Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico: 1,800 square miles and spreading

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana is growing from a leak in the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon, which exploded and sank last week. Picasa Web Albums photo.

Click here to read May 17 update.

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana has spread to cover more than 1,800 square miles as of Monday afternoon. Gulf of Mexico oil spill update here. The oil spill is coming from a leak in the well that was drilled by the Transocean Deepwater Horizon, a giant offshore drilling rig that exploded and sank last week. The oil spill is reported to be leaking about t 42,000 gallons a day from a well nearly a mile deep. The U.S. Coast Guard has been using robot subs to try to stop the leak.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to remain about 30 miles offshore, based on an analysis of ocean currents and weather patterns. In a statement Monday, the Coast Guard warned states along the Gulf Coast to be on alert. The oil rig that burned and sank was drilling a well about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, putting that state’s shoreline at the highest risk.

Oil spill response

To prepare for the oil spill, which the Coast Guard said my reach landfall sometime Tuesday, Louisiana has begun spending money now on oil spill response, installing containment booms around environmentally sensitive areas. The Associated Press reports that Alabama has also mobilized oil spill response to prevent damage when the oil slick makes landfall. The Coast Guard said it’s spending extra cash on 15 specially designed skimming vessels, which had collected 48,000 gallons of oil-water mix by Sunday. Aircraft have been dumping dispersant chemicals to break down the oil.

Oil spill disaster fears come true

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the greatest fears When the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank. The New York Times reports that the well is leaking its liquid cash today from the “riser.” The riser is a 5,000-foot-long pipe extending from the wellhead on the ocean bottom that was connected to the drilling platform. Now detached, the riser is kinked like a garden hose. The leaks are at the sea floor, and officials believe the kinks are preventing an even worse gusher of oil from escaping. Before the platform sank, a geyser of oil and gas shot from the riser to create a giant plume of flame and black smoke.

Oil spill cleanup

To contain the oil spill, the Coast Guard aims to have robotic subs activate a 450-ton valve at the wellhead 5,000 feet deep that could possible seal the well. However, it’s possible that this valve, which was designed to prevent sudden pressure releases that led to the explosion that sunk the platform may not work. As a contingency, BP has dispatched two rigs to the area that could drill relief wells. Officials estimated that this strategy, drilling down to the cavity of oil and gas and pumping it full of  mud and concrete, could take two months.

At this rate, The New York times said, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at a rate of 42,000 gallons of oil a day, would have to continue for 262 days to match the 11-million-gallon spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound from the Exxon Valdez in 1989, the worst oil spill in United States history.

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana is growing from a leak in the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon, which exploded and sank last week. Picasa Web Albums photo.

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