Gulf Oil Spill
I've been trying to make some sense out of the Gulf Oil Spill story. Picking up fragments like rate of leakage which seems to increase everyday and 4000 fishermen drilling to put out containment booms left me with the sense something big is happening without knowing much about it. What is a "containment boom" anyway? Well a containment boom is a sandbag for oil slicks. Its a big long rubber/plastic bladder that floats on the surface and contains the oil.
The story began on April 20th when a British Petroleum oil platform, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded, burnt, and sank with eleven crew dead. An automatic emergency shut off valve at the sea bed didn't work. Back up procedures for triggering the shut off valve also have not worked...how often do they test those things? So far there are about three levels of tackling the oil slick problem each with a different time frame.
The first is use of containment booms as barricades for key areas like Pensacola and Mobile bays. This has already started and is ongoing although the logistics of moving 300,000 feet of booms from as far away as Alaska staging at five centers on the gulf coast, and placement in the gulf are stagering. The Air Force is going to provide a lot of heavy lifting for this operation.
British Petroleum has a mid term operation involving catching the leaking oil in huge underwater containers and pumping it to tankers waiting above. That will be ready and in place in about three weeks.
The third operation is still in the planning stage. British Petroleum thinks it can precisely drill a second well intercepting and cutting off the flow from the gushing well. In a perfect world this would take about three months.
In Pensacola Florida the "plan calls for placing about 30,000 feet of boom stored at Pensacola Naval Air Station to form a barrier in a v-shape to catch the oil at East Pensacola Pass. With additional barriers at Fort McRae and Perdido Pass, oil should be blocked from Pensacola Bay, according to county officials."
Mobile Bay will remain open since it will be protected with boats that skim the water to remove oil. Alabama plans to lay about 50 miles of containment booms and maintain them for three months.
In Mississippi..."At the Mississippi State Port in Gulfport today, U.S. Navy and ship personnel were loading oil containment booms onto the offshore service vessel John Coghil. The booms, modular skimming units and other support boats and equipment from Navy Supervisor of Salvage, were delivered on Thursday."
Lake Pontchartrain has 7500 feet of containment booms ready to put in place if the oil slick threatens the lake so vital to New Orleans.
Meanwhile the wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta Basin look doomed to take a big hit .
Towelroad blog has a good picture of a boat herding a containment boom. There is also a great map lifted from NOAA. That map shows the gulf, oil slick, and threatened coast. Pensacola, Mobile, Biloxi, Bay St Louis, Lake Ponchartrain, South Pass.
In conclusion ten days into a three month emergency there is huge effort led by federal and state authorities along the gulf coast. Public, private, and volunteer resources are being used.