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.

iReport: Are you there? Send photos, videos

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. RideURBike

    And people stll think we should keep drilling?? Until we can safetly and in a responsible manner, this exact event it why there should be no new rigs built and no new drilling sites added.
    Somewhere in the future this world is going to have to live without its precious oil, and America, being as dependent and lazy as it is, is going to have a real rude awakening when that day comes!
    Conserve what we have! Ride the bus, ride a bike, or better yet, walk!
    What an odd concept for people to do, oh, these things mean physical work, yep, thats why most american's wont do it!

    May 11, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • quad

      Do you know what plastic is? Infact, most of the things we take for granted come from roads. So, before you slam america for our use of oil, do a bit more homework! Its not just for gasoline.

      June 1, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. mikey

    I haven't heard any news orgs compare this spill to the IXTOC oil spill in the late 70s. The only spill they compare it to is the Valdez. Why?

    The IXTOC oil spill eventually spilled 3000000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It's funny that we never hear about that spill and especially it's aftereffects now Why?. It might be useful to the readers and viewers of major media to be able to make their own judgment based on the available evidence of long term detrimental effects of an oil spill that was ,at present, 10X larger than the new spill. Is this info that is not useful in swaying the readers viewpoint in the right direction? Could it be that 30 years from now the media will not even remember this new oil spill? Unless it fits their purpose? Just asking.

    I reckon the media don't think I am smart enough to decipher the facts?

    May 11, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Good call I didn't know about this event. Check it out.

      June 1, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • ceg

      I think that was BARRELS not gallons. with all the oil that one well can produce, it makes you wonder about why we have a shortage. Ironic that oil is also both natural and organic.

      June 2, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. oil leak recomendations

    hello world

    quote "no answer in sight or how to fix it"



    dome is not necessary and wasting time – oil floats to surface and can be pumped into tankers/barges –

    employ a flottilla of existing tankers/barges starting at epicenter of shaft leak to recover (pump skim off surface oil)

    possible "stop leak" would be explosion deep in old shaft

    thank you

    Michael Gruters – former faculty physics Princeton late 60'

    p.s. the use of dispersing chemicals make surface removal impossible and poisons the sea – really stupid....

    it is not proposed to use "hair" skimmers, but hoses that submerge and as water/oil mix is pumped into tanker/barge it is replaced by same.
    there are many tankers/barges currently in service to other gulf rigs.
    as the tanker hold fills separated water from the bottom is pumped back.
    there are single super-tankers that can hold the total spill.
    many tankers can be used and return to refineries

    p.p.s is this story being covered anymore on CNN or NY Times – maybe when oil hits the Hamptons


    May 11, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. mikey

    Group think is only good when you are presented with or you seek out the facts of a given issue. CNN has relinquished their responsibility to report all the facts. Reporting that a 3000000 gallon oil spill occured in the 70s doesn't even register on their radar. They have to go all the way to Alaska and the Valdez spill since it has a lot more video of oily birds and stuff.
    Why doesn't CNN do a follow up on the IXTOC spill? What are the lasting effects of the IXTOC spill. It(the IXTOC might be a better comparison than Prudhoe Bay as it is in the same body of water. Duh!

    Oops, your ideology is showing CNN. lol

    May 11, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. mikey

    CNN is a joke, people. W-A-K-E U-P.........

    May 11, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. A sad Floridian

    This is so bad and as a 7th generation Floridian I just cannot believe more isnt being done.

    BP MAKES ZILLIONS in oil production every year!!!

    Why cant BP use Engineers from universities all over the us and try to come up with an answer (or many other plans) to fix the leak? Shoot trash into the leak.. really??!?? WOW!

    The waters are running tears stream down my face.

    May 11, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. mikey

    Oh goodie, a real Floridian to ask what the long term effect of the IXTOC oil spill 30+ years ago was and is.

    So what can you tell us about how FL dealt with the IXTOC spill in the 70s?

    I'm just trying to gain some perspective on this subject. And you can only get a one-sided portrayal in the media. Did all the fish die in the 70s-80s? Did FL close all of it's beaches in the 70s-80s? What were the effects from the IXTOC spill?

    Don't get me wrong. The new spill is a BAD thing. But doesn't it make sense to get all the info you can on a given subject before making a decision or, worse, indicting someone just for the visceral feeling that one is doing 'good' by condemning the easiest target?

    May 11, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. mikey

    And, as a "7th generation" Floridian, even if you weren't born until the 80s-90s you had to have heard or seen some of the 'devastating' effects of a 3000000 gal. oils spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ray

    You can use torches on the small submarines to heat up and melt the ice crystals in the metal box that they invented. They haven't tried hard enough to fix that problem! Also all the available tankers in the Gulf should stop what they are doing and go and pump out the oil from the surface of the water. For oil companies were are your backups you should have at least 2 when 1 fails!!

    May 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. How to fix the problem.

    Since BP already built the coffer dam they should recover it and address the issues in situ, Options can included a macerator to chop any ice or crystalization that builds up, Heaters are an option if the liquid is coming out at temperatures that initially freeze the water it makes contact with. The macerator can be powered by the thrust of the flowing oil spining a larger propeller – this is something any junk yard war guru can build in about 4-6 hours.

    A second option is to perforate and detonate at a distance surrounding the outlet. with the hope that debris will break free and collapse the well from within. Unlike gushers on land that are powered by a head of built up gas, this gusher seems to have the entire weight of the ocean floor and the all the water above it weighing down on it.

    The flow on the gusher is so intense that it is probably near impossible to get anything near or over the outlet so as to plug the flow. But a conical mechanical cork made of brass or iron can probably be manuevered into place from the side and clamped to the outlet. Once attached it can then be mechanically operated to cinch down on the orifice. It would have to permit the flow to continue while it is being put in place then once fastened it can be pivoted or retracted into place and aftterwards actuated to lower a cap or plug into the hole.

    The big question is whether there is a surface to work with. It must be remembered that the platform violently sank to the ocean's floor and probably tweeked the pipelined that tethered it to the ocean floor and that's where the leak is taking place, also rust and decay are likely an issue as can be marine life, etc... Therefore, having something to "bite into" can be the main challenge.

    Whatever the strategy is it will need to be clamped on and then hinged into place by means of a hydraulic ram (this can be manually operated by one of the submarine robots. There's a dozen other ways to handle this call me if you need assistance. 760 937 3336

    May 11, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mikey

    Once again, why doesn't CNN think it is relevant to compare the newest spill in the Gulf to the IXTOC spill? They were both underwater leaks in the same body of water. But all I hear about is Valdez, which was caused by a grounded super-tanker in Alaska.
    Could it be that a left leaning CNN could not form a compelling liberal argument without plenty of heart-wrenching scenes of oil lapping on the shores and lifeless birds floating in the gooey surf? Could it be that comparing apples and apples might not have the desired effect on the emotional state of the viewer? Could it really be that CNN has never HEARD of the IXTOC oil spill? LOL , unbelievable.
    Go ahead and say I'm weird but you know I'm right.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave Sordi

    I saw that they planned to shoot trash into the gaping hole. I'm not sure if this is what they mean, but why not put the four story tower over a portion of the pipe not leaking, put a small hole in the pipe and inject a material into the pipe that will be pulled to the hole and will plug it. There must be something that can plug the hole that way that will withstand the pressure.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cassandra

    Algae, which grows on any relatively warm, stagnant water, can be refined into ethanol. It doesn't need to be purchased from countries who we have conflicts with, it's amazingly renewable, able to be produced in relatively small spaces, and does not affect prices of corn or other food crops that are more traditionally used in ethanol production. Moreover, it doesn't run the risk of pipelines spewing crude into our nation's waters, harming not only our ecosystems but regional economies and citizens' livelihoods.
    Taking our mouths off the oil-pipe isn't a left vs. right issue, it's profit vs. practicality.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Denise

    What is this about Russia having had five deep water oil rig failures and saying that the only way to close this is to drp a nuclear warhead down the well shaft?

    May 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Johny

    This is Dick Cheney's Katrina.
    He was the one who decided BP did not need switched to prevent this from happening.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6