Efforts to stop oil leak hit snag
PORT FOURCHON – As the crude crept closer to Florida, the risky effort to contain the United States’ worst oil spill hit a snag yesterday when a diamond-edged saw became stuck in a thick pipe on a blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf.
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said the goal was to free the saw and finish the cut later in the day. This is the latest attempt to contain – not plug – the gusher. The best chance at stopping the leak is a relief well, which is at least two months from completion.
“I don’t think the issue is whether or not we can make the second cut. It’s about how fine we can make it, how smooth we can make it,” Allen said.
If the cut is not as smooth as engineers would like, they would be forced to put a looser fitting cap on top of the oil spewing out. This cut-and-cap effort could temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 per cent, though Allen said officials wouldn’t know whether that had happened until the cut could be completed.
Engineers may have to bring in a second saw awaiting on a boat, but it was not immediately clear how long that could delay the operation. Live video showed oil spewing out of the new cut, and crews were shooting chemicals to try to disperse the crude. The cap could be placed over the spill later yesterday.
The effort underwater was going on as oil drifted close to the Florida Panhandle’s white sand beaches for the first time and investors ran from BP’s stock for a second day, reacting to the company’s weekend failure to plug the leak by shooting mud and cement into the well, known as the top kill.
The Justice Department also has announced it started criminal and civil probes into the spill, although the department did not name specific targets for prosecution. (AP)