May 5th, 2010
06:01 PM ET

Latest Updates: Gulf oil spill

[Updated at 5:53 p.m.]  Authorities battled the Gulf of Mexico's massive oil spill with sweat, steel and fire Wednesday as patches of oil crept to within two miles of the Louisiana bayous.

Two specially equipped "burn rigs" set fire to patches of crude oil near the ruptured undersea well at the heart of the spill, a BP executive said Wednesday afternoon.

At the same time, a four-story containment vessel was loaded aboard a barge in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, en route to the well, the first step in an attempt to capture the leaking oil at an unprecedented depth.

And thousands of volunteers, wildlife officials, idled fishermen and National Guard troops mobilized to string floating booms along the beaches and across the mouths of estuaries leading toward the Gulf.

The outer sheen of oil was reported to be "very close" to the Chandeleur Islands and the Mississippi River delta in southeastern Louisiana, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry told reporters. And an oyster fisherman spotted a large patch of oil sheen near the border between St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, about 40 miles southeast of New Orleans, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said.

Landry said the heavier concentrations of crude remained further offshore, and the latest predictions from the federal government said the weather would keep it largely stationary for the next three days.

The 72-hour forecast shows winds shifting to the south and blowing about  10 to 15 knots (12-17 mph), which is likely to produce only "a little bit of  movement on the fringes," said Charlie Henry of the National Oceanographic and  Atmospheric Administration.

"Nothing's changing real fast this week," Henry said.

[Updated at 1:06 p.m.] Authorities battling the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico plan to try to burn off another patch of the growing slick Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard announced.

The move comes a week after the last attempt to use a controlled fire to destroy some of the oil pouring from a damaged underwater well. That attempt destroyed about 100 barrels of oil, but well owner BP said at the time that it planned larger burns when weather permitted.

The well is gushing an estimated 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day. Efforts to cut off the well have failed, and BP planned to ship a massive steel box out to the site on Wednesday that it hoped could be used to contain most of the leak.

[Updated at 10:00 a.m.] Federal and state officials in Florida said Wednesday they are stepping up preparations for fallout from the massive oil spill now threatening to spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Coast Guard is in the process of setting up an incident command post in St. Petersburg, Coast Guard Captain Tim Close told reporters. Coast Guard officials are being joined in their preparations by, among others, representatives of BP - the company responsible for the spill - and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

They are following a regional contingency plan that has "been in place for years," Close said. The strategy identifies the most environmentally sensitive areas of Florida's Gulf coast and the most effective oil spill cleanup strategies.

"As of right now, there is no prediction of any landfall impact (of) oil on the west coast of Florida within the next 72 hours, and that's as far out as the projections actually go," Close said.Close noted that the "best scientific information right now is that, if there is impact, it is not going to be in the form of one giant oil slick. It's going to be in the form of residual from the spill - tar balls (and) what's referred to as 'patties,' kind of a darker, thicker ... stickier mess. But not one great sheen."

The spill could ultimately land "anywhere on the west coast of Florida or it could be nowhere on the west coast of Florida," he said.

[Updated at 9:15 a.m.] Workers with BP plan to start moving a four-story metal container Wednesday toward a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that could get even worse.

The company has a risky plan to lower the container 5,000 feet into the water off the coast of Louisiana and position it above a ruptured oil pipe. If successful, the container would sit there like an upside-down funnel, sucking up oil that would otherwise add to the growing slick in the Gulf.

BP plans to start moving the container toward the coast around noon Wednesday, said Doug Suttles, the company's chief operating officer. It will
take a couple of hours to get to the coast and then a few more days to actually get the container in place, he said.

[Posted at 8:39 a.m.] Crews working to stem the tide of oil in the Gulf of Mexico capped one of the three leaking points Wednesday, a BP executive said.

John Curry, the director of external affairs for BP, said the leak that was capped was the smallest of the three leaks. Curry says the pipe was cut off and sealed with a slip valve.

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Richard

    Every single person in the U.S. should be outraged at BP's incompetence, irrespnsibility, and arrogance ! I wonder how McCain and Palin feel now with their iditoc "Drill, baby, drill" chants ?
    People, we need to wise up to the key lesson here: There is NO such thing as safe offshore oil drilling. The U.S. is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet, we are STILL so behind in the way we produce energy. Look at the Scandinavian countries..They are light years ahead of us. Why can't we send a plane full of senators to the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany, and have them for once earn our tax payer dollars by doing something smart, taking notes, and learning from them ?

    May 5, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. John Holmes

    In response to the previous post, we are not the richest country in the world. We are in debt up to our ears. This country runs on energy – we need to exploit our natural resources or we will all be unemployed. Can't you see beyond politics and do what is right?

    May 5, 2010 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. AGuest9

    Because there is no Scandinavian energy political action committee funnelling campaign money into their coffers...

    May 5, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. bren krgy

    Let the US expedite the development of cheaper solar and wind energy components so we can minimize the need for oil and the pollution it gives to the environment.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. Allen

    The right thing to do is to use sustainable energy resources. Offshore drilling and other unsustainable practices are a thing of the past, and to continue to invest in them is a waste of time.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. baoatvolt

    These containment devices should have already been constructed, stored and ready for deployment in the Gulf area. To be constructing them only after we have a spill the size of Delaware is completely inexcusable. Cost a factor?...false economy.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. William

    We will need oil for the time being, no way green energy alone can cover all of our energy requirements anytime soon.
    We need to have that oil pumped domestically as much as possible instead of importing from other countries.
    We need to invest (with smartly managed, government funded research) massively in green energy. If the US does not do that other countries will and we will loose an edge that is certain to play a big role in the world's future.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. cbgb

    Spoken like someone who turns on a light switch and an ignition key and doesn't care where or how the light comes on or the car moves. If you think you can build a four story containment structure and lower it five thousand feet into the ocean over a gushing oil well then you might have a leg to stand on. There is no such thing as free energy. Have you even been to the Netherlands, Sweden or Germany? Inquiring minds want to know.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. Richard

    To John Holmes,

    The U.S. might not be the richest country in the world, but it certainly has far more resources than the aforementioned countries.
    As a U.S. citizen who is current;y working in Asia, and who frequently travels to Germany and the Netherlands, I am constantly asked by my European friends and counterparts why the U.S. is so behind in this sector.
    So much innovation and ideas sprout in the form of IT and social media, but when it comes to energy, we are like dinosaurs. John, if you really saw the big picture, you would understand.
    AGuest9 is absolutely right.
    In the U.S., there are armies of lobbyists from Big Oil who flood Washington with Big OIl money made at the cost of our environment. These people would stop at nothing to ensure the survival of Big Oil and its dirty, polluting ways.
    CNN reported that because ot this oil spill, businesses along the Gulf Coast stand to suffer
    a loss in the billions...and that's not including the terrifying ecological costs which are still tbd.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. Larry Valecia, Calif.

    Until they make sure that it won't happen again... They should not drill in the Ocean again!!! This Country has to use the sores they have already instead of oil... We have to get away from depending on the Muslims Countries for our supply of oil!!!

    May 5, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Charles Leeraar

    As some one in marine industry, feel some facts need to be placed on the table.
    The rig is american, operated by americans, the blow out valve is american, the lease of the oil field is in america, the HIRERS/ of the rig are BP – feel that BP stepping up to the plate as best they can. After you illegally invaded Iraq, have you finished tidying up there yet ? Get real !

    May 5, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sean

    I disagree with Richard. Let's get this on the table right now: I"m a left-leaning, tree-hugging, liberal born to parents in Berkeley CA in the 60s. You just don't get much more left. Here's the shocker: I think BP is doing fine. I'd defend them all day long. What you are missing is that these things always come back to a profit motive. Profits drive behavior. That's the way our system works. You want sustainable energy? Make it profitable. You want better behavior from big oil: make it unprofitable to be a bad-actor. We can debate the merits of sustainability and the problems with offshore drilling until we are blue in the face but that doesn't change the reality that our system trumps ALL of those good (and bad) intentions because of the profit motive.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sean

    BRAVO to Richard's post (#9)! EXACTLY RIGHT!!

    May 5, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Donna

    Fossil fuel technologies are not the answer; this latest oil spill underscores that. Witness the economic losses to the fishing industry. Clean energy technologies ARE the answer. They will provide much needed jobs, and will strengthen our economy. People need to learn how to live sustainably, not just in today's moment. Holding onto fossil fuel technology is living in the past.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dr. Nemo

    Where is Sarah Palin when we need her?

    Seems like "Drill baby drill" has become "Spill baby spill..."

    May 5, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
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