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Gulf of Mexico oil spill ‘five times bigger’
New Orleans, APR 29 (Agencies):
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Published on 29 Apr. 2010 11:06 PM IST
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A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is even worse than officials believed and the federal government is offering to help industry giant BP contain the slick that is threatening parts of the US shoreline, the Coast Guard said.
A new leak discovered in a blown-out well a mile underwater means five times as much oil is spewing into the water - an estimate BP disputes. The time may have come for the defense department and other public agencies to offer up “technologies that may surpass abilities of the private sector” to get the mess under control, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said at a news conference late Wednesday.
She said more than 5,000 barrels a day of sweet crude are discharging into the gulf, not the 1,000 barrels officials had estimated for days since a drilling rig exploded and sank 50 miles off the Louisiana Coast. The new oil spill estimate comes from the federal National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP PLC, which leased the rig, said he welcomed the government’s offer, but that he did not believe the amount of oil spilling into the water is beyond earlier estimates.
“We’re actually applying every resource available to us,” he said. He pointed to a diagram that showed the new leak is upstream from the one officials knew about. “Due to its location, we do not believe this changes the amount currently believed to be released,” he said. When asked again, Landry stuck to the NOAA estimate and said it was based on aerial surveys, study of the trajectory of the oil slick and other factors. The Secretary of Homeland Security has briefed President Obama on this new information and the government has offered to have the Department of Defense use its equipment and expertise to help contain the spill and protect the US coastline and wildlife, Landry said.
“It has become clear after several unsuccessful attempts to determine the cause” that agencies must supplement what’s being done by the company, she said.
Meanwhile, a plan to contain the slick by burning off parts of it was successfully tested late Wednesday afternoon, Landry said. BP was to set more fires after the test, but as night fell, there were no more burns. The burns were not expected to be done at night. No details about when more were planned were given during the news conference. Crews planned to use hand-held flares to set fire to sections of the spill. They turned to the idea after failing to stop the leak at the spot where a deepwater platform exploded on April 20 and later sank.
A 500-foot boom was to be used to corral several thousand gallons of the thickest oil on the surface, which will then be towed to a more remote area, set on fire, and allowed to burn for about an hour. The decision to burn some of the oil came after crews operating submersible robots failed to activate a shut-off device that would halt the flow of oil on the sea bottom 5,000 feet below.
Officials had estimated about 42,000 gallons of oil a day was leaking into the Gulf from the blown-out well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. That would be closer to 210,000 gallons a day with the new estimates. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead and more than 100 escaped the blast, the cause of which has not been determined.

 
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