Deepwater Horizon Wellhead Leaking 1,000 Barrels a Day

ROBERT, Louisiana, April 25, 2010 (ENS) – An oil leak of 1,000 barrels a day is entering the water about a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico following the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig Thursday.

The wreck of the burned out rig was located Saturday capsized on the sea floor about 1,500 feet northwest of the well site, according to the unified command response team.

Owned by Transocean Ltd. and contracted by BP, the Deepwater Horizon had been drilling an exploratory well approximately 52 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana when it exploded Tuesday night, burned for 36 hours and sank in the Gulf of Mexico.

Images taken by a remotely operated vehicle on the seafloor show oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon drill pipe and riser. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

During an overflight of the incident site Saturday morning, a 20-mile by 20-mile rainbow sheen with areas of emulsified crude oil was located about 40 miles offshore.

Although there is currently no shoreline impact, Gulf Coast states have been notified and invited to participate in the Area Command Center located in Robert. An investigation conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and federal Minerals Management Service to determine the cause of the incident is in progress.

On Saturday, oil recovery efforts were hampered by thunderstorms, rain and rough seas. The oil recovery and cleanup operations are expected to resume once adverse weather has passed. These efforts are part of a federally approved oil spill contingency plan that is in place to respond to environmental incidents.

Oily mess in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy USCG)

The unified command has approved a plan that utilizes submersible remote operated vehicles in an effort to activate the blowout preventer on the sea floor and to stop the flow of oil.

“Our response plan is focused on quickly securing the source of the subsurface oil emanating from the well, cleaning the oil on the surface of the water, and keeping the response well offshore,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, incident commander and federal on scene coordinator.

Steve Benz, president and CEO of the Marine Spill Response Corporation, said, “At BP’s request we are mounting the single, largest response effort in MSRC’s 20-year history. The many years of working together with BP on drills and exercises has proved invaluable to us as we move forward on this response effort.”

“We are attacking this spill on two fronts – at the wellhead and on the surface offshore,” said BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward, who has travelled to Texas and Louisiana this week to meet with response personnel. “The team on the ground and those at sea have the Group’s full resources behind them.”

BP and Transocean are working below the surface on the subsea equipment, using remotely operated vehicles to monitor the Macondo/MC252 exploration well, and are planning and mobilizing to activate the blow-out preventer.

BP is preparing to drill relief wells to permanently secure the wellhead. Expected to arrive on the scene Monday, Transocean’s drilling rig Development Driller III will drill a second well to intercept the Macondo well and inject a specialized heavy fluid to prevent flow of oil or gas and allow work to be carried out to permanently seal the well, said Hayward.

Transocean’s Development Driller III is expected to arrive at the site of the Deepwater Horizon incident, Monday, April 26, 2010. (Photo courtesy USCG)

To date, approximately 1,143 barrels of oily-water mixture has been collected by response vessels.

As the responsible party, BP is required to fund response and recovery costs. The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is also available to fund costs if required.

In Houma, Louisiana, where the BP field operations response is being coordinated, almost 500 personnel have been deployed on-shore and offshore to work with state and federal agencies, organizations and other companies.

Hayward said, “Given the current conditions and the massive size of our response, we are confident in our ability to tackle this spill offshore.”

Of the 126 crewmembers aboard the Deepwater Horizon, 11 men are missing and believed dead, while 17 others are listed in critical condition. The nine Transocean personnel and two employees of a third-party company have been missing since Tuesday’s explosion. The Coast Guard search and rescue operation was suspended Friday evening. During the search, rescue personnel conducted 28 sorties and covered more than 5,000 square miles.

In New Orleans, Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor, expressed his deepest sympathies to the family members of those lost and said the company is doing everything possible to meet their needs.

“As the nation and everyone in the Transocean family mourns the tragic loss of these people, our deepest sympathies are with their families and friends today,” said Newman. “I would once again like to express our gratitude to the U.S. Coast Guard, BP and everyone involved for their exhaustive search and rescue efforts, despite this very sad outcome.”

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