May 6, 2010

Gulf of Mexico spill: dome sent to contain leak | GDS Publishing

A large containment dome is being sent to the leak site 50 miles off the US coast to try and contain the 5000 barrels of crude oil still spewing into the fragile Gulf of Mexico. The 100-ton dome will be loaded onto the transport ship the Joe Griffin and will face a 12-hour journey from Port Fourchon on the Louisiana coast to the epicentre of the disaster some 50 miles offshore. BP has been trying to contain the spill since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig over two weeks ago, and has used several methods including containing and burning the surface oil to trying to disperse the oil with dispersants. They have also began drilling a relief well to stem the flow, but this could take two to three months. In the last day or so, workers have managed to plug one of the gushing leaks on the underground pipeline, but experts have confirmed that this has made no impact on the amount of oil entering the Gulf every day, which still remains at around 5000 barrels. The dome is now seen as the best chance to stop more oil entering the water, causing damage to the fragile eco-system within the Gulf and affecting both the wildlife and America's southern coastlines. Once the dome has arrived at the spill site, BP chief operating officer, Doug Suttles confirmed in a briefing that it will take up to five days to position the dome in a position to contain the spill. This could be just enough time, as gentler winds are projected off the south coast, meaning the oil spill will not expand to shore. Possible disaster However there are concerns that the 100-ton dome could rupture the already leaking pipeline if it is placed incorrectly, and cause an oil catastrophe on a scale unseen on Earth before. The dome has never been tested before at the depths required in the Gulf, about 5000 feet below the surface, and placing such a massive structure is not without risk. "We are all hoping that this... will work, but I want to remind everybody that this containment system is the first of its kind deployed in 5000 feet of water," says Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry. Environmental impact of more leaking oil There are more than 6000 animal species threatened in the Gulf of Mexico, and Louisiana's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says that the threats affect some 445 species of fish, 134 birds, 45 mammals, and 32 reptiles and amphibians. The threat is not just confined to sea animals like bottle-nose dolphins, manatees and various whales, as the Brown Pelican is under threat due to contaminated nesting sites and fish and coyotes, raccoons and foxes could also see their habitat affected. 38 turtles were discovered from Alabama to the Louisiana delta since April 30, the majority of them the endangered Kemp's Ridley turtle, although NOAA scientists have suggested there is no evidence to link the turtles with the spill. Related articles: Gulf oil spill latest: Containing the spill | Oil and Gas News | US oil rig sinks and causes oil spill off US coast | Back chat: The lessons learned from hurricane Katrina

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