Oil sheen spotted near BP Deepwater Horizon drill rig

Using satellite images to monitor the Deepwater Horizon drill rig that exploded over two years ago, BP spotted a previously undetected oil sheen on September 16. When the sheen was first discovered, the source was unknown. Monitoring the sheen from aircraft and ships, the Coast Guard, BP, and NOAA have observed the sheen vary in size over time. According to restorethegulf.gov, early assessments conducted by the Marine Safety Laboratory “indicate the sheen correlates to oil that originated from BP’s Macondo Well.”

deep water horizon

BP and Transocean proposed a plan on October 12 to examine the sheen with satellite observations and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) at the Macondo well wreckage on the sea floor. Video footage from the ROV observations have not yet been released, but according to restorethegulf.gov, the ROVs have observed oil seepage around the containment dome, otherwise known as the cofferdam – the 86-ton steel container constructed after the initial explosion and designed to capture the oil. The containment dome was not successful at capturing the leaking oil in 2010 and was moved about 500 meters away from its original location at the Macondo well head. It remains on the ocean floor. The ROVs inspected the well head and determined there was no oil leakage from the original well area. The ROV investigations confirmed the seepage was originating from the containment dome.

The Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) has directed BP to submit a plan to either remove the containment dome or eliminate the threat of further oil release. The FOSC also approved BP to cap and plug the containment dome. This operation was completed earlier in the week. Since then, satellite images captured by BP, Coast Guard, and other agencies have observed no further oil emissions from the containment dome.

Carissa Ries

water well expert

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