05.01.2010

Satellite images show the surface area of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has expanded to three times the size it was on Thursday.  On Thursday, the size of the slick was about 1,150 square miles, but by Friday’s end it was in the range of 3,850 square miles, said Hans Graber, executive director of the university’s Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing.  Comparatively speaking, the oil slick grew from a spill the size of Rhode Island to something closer to the size of Puerto Rico.

A sheen of oil from the edges of the slick washed up at Venice, Louisiana, and other extreme southeastern portions of  forcing Louisiana to close shrimping grounds and oyster beds. There has been no significant impact to Gulfport, Louisana;  Pascagoula, Mississippi; Biloxi or Mobile, Alabama routes at this time.

However, with the wind blowing from the south, parts of the oil slick could reach the Mississippi, Alabama and Florida coasts within 72-96 hours. Officials are coordinating relief efforts in all coastline states for oil absorption and wildlife rescue.

The spill  threatens hundreds of species of wildlife, including birds, dolphins, and the fish, shrimp, oysters and crabs that make the Gulf Coast one of the nation’s most abundant sources of seafood which prompted Florida, Alabama and Louisiana to declare a state of emergency due to economic downfall.

“With our natural resources, our businesses and our coastal communities in harm’s way, Alabama can’t afford to take anything for granted,” stated Alabama Governor Bob Riley.

There have been several attempts at a response to contain the oil spill, despite the currently tumultuous weather  and whipping winds.  Besides the two C130s that were sent to the Gulf yesterday, they also applied a test application of the dispersant at the source of the leak (submerged at 5,000 feet) in attempts to break up the oil before it reaches the surface. As of this point, 70,000 gallons of dispersant have been used in the effort to curtail the oil slick.

Additionally, 1 million feet of boom have been put into place but to little avail as the choppy waters of the Gulf are splashing over the boom. The relief well is being put into place but will not be utilized right away as the depth and distance of the leakage has to be taken into consideration.

Further, a coeffer dam is being discussed as a possible solution as well as placing a crimp approximately 2 feet above the stack to further lessen the amount of oil flow and cutting out a portion of the pipe altogether and replacing the faulty equipment.

A solution was presented in the teleconference to increase the flow through the five rivers that dump into the Mobile Bay as a counter resistance to the oil flow; however, this would only solve a portion of the problem.

The oil spill has been assessed to be more than 10 million gallons which is nearly as large as the slick created by the Exxon Valdez, when an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons off Alaska’s shore in 1989 resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

When asked for an estimate of  the oil flow, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the newly appointed head man for the Gulf Coast oil spill replied, “any exact estimate is probably impossible at this time.” However, it is estimated that 200,000 gallons of oil are spewing out each day.

Regarding the flow rates, the Mobile Press Register reported that an internal memo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that laid out a worst-case scenario of 50,000 barrels a day pouring from the unchecked wellhead.

Experts also cautioned that if the spill continues growing unchecked, sea currents could suck the sheen down past the Florida Keys and then up the Eastern Seaboard.

Although the cause of the explosion was under investigation, many of the more than two dozen lawsuits filed in the wake of the explosion claim it was caused when workers for oil services contractor Halliburton Inc. improperly capped the well — a process known as cementing. Halliburton denied the charges.

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