On the 65th day of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, new setbacks and accidents in the struggling effort to contain the unending gusher have taken place. Two of the 35,000 members of BP’s cleanup contractor army died in accidents, and the oil containment cap was removed after methane rose through an injection pipe. Admiral Thad Allen, the National Incident Commander, told reporters in the mid-day briefing about these tragic developments. TPM’s Rachel Slajda reports on what little is known about the two deaths:
One died in what Allen only described as a “swimming pool incident.” The other was the operator of a so-called “vessel of opportunity” — that is, a private boat volunteered to help out in the response — in Gulf Shores, MS. Allen said the Gulf Shores Police Department is investigating.
The engineers on Transocean’s Discoverer Enterprise drilling rig removed the containment cap that had been siphoning hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil to the surface from the listing riser structure after “gas rose through the vent that carries warm water down” to discourage the formation of methane hydrates. Although it is “unclear how the gas came to be in the warm water line,” Allen said “initial suspicions centered on the possibility that a robot vehicle working near the top hat had accidentally bumped it and closed one of the vents through which the crude continues to escape.” If hydrates have now formed within the containment cap or the pipeline, a new line will have to be run to the cap before collection can restart.
The secondary collection pipe connected from the blowout preventer to the Helix Q4000 ship has not been affected. The Q4000 has no oil storage or processing capability, so its captured oil and gas is burned off at the surface.
Meanwhile, currents and southerly winds have spread the vast oil slick onto the Florida coastline and Mississippi’s barrier islands. Radar satellite imagery shows oil slick tendrils five miles from Petit Bois Island, MS at 6 am EDT (5 am CDT).
On June 6, BP CEO Tony Hayward said they would be capturing “the majority – probably the vast majority” of the gushing oil. On June 8, BP COO Doug Suttles predicted the capture efforts would decrease the uncollected flow to “a relative trickle.” In his press conference on June 15, President Obama said he expected BP’s efforts “should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well” in the coming weeks.
An Orange Beach, AL, charter boat captain committed suicide this morning, shooting himself. He was “frustrated with the lack of straight answers coming from BP about the Vessel of Opportunity program and particularly about how he was to be paid once his 2 boats were deployed.”