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article imageGulf containment effort to be attempted Thursday

By Michael Bearak     May 6, 2010 in World
British Petroleum (BP) is prepared to try to cover the leak almost one mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. This is a new concept as it has never been tried at such a depth.
A giant 100-ton concrete "box" left the Louisiana coast Wednesday en-route to the former site of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform that was destroyed over two weeks ago. Since that time oil has been spewing from the sea floor at a rate of 200,000 gallons per day. Crews are working 24/7 to keep the spill from reaching the fishing areas and white-sand beaches that line the Gulf Coast.
There has been fear about the oil reaching down and the extensive damage that the spill is going to cause environmentally. Issues have been raised concerning the lack of a response plan by BP, but now it appears that they are trying their first solution -- a containment device.
The device is constructed of concrete and metal, and is designed to work like a funnel and syphon and direct the oil to a tanker on the surface, through 5,000 feet of pipe. The biggest question right now is whether it will work or not, since it has never been done at such a depth.
Capt. Demi Shaffe, who is transporting the containment box told the Associated Press,"We're a little anxious. They're gonna try everything they can. If it don't work, they'll try something else."
There are a great number of concerns and possible complications from this exploratory method. The first is getting the device situated in the right location. Then through the use of a robotic submarine and submersible lights, to combat the darkness, the sub will help ensure the box is anchored deeply in the muddy sea floor. From there the 5,000 feet of pipe will be installed and connect to the box and to the tanker ship above. After that the complications and risk grows as containment crews will have to pump hot water and methanol down the pipe to combat the cold water temperatures and to dissolve any "ice plugs" which might form in the pipes.
Once the oil starts coming to the surface and into the tanker it will be highly combustible and the oil, water, and methanol will have to be separated. This is something that the engineers believe can be done without an explosion.
International Space Station Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi photographed on May 5  2010...
International Space Station Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi photographed on May 5, 2010 the Mississippi River Delta and nearby Louisiana coast, which appear dark in the sunglint. This phenomenon is caused by sunlight reflecting off the water surface, in a mirror-like manner, directly back towards the astronaut observer aboard the International Space Station. The sunglint improves the identification of the oil spill which is creating a different water texture (and therefore a contras
Courtesy NASA
According to Coast Guard Rear-Admiral Mary Landry cautioned everyone from getting overly excited saying, "I know we are all hoping that this containment system will work, but I want to remind everybody that this containment system is a first of its kind deployed in 5,000 feet of water."
A senior executive vice president for BP's Deep Water Angola, Bob Fryer, wouldn't even handicap the chances of success because of the complexity and the fact that this has never been tried before.
People are expressing great concern over the true impact on the environment as ships are working in the area to contain as much oil as possible. The fact is some oil has already begun to sink and will be ingested by fish, crabs and other sea life which will sicken them. Oil droplets are also being moved by the current posing a much greater environmental impact than just in the Louisiana, United States Gulf coast region.
Engineers believe that the containment unit will be in at the location and deployed around noon on Thursday.
More about Gulf of Mexico, Oil spill, Off-shore drilling disaster
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