, intended to be a small experiment that could be repeated on small areas

around the spill area, “should happen at any point”, Suttles said.

“We expect we will have a burn today and report the results tomorrow,” he said.

BP has already deployed more than 33,000 metres of boom near the shoreline - from

the Mississippi River delta east to Mobile Bay in Alabama - in an effort to protect

the shore from the worst of the oil slick, Suttles said. Another 133,000 metres of

boom are available.

“We are making every effort to keep it offshore,” Suttles said, adding BP would

continue until it has “exhausted every opportunity.”

Engineers were still “reviewing the design” of the boom system intended to corral

the burn, said Lars Herbst, director of the US Minerals Management Service for the

Gulf of Mexico.

Seven whales have been seen swimming near the spill zone, according to three

independent observations, Henry said. It was not clear if the whales were in

distress, but they were being watched.

The explosion on the surface rig tore open two separate leaks 1,500 metres below on

the ocean floor and left 11 workers presumed dead. The Deepwater Horizons

exploratory rig that drilled the 6-km-deep well sank last Thursday, two days after

the accident.

Efforts to contain the leak have so far been unsuccessful. The controlled burn is

just “one tool in a tool kit … to minimise the consequences of the spill,” said US

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who is overseeing the containment efforts.

The leaks were releasing an estimated 160,000 litres of crude oil per day into

waters more than 70 km off the coast of Louisiana and were costing BP $6 million per

day.

A film of thin and spotty oil had spread as far as 130 km from the site and in some

areas was up to 70 km wide as poor weather hampered weekend efforts by skimming

ships to collect oil on the surface.

Other containment efforts include subsea oil collection, for which a containment

chamber has been built. BP has brought a drill ship, Enterprise, to the site and it

was working to connect the chamber to the drill chip.

“It’s becoming more complex as we have to design interventions that were not

anticipated in the design of the BOP (blow-out preventer),” said Suttles, referring

to a valve that could plug the two separate leaks.

A separate effort will see BP drilling a relief well to divert the flow from the

leaks, with drilling expected to begin on Friday, Suttles said. Massive amounts of

chemicals have also been spread to disperse some of the oil.

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