Heartbreaking news has come out of BP’s latest attempt to stem the free flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The cofferdam, or concrete funnel, that was meant to be used to guide the leaking crude oil to surface tanker has become clogged with gas hydrates, or ice-like methane. This news came as the first reports of oil, in the form of tar balls, began washing ashore in Dauphin Island.
Still hope that the dome might work
Even though the dome was lowered without any major problems, the hydrate accumulation creates several problems for BP. Since gas hydrates act like ice, they will accumulate and clog the line, eventually stopping the oil flow. The hydrates themselves, since they are less dense than the water, enough accumulation could shift or move the containment dome off of the intended site.
BP looking at alternatives
According to the New York Times, Doug Suttles, BP’s operating officer for exploration and production, was quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t say it has failed yet. What I would say is what we attempted to do last night didn’t work.” The sentiment comes as crews have moved the oil capturing cofferdam aside while BP engineers review some other possible fixes for the situation. It is thought, though, that it may be several days before BP has another plan to attempt.
One thing that has worked in BP’s favor has been the weather. All week, winds have been relatively calm, making surface operations significantly easier. As the weekend progresses, Accuweather.com has predicted that winds will shift to out of the north-east and increase in speed. The increased speeds will create waves at about two to four feet, and will increase as the week progresses.
Oil begins to make landfall
The U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed reports that oil tar balls and tar beads have begun to wash up on the shore of Dauphin Island, Alabama. It is believed that these tar balls are from the dispersed oil spill in the Gulf, but until some further analysis is complete, it is not certain that they are from this spill.
Tar balls being collected for analysis
According to a BP press release, they have deployed a series of snare booms, or pom-pom shaped booms, designed to catch and collect tar balls on the shore line. This comes as a blow to Dauphin Island, a charming barrier island that thrives as a tourist destination. While the island is not closed, Dauphin Island is instituting measures to keep tourists and non-landowners out of certain areas by using re-entry cards. These re-entry cards are also used during hurricane evacuations, as a way of limiting access to the island, but it is hoped that this will not choke the local economy more than it already has.