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Measures to plug the Oil Leak and clean the spill

The dire potential impact on Florida‘s economic and ecological wellbeing has prompted BP to award 25 million dollars to the State in an effort to implement a contingent effort to guard its shores from the impact of the slick and also another 25 million to intensify advertising tourist campaigns (Tampa Bay Business Journal 2010). This compensation may look hefty but can turn out to be a mere drop in the ocean if Florida is hit with the full extent of the devastating outcome of an oil slick of this proportion.

Initially at the time of explosion BP deployed remotely operated underwater equipment to try to close the blow-out preventer’s valves. However all the six attempts to close the valves were unsuccessful. In May BP successfully capped one of the three leaks in the well but it did not result in a significant change in the amount of oil seeping into the ocean. The engineering team at BP continues to focus its efforts on repairing the remaining two leaks.

One of the earliest techniques used was to position a huge container dome over the largest leak and transfer the oil to a storage container with the help of a pipe. However this attempt

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proved unsuccessful as gas leaking from the pipe formed crystals that locked the top of the dome and prevented the operation from being conducted. Another process adopted was the deployment of a small container dome on the ocean bed. Known as the top hat this procedure too involved the same logic as the first one but did not yield any significant results.

The BP team did get positive results with the use of the insertion tube which was positioned at the burst pipe. (Deep water horizon 2010) The tube worked and the team was able to collect gas and oil from the leak. The next step was to try and close the well completely utilizing a process called the top kill. (Deep water horizon 2010). This complex operation involved injecting drilling fluids through two tubes into the blow out projector. It was aimed to reduce the flow oil from the well which would then be cemented to prevent any further leakage.

This mechanism was tried three times and though it did yield some positive results was deemed unsuccessful in fulfilling its objective and abandoned in the favour of a new procedure that involved cutting the damaged riser from the blow out preventer and placing a cap over it. (Deep water horizon 2010) The cap would be connected to a riser to a nearby ship with the intention of pumping all the oil and gas into the ships collectors. Despite an irregular cutting of the pipe, the cap was placed successfully on the blow-out preventor and was instrumental in pumping a huge quantity of oil and gas from the well.

However it was not successful in entirely preventing the leak and a lot of oil and gas continued to escape despite the process in place. Since the storage capacity of the existing drilling ship is not enough to accommodate the huge quantities of oil and gas being pumped from the ocean bed BP has recently announced that it will bring in a new floating production, storage and offloading ship that could transfer a greater quantity of oil and gas to be pumped and stored.

(Deep water horizon 2010) In addition BP has also commissioned that relief wells be build into the original well to block the flow of oil. This procedure will work on the premise that once the relief well reaches the original well drilling fluid will be pumped into it to block the flow of oil However these relief wells will costs hundreds of millions of dollars and are not expected to be operational before July. (Deep water horizon 2010) The United States Federal Law stipulates that the cost of cleaning up the oil spill be born by BP as it was the prime operator of the deepwater oil rig project.

The clean up operation is a very expensive measure and could cost BP billions of dollars. BPs original clean up operation employed a few hundred workers, a few planes, underwater remotely operated vehicles and some vessels to contain the oil. On April 28th the US military joined the cleanup effort with more worker workers and vessels. By May the workers were supplemented with volunteers and the cleanup operation utilized the services of all commercial vessels including skimmers, fishing boats tugs, and barges (Deep water horizon 2010)

One of the main strategies deployed by the US Coast Guard in its clean up efforts was to burn thousands of barrels of surface oil on the open seas daily. To this effect some controlled testing was done and an environmental report was generated to assess the damage to the environment as a result of the burning process. However this endeavour was later abandoned because of poor weather which didn’t permit the open seas burning. (Deep water horizon 2010) The chemical agents deployed in the cleanup efforts included spraying dispersants on the affected area from airplanes.

The use of the dispersant agent was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency after protests that the chemicals used in these agents could increase the toxicity and damage marine life in the area. By May, BP had used gallons of dispersants to break-up the oil spill both on the surface and under water. In addition to dispersants a vast quantity of containment booms -a floating device to catch the oil, were used to contain the slick from reaching the shore. However the effect of high waves and stormy winds was instrumental in making the work of containment booms ineffective (Deep water horizon 2010)

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