Interference from gas hydrates, a natural phenomenon found on ocean floors, has stopped BP's first attempt to significantly stem the flow of crude oil from a blown-out underwater oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP lowered a 98-ton containment chamber to the site of the oil leak on Friday; the chamber is intended to contain one of two leaks gushing at least 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) (210,000 gallons/795,000 liters) of crude oil into the northern Gulf.
The leaks, first detected on April 25 after a drilling rig off the Louisiana coast caught fire on April 20, threaten the economy and environment along the U.S. Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida.
The hydrates have formed what is described as a slush blocking a pipe meant to carry the oil gushing from the well to a ship on the ocean surface about 5,000 feet above the well site.
While I didn't know the specifics, I had a suspicion that the containment dome was a little too good to be true. BP hasn't given up hope that the containment dome will work, however, I'm less than reassured by NBC's careful mentioning that local fishermen don't seem to be concerned yet. Make no mistake, this is a major ecological tragedy, one, unfortunately, that the Obama administration has not taken to heart:
The Obama administration waived environmental reviews for 26 new offshore drilling projects even as the BP oil disaster spewed hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, environmental activists said today.[..]
The Centre for Biological Diversity said that even after the disaster, the Obama administration did not tighten its oversight of offshore drilling. An investigation by the respected environmental group revealed that since 20 April, when an explosion the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers, 27 new offshore drilling projects have been approved by the Mineral Management Service (MMS) the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing extraction of oil, gas and other minerals.
All but one project was granted similar exemptions from environmental review as BP. Two were submitted by the UK firm, and made the same claims about oil-rig safety and the implausibility of a spill damaging the environment, the centre said.
"This oil spill has had absolutely no effect on MMS behaviour at all," said Kieran Suckling, the director of the centre. "It's still business as usual which means rubber stamping oil drilling permits with no environmental review."
Great. Ironically, Meet the Press used the event to look back at the discussion behind the Exxon Valdez leak in 1989:
SIX months later, Exxon insisted their clean up was done. Ha! TWENTY YEARS later, the area has still not recovered.
And yet there's no stopping with the rubber stamping of more drilling contracts?