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Last week, the Transocean company's semisubmersible drilling rig "Deepwater Horizon" exploded killing 11 of the 179 members of the crew. British Petroleum (BP) is the leaseholder of the Transocean rig. Transocean, based in Switzerland, is the world's largest offshore drilling contractor and the leading provider of drilling management services worldwide.
Scientists estimate that the oil slick is gushing 5,000 barrels of oil (210,000 gallons of oil) per day straight into the ocean. The oil is flowing about a mile below the surface. The visible sheen on the surface of the water is expanding and approaches the coast of the U.S.
A plan to use a type of tent or dome to collect the oil was progressing, and was two to four weeks from being operational. On Tuesday, the company received permits to drill a relief well, which would be started half a mile from the current well site. Crews plan to drill toward the current well and then inject it with heavy fluids and concrete to seal it. That solution is experimental at this depth, however, and is months away.
“We haven’t had a well release like this,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said at a news conference.
The U.S. Coast Guard will attempt to burn off some of the oil by collecting what they can into large areas which they will set ablaze, causing a smoke and pollution disaster. If this does not work, the oil slick will devastate the fishing industry of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. The area of the oceanic spill is referred to as Mississippi Canyon 252.
Today, the US coastguard is to set fire to oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico to prevent the slick from reaching shore after last week's explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
Prentice Danner, of the U.S. Coastguard, said fire-resistant booms would be used to corral some of the thickest oil on the surface, which would then be ignited. Unfortunately, the dispersion agents sprayed on the oil have made it less combustible and harder to contain. It was unclear how large an area would be set on fire or how far from shore the fire would be set.
Residents of the coast are being warned to stay out of the ocean for months, due to the giant oil slick which will begin to touch shore on Friday.
The U.S. Coast Guard issued an alert today warning boaters to stay out of the area.
The robotic subs which unsuccessfully attempted to cap the leaking well are working 5,000 feet below sea level. The pressure on a vessel at that depth is 2,227 pounds per square inch.