Oil spill in gulf reaching Mississippi River delta area

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Apr. 30 -- Oil from a deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico was expected to reach Louisiana’s coast Apr. 30, oil spill response officials said, adding that high wind and waves of 6-7 ft were expected to prevent crews from skimming oil off the surface or burning it for at least 2 days.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency and asked federal officials if he could call up 6,000 National Guard troops to help with an anticipated shoreline cleanup of the oil, which was expected to reach the Mississippi River delta area, home to many wetlands.

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson were scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast Apr. 30 at the request of President Barack Obama.

They were expected to take an aerial tour of the spill area and to meet with BP PLC executives to discuss the continuing oil leaking from BP’s Macondo exploration well. Contractor Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilled the well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in 4,992 ft of water near Rigel gas field.

An Apr. 20 explosion and fire rocked the semi, leaving 11 crew members missing and presumed dead and injuring 17. A total of 115 people evacuated the rig. On Apr. 22, the semi sank. Cause of the accident remains under investigation by various companies and government agencies.

An estimated 5,000 b/d is leaking from the wellhead and riser pipe, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration & Production Inc., said during an Apr. 29 news conference as he described various efforts by remotely operated vehicles to try and activate the blowout preventer on the seabed.

BP has asked the Department of Defense if it has better ROVs than what is commercially available, Suttles said. BP also asked DOD for help with underwater imaging.

Recovery logistics
Mike Abendhoff, BP spokesman in command information center based in Roberts, La., told OGJ on Apr. 30 that choppy seas made it unsafe for crews to try to apply dispersants at a subsea level using coiled tubing although they plan to try and do that when the weather cooperates.

Spill response officials have received the necessary approvals from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Minerals Management Service to try applying dispersants in the ocean.

Previously, about 140,000 gal of dispersant was deployed at a surface level to the spilled oil, which is 35° gravity, officials said.

Staging areas to handle oil coming ashore have been set up in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. More than 70 response vessels are being used, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels. More than 217,000 ft of boom has been assigned to contain the spill and another 305,000 ft is available.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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