The broken wellhead gushing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is tilting over, potentially threatening further disaster. The Deepwater Horizon riser package that sits on the seabed a mile below the ocean surface weighs over 450 tons, including the 48-foot-tall failed blowout preventer. In a press teleconference Monday, National Incident Commander Thad Allen announced that the riser package is tilting “10 or 12 degrees off perpendicular,” twice the 5.5 degree tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa:
The entire arrangement is kind of listed a little bit. I think it’s 10 or 12 degrees off perpendicular so it’s not quite straight up.
The “integrity of the well casing is a major concern,” Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil, told the Houston Chronicle last week. Engineers and geologists fear the stack atop the well could tip over if the well integrity further degrades, leading to the “unlikely, but not implausible” scenario of “oil gushing through the sea floor.”
On June 10, the stack was only tilting by about two or three degrees.