Published May 12, 2010
Events May 13, Day 24 of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with an explosion and fire on April 20 on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well at about 210,000 gallons per day.
HOW TO FIX IT?
BP engineers decided to first try sucking oil away from the gushing well with a tube that will be inserted into the jagged pipe leaking on the seafloor. Company spokesman Bill Salvin said BP hopes to start moving the 6-inch tube into the leaking 21-inch pipe — known as the riser — on Thursday night. The smaller tube will be surrounded by a stopper to keep oil from leaking into the sea. The tube will then siphon the oil to a tanker at the surface. BP could still use a second containment box, which would be placed over the well and also would siphon the oil to the surface.
THE BILL GETS BIGGER
BP said the costs for fighting the spill now total about $450 million — $100 million more than it was three days ago. The company said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the tab includes money it has given to Gulf Coast states and the federal government for their responses. The costs also include efforts to contain the crude, ongoing work to drill a relief well and settlements. The company says the price tag generally is increasing by at least $10 million a day. A spokesman says the $100 million increase was likely caused by a lag in reporting costs.
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
The chairman of a subcommittee delving into what caused the well blowout said he wants to know why federal regulators gave permits to BP and the other companies involved for the well and rig. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., told CBS' "Early Show" he wants to talk to the Minerals Management Service. The agency enforces drilling regulations and collects royalties paid by oil companies to the government.
The owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig is trying to limit its liability from the disaster to about $27 million. A spokesman for Transocean Ltd. said a company petition will cite an 1851 law in asking for the cap. If successful, the liability limit would cap how much Transocean would be forced to pay if it loses any of the numerous lawsuits filed over the disaster.
A LACK OF REGULATION
A sequence of equipment failures likely caused the devastating Gulf well blowout, and it drives home an even more unsettling point: key safety features at thousands of U.S. offshore wells are barely regulated. Hearings Wednesday uncovered several breakdowns, including a leaky cement job, loose hydraulic fitting and dead battery.
The trail of problems highlights the reality that, even as the U.S. does more deepwater offshore drilling in a quest for domestic oil, some key safety components are left almost entirely to the discretion of the companies doing the work. It remains unclear what, if anything, Congress or the Obama administration may do to address these regulatory deficiencies.