Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Damaged Oil Rig Spewing 42,000 Gallons of Oil Per Day into Gulf of Mexico

Originally, it was believed - or at least reported - that the damaged oil rig off the coast of Louisiana was not an active oil leak. The slick that had formed was reported to have been residual oil from the rig itself and the wellhead was believed to be stable. Of course, that has since been proven not to be the case. The wellhead is actively spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 42,000 gallons per day. And while that sounds like an enormous amount of oil, it's actually fairly manageable by environmental disaster standards.

Officials and clean-up crews are battling high seas and difficult conditions as they try to contain the growing spill. It's difficult to determine whether or not the slick will make its way toward land or if the majority of the oil can be collected and cleaned up at sea.

At this point, the primary objective is closing the wellhead and stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf. Deep-water robotic submarines are on the scene, trying to close valves designed to stop the flow of oil from the well. Unfortunately, the valves are located at least a mile below the surface and it is unknown whether shutting the valves will stop the oil. If the well suffered extensive damage, it may take months to drill relief wells to try to stop the flow of oil.

In the meantime, the environmental damage is only going to grow. Even if the oil doesn't make direct landfall, it's going to have an immediate impact on the marine life in the area as well as birds and other animals. It will likely be some time before officials have a firm handle on the extent of the damage to the local ecosystems.