May 11th, 2010
10:58 AM ET

Gulf oil spill: Where things stand, what comes next

As congressional hearings into the massive oil spill growing in the Gulf of Mexico begin this morning, the troubles in the water keep on going.

The undersea oil well, following a drilling rig's April 20 explosion 50 miles off Louisiana's coast, is spewing up to 210,000 gallons of light sweet crude a day into the Gulf, officials say, and so far there's no answer in sight on how to fix it.

So we'll try to break down a couple of things for you and share what we do know.

So where do things stand?

The massive effort to cap the leak failed at the weekend, dashing high hopes that the four-story containment dome would solve the problem. However, before the effort began officials had cautioned that the risky operation had never been tried at such a depth.

To make matters worse a wind shift could push more oil from BP's Deepwaters Deepwater Horizon gusher into the Mississippi Delta and areas west of the river, which is "bad news for Louisiana," Gov. Bobby Jindal said. Louisiana has been mostly spared since the oil rig exploded April 20 and sank two days later about 50 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana.

As the oil slick spreads, the threat to wildlife, the seafood and tourism industries and people's overall livelihood continues to grow.

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For restaurant owner Bob Pope, the oil slick represents a massive threat. And from someone who has been through Hurricane Katrina, he expects this may end up worse.

"With hurricanes, we know what to expect," Pope says. "They're either gonna be bad or worse, tear you up a little bit and go again. This can go any which way."

Everyone, he says, is waiting to see whether the oil slick ends up being an irritant to the community or "a devastating glob of something that just kills the area."

So what are the options now?

After the dome option failed BP is being forced to on to other options, including the use of a smaller chamber over the leak and shooting garbage into the gaping hole to try to plug the gusher.

The company also is considering placing a valve or a new blowout preventer on top of the existing one, which is not functioning, Suttles told CNN's "American Morning" program. As the name suggests, a blowout preventer is a device that is supposed to clamp shut over a leaking wellhead.

It is hard to get a feeling for how bad things are deep below the ocean surface - BP is keeping its own cap of sorts - on a video of the oil leak.

The only thing we do know is we will hopefully get some answers as to what caused the massive problem and how it can be fixed when executives face tough questioning from Congress, which we'll be carrying live.

Senators are expected to quiz officials about the precautions taken before the blast that set off the underwater gusher and the steps being taken to stop the spill. Experts also are expected to testify on the possible impact of the spill on fishing, tourism and local economies.

soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Walter Pack of Brick, N.J.

    I think that the pipe broke under its own weight, 5280 Ft of pipe is a lot of weight.

    May 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Quan Nguyen

    This is my idea
    Anyway we can put the baloon in tthe pipe then blow it up to stop the oil, then seal it up with concrete.

    June 1, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Charlie Rogers

    Is BP going about trying to plug the leak from the wrong end? If the upward pressure is keeping BP from clogging the hole from the top, try clogging it from the bottom! Can they push through a balloon, (albeit a strong one) like the ones that they use to raise sunken ships or submarines, through the very bottom of the hole, then inflate it? The pressure will force the balloon into the hole, clogging it, while they can dump cement into the pipe.

    June 1, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bob Milligan

    What in the world is going on here? This is a crisis but it is not being treated as a crisis. We should have the greatest experts in the world working together on this - the government, BP, Exxon Mobil from what thy learned in Alaska, etc. Instead we are playing politics and pointing fingers. Now we have the government is investigating BP. How will that increase coordination and solve the crisis (there is lot's of time for that later). That would be like the government launching an investigation into United and American during the 911 crisis about how the terrorist got onto their planes.

    June 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. mike

    well looks like to me they need to make new blowout valves that can be operated by a r o v, like am push rod or something, also they need to do an apollo 13 on it get a valve, break it the same way as best you can , and see what they can figure out, hell its 10 stories tall ,

    June 1, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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