BP has finally stemmed some of the oil gushing from the deep-sea well in the Gulf of Mexico.
After a few flubbed attempts, robots working 5,000 feet below the water's surface successfully inserted a 4-inch riser tube into the 21-inch pipe that is spewing the oil and gas (shown in this footage). The riser connects to a mile-long pipe, which is bringing oil and gas, along with seawater, to the tanker Discoverer Enterprise.
Just how much of the oil spew the riser is salvaging is unknown.
Also unknown is the amount of oil and gas that has already escaped into the Gulf.
Over the weekend, scientists reported detecting huge oil plumes present underneath the surface. One of these plumes stretches 10 miles long and 3 miles wide. The discovery ignited more debate on BP's various low-ball estimates of the incident's severity.
In other research, computer-generated results suggest the well could be releasing as much as 86,000 barrels into the Gulf of Mexico each day, far greater than the official 5,000-barrel estimate.
Referring to BP's latest efforts, Interior Secretary Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano in a joint statement:
This technique is not a solution to the problem, and it is not yet clear how successful it may be. We are closely monitoring BP’s test with the hope that it will contain some of the oil, but at the same time, federal scientists are continuing to provide oversight and expertise to BP as they move forward with other strategies to contain the spill and stop the flow of oil.
The next step, according to the Associated Press, is to inject heavy "kill mud" into the well at about 40 barrels per minute. This might reverse the well's flow, or outpump the oil coming up. Cement would follow to seal the well. If that fails, BP will deploy "junk shot" to clog the blowout preventer with materials such as old tire rubber and golf balls.
BP's response to the disaster has hardly been a hole in one. Hopefully something will work sooner than the two months it takes to drill a relief well.
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Images: BP, NIST/NOAA
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