News / USA

    Long-Term Effects Feared After Gulf of Mexico Oil Rig Explosion

    NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on 25 Apr 2010. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the 20 Apr explosion and sinking of Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible
    NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on 25 Apr 2010. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the 20 Apr explosion and sinking of Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible

    When the Transocean, Ltd. oil drilling rig exploded and sank off the coast of Louisiana last week, it set off a chain of events that could have long-term economic and environmental effects on several southern U.S. states.  It also could affect President Barack Obama's plans to increase off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform sat about 70 kilometers off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.  Last week, for reasons that still are yet to been determined - the rig exploded and sank.  Most workers escaped the rig, but 11 are missing and presumed dead.

    Oil from the rig has been leaking ever since and covers some 4,800 square kilometers of the Gulf of Mexico.

    The sunken platform's owner, Geneva-based oil services company Transocean, Ltd., and its operator, London-based BP, have been trying to contain the spill so that it will not damage fisheries and beaches along the Gulf Coast.

    Ron Rybarczyk is a spokesman for the Joint Information Center in Louisiana.  He says cleanup crews are using remote controlled robots to try to activate a device called a blowout preventer some 1,500 meters below the surface.  But so far, they do not know whether it is working.  

    "The remote operating vehicle is trying to activate fully that blowout preventer," he said.  "We don't know if it is partially activated and engaged or not activated and engaged at all.  But we are trying to get it fully engaged to prevent any more oil from coming out of that well head," said Rybarczyk.

    The blowout preventer is a complex valve that looks like two fire hydrants stacked on top of one another.  It can open and close well and it is considered critical to the safety of a rig and its crew.  But oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

    Crews also are applying chemicals to the oil slick to help it evaporate and disperse more quickly.  But harsh weather has hampered efforts by skimmers and other vessels from reaching the site.

    Doug Helton is with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.  

    "Early on the weekend [of April 24-25], we had pretty severe weather with thunderstorms in the coastal waters and other severe weather that made it [difficult," said Helton]  "We had to pull the response vessels off the water because it was too rough and too dangerous," he said.

    The oil that is leaking is light sweet crude.  It is almost like diesel fuel as opposed to thick, heavy crude.  

    Ron Rybarczyk says that most of the oil on the surface tends to be a very thin layer.

    "If you can imagine putting a little bit of oil in a cup of water or a bathtub or when we see rainbow type sheen in a parking lot after a rain - it doesn't take much oil to cause a sheen that spreads a long way. So the fact that 97 percent of the surface area of this plume is sheen is a very positive thing," said Rybarczyk.

    An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could have a devastating impact on the shrimping and fishing industries in Louisiana and neighboring states.

    John Sackton is editor and publisher of seafood.com, an industry news Web site.  He says that if the oil reaches Louisiana's shrimp beds, it could have far-reaching economic consequences.

    "The short-term effect is that it is not possible to fish for shrimp in waters that are polluted by oil," he said.  "The oil gets into the product and also it fouls the nets.  So any place where there is visible oil, they would have to shut down fishing.  The second problem is a longer-term problem as to whether there is anything that is toxic in the water that is going to impact shrimp survival," said Sackton.

    Doug Helton of NOAA says weather could drive the oil to fragile shrimp beds, but that it could also lessen its impact.

    "Oil will move and spread with winds.  So we are carefully tracking the winds and forecasting the winds so we can understand how that oil is going to move and spread," he said.  "The weather also has the effect of helping to disburse and break up the oil.  So strong winds and choppy seas are hard for cleanup operations, but they also help to disburse and break up the oil," Helton said.

    One factor working to contain the spill is that the tube that stretched from the Deepwater Horizon to the ocean floor collapsed when the rig sank.  The bends and kinks in the tube are slowing the flow of oil and giving cleanup crews more time to work.

    BP has proposed lowering a large dome to capture the oil and then pumping it to the surface.  There are also plans to drill a relief well nearby to reduce the pressure.  But both plans could take several weeks to implement.  

    Louisiana recently opened some of its Gulf waters to shrimp fishing.  Most of the shrimp season is later in the year.  But with the industry earning more than $117 million in Louisiana alone last year, stopping the flow of oil before it reaches the coastline is critical.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    The Complicated Math of AIDS

    A lot, and then some: the huge - and complicated - cost of the AIDS epidemic

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora