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. Chuck

    I am not happy with this accident but I am not outraged at BP either. This was an accident and this will cost BP a huge amount of money. No one wants this stopped more quickly than BP.

    Regarding "Drill Baby Drill". Seems to me you should look no further than President Obama rather than go after McCain and Palin. There is no room for politics here. This affect Republicans and Democrats alike.

    Lets wish BP the best of luck with their planned iron box. We also need to get the mess cleaned up but they need to stop the flow first.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. King Coal

    THIS ONE OIL SPILL HAS CAUSED MORE ENVIRONMENTAL HARM THAN ALL COAL DISASTERS COMBINED. THE COAL INDUSTRY IS REGULATED TO DEATH. I JUST HOPE THE OIL INDUSTRY RECEIVES THE SAME SCRUTINY AS THE COAL INDUSTRY.

    FYI. WE CAN TURN COAL INTO LIQUID FUEL WITHOUT EMITTING GREENHOUSE GASES.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Richard

    To Sean..

    Profits drive behavior ? My goodness..
    Yes..as an American working overseas, businesses must make a profit. However, if you think that is the sole motive, man..you need to wake up.

    It's not 2007 anymore. That's the kind of fundamental warpt thinking that threw the U.S. into financial turmoil two years ago, which lead to a global contagion of unprecendented
    size and scale worldwide.
    If there's one lesson we all could learn from the Great Recession, it's this statement made by Warren Buffett recently: "Not everything that counts can be counted."

    You defend BP ? You obviously aren't aware of the company's history.
    Have you ever been to Germany, Sweden, or the Netherlands ?
    I have..., and I have to admit it. They're doing the right thing, and doing it well, especially in Germany.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Marvin

    This is very sad to do to our wildlife

    May 5, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sean

    Chuck nailed it: the environment is neither a Dem nor a Rep. Could we paraphrase James Carville? It's the environment stupid.

    Unfortunately, today everything is politics. People are trying to make the case that this is Obama's Katrina. It's laughable but it sells and (again) we come back to following the dollars. Whether you like Fox or MSNBC, Hannity or Oberman, McCain/Palin or Obama/Biden doesn't really matter. Our media outlets are in business to make money and if chumming the water makes more money then, to coin a phrase, Chum-baby-Chum.

    I agree with Chuck: let's wish BP every bit of good luck, God speed, and good weather to get this controlled and the residents of the coast ((including the ones who are not human) success in mitigating and cleaning up the mess.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  6. Richard

    To Sean

    My apologies..I didn't catch your earlier post. I'm happy we see eye to eye on my post 9.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. Derecon

    Pretty sure that Obama was all for drilling. So why are we just bashing McCain and Palin?

    And secondly, yes, we need clean energy. Yes we need renewable resources. But everyone saying we need to stop oil right now and focus on new energy is well, naive and utterly ridiculous. What are we going to do until solar panels are manufactured at an affordable cost? What are we going to do until Wind Turbines actually provide a decent ammount of energy? Instead of attacking oil companies for doing what they have to do to provide for us (and don't complain about how much money they make, because our individual "dependence" on them is the reaosn they make so much) we should be attacking the companies in charge of creating new energy and finding out what's taking so long.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sean

    Yes Richard, I have been to the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany. I agree with the Buffet statement but human nature (and organizational nature) being what it is, do you really believe that any but the most philanthropic organizations operate for anything other than to make money?

    Are you seriously arguing that profits do not drive organizational behavior? Or that BP is somehow immune to that motivation?

    May 5, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Derecon

    To King coal...ou're right, they have been regulated to death. Literally. How many people have died in or because of coal mines in the past few years? Pretty sure it's more than those that've died on oil rigs.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sean

    Thanks Richard. I think we may be in violent agreement. Thanks for the posts.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Richard

    What are the lessons learned from here ? I think we need to really seriously rethink energy policy in the U.S. Wasn't this a top priority back in 07 and 08 ?
    We always get our priorities sidetracked.
    Government needs to utilize some basic management principles, and act on its "to do" list
    by treating it more like a "must do" list.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. Robert

    The need for oil is not going away any year soon, no matter how hard you wish for it. Drilling in the Gulf is critical to the American economy for the foreseeable future.

    Solar and Wind technologies produce electricity - they do not replace gasoline or diesel. And so the comparisons to northern Europe's windmills are bogus. Wind projects in Europe are abundant because are heavily subsidized by taxpayer money. In America, subsidies are much smaller and aren't really needed.

    Considering the 3800-plus rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico for 40 years, the safety record is very good. This was a freak accident, and lessons will surely be learned and applied.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ronald Schwartz

    In a war when you loose a battle you keep fighting, Oil won't go away for a century or 2 so we need to continue to devlope off shore drilling and at the same time improve the saftey and recovery methods. this admin. just wants to spend money on things that won't replace oil,but we could use nuculear plants would be great clean coal is great. wind is great,But we need oil and gas

    May 5, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. cc64

    Comments were made that this spill will have toll on the economy of the area for this summers tourist season. That hundreds of people have cancelled trips and hotel rooms due to this tragic accident They don't realize this type of situation will have effects for years; not just a summer.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. paulpeter01357

    Everyone needs to wise up. you two don't seriously think you have the answers to all this do you? Our fat government officials, along with fat CEOs, of big fat companies have been lying to us for years. At every opportunity they nickle and dime us, and when they have a crisis or disaster (because their lies fall apart) they just charge it to us. Wall Street and all the big banks for example; they give out all these loans they know can't be paid back and simply charge their error off to us. Meanwhile they get the money and give themselves a fat bonus with it. Meanwhile people are losing their homes and jobs. their health insurance too. In this country, in the 21st century, Americans have to decide on food or medicine? Americans have to worry about education for our children. What about social security? Will you two have social security when you reitre? I won't. The way things are going there won't be social security when I retire in 25 years. The United States is rich and has money. Unfortunately it is managed by narrow minded, selfish, manipulating lying officials. Since September 11, 2001, our government has done a terrible job of managing this country. I dare any of you to show a positve approval rating or a majority that trusts this government.
    By the way, the United States has technology that would far surpass needs of the demand of the needs of the many. we've had atomic power since the 1940's. We're in the 21st century and NASA is launching vehicles into space that can run on ion propulsion engines. I believe we have better technology than any other country in the world. I believe we can put many Americans back to work in developing new technolgy. I believe in America, and I believe in my fellow Americans.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
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