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. Ken S

    Would it be possible to use explosives to colapse the hole in the ocean floor and stop the flow of oil?

    May 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. greg

    OMG IT IS A WIND LEAK ..... WE NEED TO STOP USING WIND ENERGY ..... for those of you who hate the ugly wind towers which is worse towers or oil in the water polluting our sea's, seafood, and our beaches

    May 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Brent

    #47 Can wind energy power Semi's, Tractors, or any heavy equipment?? The answer is no. It's too bad this accident happened, but oil is necessary.

    May 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cal Mendelsohn

    Taliban terrorists couldn't have devised a more insidious way of harming our country than the damage which is forthcoming to the livelihoods and lives of millions of people and wildlife,. This from a company (BP) with the longest and deepest records of safety violations at its facilities oin our country of them all. It is entirely possible that this dilemma may take the rest of the year to fully resolve, though firebombing it or doing some very heavy plugging with massive amounts of matter might be two of the fastest.

    May 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sunrocksoutt

    It was very scary to me but i had never lost faith or had any doubts about my feelings.I am in love with the whole package.We need each other in our own special ways,so i give it two thumbs up and a middle finger politely!!!

    May 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. clean-up

    I had a clean up process which would collect the oil from the surface of the sea on a barge system, where 4 or more peristaltic pumps would suck up the oilly water and bring on to the barge. Collect in a tank system, then run the fluids through what is the last stage oil and water separation called Hydro cyclone systems separating the oil from the water. The returning the water back to sea. Containing the retrieve oil in a separate tank system on a separate barge which when full could be transferred to land for processing. Thus removing a high concentration of oil for the sea surface. Lets get going.....

    May 11, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff7 (Formerly Jeff)

    A public service announcement for everyone.

    Do you ever wonder about what you should feed your dog or cat? Can you feed your cat grains? What other foods are bad for dogs besides chocolate?

    Also, I know what is on everybody's mind right now. Who received perfect scores from "Dancing with the Stars"?

    And, last but not least, did you know that an airline recently lost a dog during a flight?

    Well, if you're like me, these questions have kept you up at night. If only somebody, somebody could provide the answers! Oh, who, who, will inform us about these pressing problems???!!!!

    Well, we're in luck. Because at 4:30pm CST, we can find the following articles on CNN.Com:

    "What you should feed your pet"
    "Perfect 'Dancing with Stars' scores"
    "Airline loses dog during flight"

    You can conveniently find these articles in the "Latest News" section on the CNN homepage. They are listed in small, blue letters on the left hand side of your screen. Oh, and if you need a break from these heavy topics, you can indulge yourself in a couple of light-hearted articles about the Gulf Oil crisis. These articles are also listed in small, blue letters in the same list. Don't bother looking at the headlines for the crisis in the Gulf. Headlines are reserved for more pressing issues in the news.

    Good thing we can count on serious issues to be tackled by CNN. I mean, what would our country be like if all of us were talking about the oil leak in the Gulf? What would happen to the vital nutritional needs of our pets? What would happen to our collective knowledge of celebrity dancers that we know and love? Who's going to find that dog on the plane? I mean, we'd be plain ignorant!

    May 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Neftali "Pete" Lorente

    Hello My Name is Neftali Lorente.

    I will be quick about it... First of all the people who are handling this... The Engineers, have a good Idea with the use of a smaller dome...But. It still won't work unless they actually use the ice crystals in their Favor... Here it goes...
    I left a coke in My refrigerator-Freezer... It froze...I then proceeded to open it.. Well, it spilled, gushed out.
    I did Not think anything of it. Until I went to use the Bathroom. And as I sat on my toilet seat. I looked over to my kitchen counter Top.. I saw the Coke Bottle , and I thought... This would work!
    If somehow the engineers could pump the gas (C02) Into this smaller dome... The Carbon dioxide would Push the Oil to the vessel @ the surface...This is Not My Idea... Its Just Common Knowledge that Soft Drinks Hold More C02 @ lower temperatures than they do @ Higher temp.
    What is My Idea Though... Is to Use it to save our Gulf...I have been fishing this Beautiful area since I was a Kid.. I now see it Going to hell quickly... I Hope we as a Team solve this Huge Problem...
    FYI: This Idea will work. You Just Need a Little Cola... Ha!
    Please Call Me I want this Thing Patented!!!
    813 299 1096.
    Note: The Inside of the Dome Must Be coated to allow the flow.

    May 11, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ted

    Until the leak is capped the cleanup is best done off the surface of the ocean. If the spill makes landfall cleanup will difficult if not impossible. Dispersing it with chemicals only hides it in the water column with no guarantee of microbial breakdown. Why not let enterprising people and the free market deal with the surface oil recovery . . . make BP pay everyone $1000 per barrel of recovered oil.

    May 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nancy Bernal

    Why can't people just stop messing with the earth period.It's because of people's greed of never being satisfied,always wanting more,instead of appreciating what they had and the beauty that surrounded it that has set it to where it is jeopardy! People need to stop pointing fingers,we are all to blame and we all need to work together to fix it.

    May 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary vegan in illinois

    I don't get using a chemical to disperse the oil???????We are already poisoning are beautiful gulf of mexico??What is the chemical,what is the side effects??I have been going to florida 3x times a year my whole life(we have a home down there)We need to stop this ,for the sake of the wildlife???the wildlife is the most important thing,we are responsible for this as greedy selfish human beings?? Wht isn't our legislators doing more??

    May 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Michelle

    Specific Search engine for the Deepwater Horizon

    May 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kenneth Howald

    To Mary vegan in Il., You must have missed my earlier posts. Google "Corexit 9500 MSDS" MSDS stands for Mine Safety Data Sheet, is lists the hazardous properties of a product. Please note that the most telling line is "do not use on ground water", the statement refers to water that will enter the rivers as runoff. The reason for this precaution is that this chemical is toxic to marine life. BP had purchased one-third of the worlds stockpile of Corexit by last Friday. They are sraying in aerially, on the surface by boat and at the wellhead 5000' below sealevel. The effect of this chemical is break up the oil, bind it to water molecules and make it heavier than water so that it sinks to the bottom of the Gulf. Therein lies the most frightening aspect of this whole morass; the next hurricane that hits in the area will pick up this crude oil and bring it with it when it makes landfall. I had to rebuild my house on Fort Morgan from the ground up after Hurricane Danny. This was a labor of love; I am at a loss as to what to do in this situation. Big business will not "self-regulate" itself if it affects the bottom line-and everything affects the bottom line. The bush crime family is to blame for the deregulation of this industry. We had and oil "man"(bush); a pharmaceutical (pfizer)president(rumsfeld); and the CEO of Haliburton(cheney), runing this country for eight years. Now how do you expect anything different than unregulated drilling, non-competative drug pricing, and two wars????!!!!! Maybe Mikey can get bush's head of Homeland Security to suggest handling this with duct tape and plastic...maybe we can even have a color coding system-lavender on days you can breathe deeply; chartreuse on days when you take short/shallow puffs; and black (like oil) when you can bend over and kiss your republican a$$ goodbye. ken

    May 11, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rusty

    why don't they just drop down a huge pipe in between the pipe with the hole which it would block the huge hole and they could still pump it might have to be one of those expanding ones ore something special but i believe the weight of the pipe shall hold it down there!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 12, 2010 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. Charlotte Crist

    What you see gushing in the background of the video is "black gold", the oil company's profit!
    BP is willing to wager everything to keep the well ($'s). My Father was a petroleum engineer, I'm an "oil field brat" living in New Orleans. The well could be blown and collapse onto itself and be done away with, but then there would be no PROFIT to BP. Us humans here in New Orleans are getting sick, tourists are thin, thousands are out of work and closing seafood related businesses daily. Our wildlife is endangered, life as we know it will soon be gone. Gone to us and all future generations. If the loop current captures the spill, this scenario will spread though out all Gulf Coast States. It will kill the only LIVING reef in the US off the coast of Key West and spread havoc to both sides of the beautiful State of Fl., destroying the pristine white beaches. All for the sake of PROFIT. Hollywood could not produce a better horror picture. Kill the well!

    May 12, 2010 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
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