• 06.04.10

BP’s Latest Attempt to Slow Oil Disaster May Be Working, Our Readers’ Ideas Keep Flowing

Gulf oil spill

A modicum of good news on the BP spill front: After weeks of failed attempts at slowing the flow of oil from the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil company successfully cut off the damaged portion of the riser pipe and put a containment cap on top. Now BP reports that oil and gas is being received onboard a ship on the ocean’s surface–roughly estimated at a rate of 1,000 barrels per day. But BP warns against too much optimism in a recent press release:


It is expected to take one or more days for flow rates of oil and gas to stabilize and it is not possible at this stage to estimate how much oil and gas will be captured by this containment system.
All of these operations are complex, involve risks and uncertainties, and have to be carried out by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) at 5,000 feet under water. Systems such as the LMRP containment cap never before have been deployed at these depths and conditions. The containment system’s efficiency, continued operation, and ability to contain the oil and gas cannot be assured.

Like the failed “Top Kill” method before it, this procedure might just look like it’s working. Even if it does work, the containment cap can’t possibly harness all the oil. That means BP’s relief wells are still the best hope for success–and those may not be completed until August. That’s a frightening prospect considering the size and potential release of the oil plume into the Atlantic (video above).

Gulf oil spill

In the meantime, readers are still sending good ideas our way. Some of the most recent: Benjamin Grynol suggests pumping a mix of motor oil and cornstarch down the pipe to make the oil too viscous to flow upwards; SJ Green believes that an underwater flash burn at the leak opening at the leak opening could cut down on surface oil, and Michael Garrett suggests using a hydraulic balloon to block the pipe (pictured above). Keep offering up your ideas–we’re listening!

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Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.