Raging gusher overwhelms oil spill cap | Oil spill live feed

A closeup of an oil slick floating on the surface.

The oil spill cap, BP's latest attempt to control the undersea leak, is being overwhelmed by a raging gusher that suggests worst-case estimates for the size of the leak may be accurate. Flickr photo.

The oil spill cap, BP’s latest attempt to gain control of the epic disaster that has been unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico for 48 days, is being overwhelmed by the massive gusher of crude at the bottom of the sea. Most of the oil spewing from the leak continues to escape. Yet the fraction of crude the oil spill cap does collect is overwhelming the capacity of the ship storing it on the surface. As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 grows larger, it becomes increasingly harder to contain as it breaks up into hundreds of meandering slicks that wash ashore at times and in places that are impossible to predict. By the time relief wells could ultimately stop the leak in August, the spill could total up to 200 million gallons.

Oil spill live feed: true size of leak

The BP oil spill live feed (see below) shows a billowing, brown cloud completely obscuring the oil spill cap as most of the crude gushing from the stricken wellhead continues to escape into the sea. The oil spill cap scenario appears to confirm claims by scientists that BP and government officials have underestimated the quantity of the leak. Reuters reports that U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said at a news conference in Washington that government scientists are working to establish a more solid leak rate. He said BP hoped to bring in 20,000 barrels per day from the well — a comment that indicated government estimates of a flow of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels daily were low. Allen put the upper range at 25,000 barrels. Scientists looking at the oil spill live feed say the number could be far higher.

Spreading oil spill defies containment

The oil spill cap captured 11,100 barrels of oil on Sunday, BP said. Its goal is to increase the amount collected to 20,000 barrels a day. Meanwhile, the high side estimate of the oil spill adds up to about 118 million gallons in the 48 days since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, sank, killed 11 people and launched the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. The Associated Press reports that the oil slick has broken into hundreds of thousands of individual patches stretching from 100 miles east of the Texas-Louisiana border to near the middle of the Florida Panhandle and down to the open sea about 150 miles west of Tampa, Fla.

Oil spill cap can’t stand the pressure

The oil spill cap was made with four vents to keep the intense pressure of the gusher from overcoming the device. The New York Times reports that the sheer volume of oil gushing from the out-of-control well forced BP to leave three vents open. Even with just one vent closed the oil spill cap was capturing more crude than could be processed on a drill ship at the surface. The Discoverer Enterprise drill ship can only handle 15,000 barrels a day. Shuttle barges carry oil from the ship to storage tanks on shore. Admiral Allen said BP is looking at bringing in larger production vessels that can withstand coming hurricanes. He stressed that the ultimate solution to plugging the well is the drilling of two relief wells, which are scheduled to be completed in August.

Oil spill havoc continues

Due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010, one-third of the federal waters off the gulf have been closed to fishing, and the spill is killing and injuring birds and marine animals. Admiral Allen said shoreline cleanup will last for years. The Washington Post reports that floating booms deployed on the water have been of limited use in preventing oil from reaching the shore. Allen said shoreline cleanup will last for years. BP said it has spent more than $1 billion on cleanup and containment efforts to date. The company said it has spent another $48.1 million on about 18,000 claims from fishermen, businesses and others harmed by the spill and is working through 17,000 more claims.

Other recent posts by bryanh