A day after announcing its much-anticipated containment system failed to work as planned, BP has rolled out a series of measures that the company hopes will plug the leak.
The most daring is a plan to sever the broken riser on the sea floor and suction the entirety of its output through a pipeline to the surface. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told ABC News the process could begin as early as Friday.
Also being considered is something called a junkshot. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the spill, said the procedure involves taking a "bunch of debris, shredded up tires, golf balls and things like that and under very high pressure shoot it into the preventer itself and see if they can clog it up and stop the leak."
The junk would be blasted through an enormous high-pressure pipeline into the blow-out preventer, the 900,000-pound contraption at the sea bed. "We are progressing that at pace and it may be able to be used the later part of this coming week," Suttles said.
As with the containment system, this effort would be yet another gambit that has never been tried at such a depth.
The last never-been-tried-before gambit seems to have failed. The so-called sub-sea containment system, a squat four-story-tall obelisk engineered to siphon oil leaking from the broken riser on the sea floor to a barge waiting on the surface ran into trouble today.
As deep-sea robots nudged it over the pipeline's largest leak, hydrate crystals formed inside the contraption. The slushy admixture plugged the 12-inch hole through which the oil was to be pumped up to an oil rig waiting 5,000 feet above on the surface. The crystals also made that 78 ton box buoyant.
It now lies a couple of hundred feet from the broken pipeline.
But BP is still scrambling to salvage that dome system, which is sitting at the bottom of the gulf. BP says the likely solution would be to attach a pipeline to the dome and then circulate methanol through the pipeline to melt the crystals.
BP is also considering placing another, smaller box over the leak. The smaller intake of water, the theory goes, would help reduce the formation of crystals. Called Top Hat, BP officials say, the smaller container could be in place by the middle of next week.
Oil and Hurricane Won't Mix
Meantime oil, continues to gush at 200,000 gallons a day into the gulf.
On the pristine beaches of Alabama's Dauphin Island, tar balls, some the size of pancakes, have washed ashore. Crews in hazmat uniforms scoured the beach for the black disks as bathers looking on in curiosity.
In Louisiana, Plaquemins Parish President Billy Nungesser told ABC News his crews spotted globules of oil the size of baseballs floating in the East Bay.
He said that means the oil has circumnavigated the mouth of the Mississippi to its western approaches, which, he said, threatens the fragile marshlands here.
"If that oil gets into the marshlands, the next time a hurricane hits, we're going to have to clean New Orleans of oil, because nothing will stand in its way," he said.
And as the oil creeps closer, additional fisheries will likely be closed to shrimpers such as the Roigs. The family arrived at BP's claims center at 6 a.m. today to do something they'd never done before, ask for a handout. BP said that fishermen with state fishing licenses who present their tax returns can receive up to $5,000.
But a crying Debbie Roig said that would last the family the month and wouldn't nearly compensate for the loss of the entire shrimping season.
"We don't know, we don't have a future," she said. "My son, this is all he's ever done. What if the oil hits the marshlands and kills the shrimp?"
Her husband, George, said that accepting the check wounds his pride, but with a mortgage a boat and a truck to pay for, he has no choice.
"I try to raise my kids right," he said. "We don't allow curse words in the house. The only curse word for a while was Katrina that was coming in the house more frequently that we didn't want to hear. And now BP's going to be another curse word."