Today BP hopes to drop a smaller containment chamber on the oil gusher by Thursday this week, in the meantime it hopes to burn some oil off on Tuesday, the same day lawmakers start hearings into the disaster. Forecasts showed the uncontrolled massive oil spill shifting farther west, approaching the important shipping channels and rich seafood areas off the central Louisiana coast, west of the Mississippi Delta.
British Petroleum PLC spokesman Mark Proegler said the company received Environmental Protection Agency approval and began pumping dispersant on the site starting at 4:30 a.m. Monday. The company plans to continue spraying and taking tests.
Sprayed by an remote-controlled submarine, the dispersants had never been tried at such depths before this spill and officials have been worried about the effect on the environment. Fears mounted of a prolonged and growing environmental and economic disaster for the U.S. Gulf Coast after a weekend setback in an initial undersea move by the oil giant to contain the spill, which could become the worst in U.S. history.
British Petroleum Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said the company, facing enormous pressure from the U.S. government and public, was pursuing multiple possible technical solutions in a bid to contain its gushing seabed well and eventually plug it. “What we’re working on now is we’re gathering some data to help us with two things. One is another way to do containment, and the second is other ways to actually stop the flow,” Suttles told the Reuters news agency on Sunday. “On the containment side, we’re working two options. One is a smaller dome, we call it the ‘top hat’, and the second is to try to find a way to tap into the riser, the piece of pipe the oil is flowing through, and take it directly from that pipe up to the ship on the surface.”
Balls of tar have meanwhile begun washing up on an island off Alabama. Bundles of absorbent material have been laid along the shore of Dauphin Island in an attempt to protect the resort area. Samples of the tar will be analyzed to ascertain whether they come from the massive oil spill off the coast of neighboring Louisiana.
A sheen of oil began washing ashore on the Chandeleur Islands chain last week, and crews have been laying inflatable booms, spraying chemical dispersants and setting fire to the slick to try to protect local wildlife. Although the Deepwater Horizon was operated by Transocean, it was leased by BP, which is responsible for cleaning the 3.5 million gallons that have so far leaked out of the well below, creating a slick covering about 2,000 sq miles.
Today, BP said that the spill has cost it $350 million so far, suggesting the final bill could be much higher than many analysts predicted. In a statement, the firm said the sum referred to the cost of spill response, containment efforts, relief well drilling, payments to the Gulf Coast States to speed up their response plans, some compensation claims and federal costs.