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Gulf of Mexico oil leak worse than thought

deepwater overflight.jpgOil is leaking from the site of last week’s drilling accident in the Gulf of Mexico far faster than originally thought, according to new estimates.

In an attempt to stop the oil reaching environmentally sensitive areas on land, sections of crude oil were yesterday set on fire for a ‘controlled burn’. A ‘rainbow sheen’ with areas of crude oil now covers an area with a circumference of nearly 1,000 km around the site of the accident.

Worryingly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has revised estimates of the amount of oil leaking from the site of the accident that lead to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. NOAA now thinks that 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking into the ocean every day, compared with an original estimate of 1,000 barrels.

“It’s premature to say this is catastrophic. I will say this is very serious,” said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry (AP).

Attempts to use robot submersibles to close the ‘blowout preventer’ valve and halt oil leakage have so far failed.

In addition a large dome is being constructed which NOAA hopes can be placed over the leak site to trap escaping oil so it can be piped to the surface and collected. Another drilling rig should be on site by Friday to start drilling a second oil well that can be used to cut off flow to the leak site, but this could take months.

It is not yet known what caused the Deepwater Horizon to catch fire and sink last week, with the loss of eleven lives.

This image, from 25 April, shows the size of the oil slick and its proximity to the important Delta and Breton national wildlife refuges.

deepwater sat map.jpg

Past coverage

Oil spill endangers fragile marshland – 27 April

Deepwater Horizon oil leak still unplugged – 26 April

Race on to contain oil slick after rig accident – 23 April

Image top: NOAA

Image lower: NASA / MODIS Rapid Response Team.


  1. Report this comment

    Jeb said:

    Florida’s Convention & Visitor Bureau (a state TOURISM organization) ENDORSED oil drilling off SOUTH Florida’s shores, as did the GOVERNOR and the head of Florida’s house of reps. Now, why did they do that? Check “Follow the Money” website to see “contibutions” by oil industry to the aforementioned boneheads. I wonder if they will change their stance now that the oil drilling platform explosion in the waters off northwest Florida’s coast has resulted in the huge oil slick that is already the size of a small state and growing daily, with speculation that they will not be able to cap the leak for months. Now some gourd-headed nitwit came up with the bright idea of setting the oil slick on fire — that sounds like such a wonderful “pollution solution”, crude-oil-barbecued ocean life washing up on the beach (“Hey Honey, load up the cooler with beer, we’re eatin crispy critters off of duh beach again tonight”.).

  2. Report this comment

    Rachel said:

    My class was learning about the oil leak today apparently they are trying to set it on fire or they will block off the oil, or they might spray the ocean with detergent. Setting the ocean on fire would make air pollution though so I think they will go for the detergent spraying.

  3. Report this comment

    George Philip said: has a Eco friendly solution to clean up the tragedy British Petroleum has created, please watch the video animation: and pass this along to as many people as you know.

    One person can still make a difference in this world, is that simple interactions have a rippling effect. Each time this gets pass along, the hope in cleaning our planet is passed on.

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