May 17, 2010 -- For nearly four weeks BP's well has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but now the company says one of its schemes to capture that oil is actually working.
Remote submersibles hooked up a mile-long tube to the broken well pipe over the weekend. BP says it is siphoning some of the leaking oil to a tanker on the surface.
"We've got flow going, it is great progress over the last 24 hours. What we are doing is slowing, doing something called opening up the choke at the top of well to slowly increase the flow rates," Bob Dudley, BP's managing director who is overseeing the response efforts, said on "GMA."
"We want to draw down the pressures at the bottom without bringing in the sea water … so we are doing this slowly and over the next day or so we should have a better idea of the flow rate from the well," Dudley said.
This morning BP said the tube was suctioning about 1,000 barrels of oil a day, or about 20 percent of what BP estimates is leaking from the well, according to The Associated Press.
But others are skeptical if this method will work.
"I'm very skeptical that it could collect most of the oil and gas … because the connection … will be leaky under the tremendous pressure that will be present inside the pipe," Steve Wereley, professor of fluid mechanics at Purdue University, said.
BP is pursuing two other methods of stopping the oil and hopes to plug the well in the next week.
"We've got an engineering operation where we will enter the blowout preventer at the well head and be able to inject some heavy fluids to be able to try to permanently stop the flow from the well," Dudley said. "In addition to that we are still drilling the relief well."
BP Will Reimburse 'All Legitimate Claims'
BP Will Reimburse 'All Legitimate Claims'
"We've said from day one we will take responsibility for the spill, we will not hide behind the $75 million cap. We are taking responsibility for the spill not just in words, we've set up claims centers across the Gulf Coast," Dudley said. "We are issuing checks to those who have been affected in the fishing area so they don't miss a boat payment or a house payment [and can] put food on the table. I think we are seeing not only our agreement with that as well as our actions."
Plumes of Oil Discovered Underwater
"This oil as you can see has depth, it's not only the size of Manhattan in area, but it's also several hundred meters depth," Vernon Asper, of the University of Southern Mississippi, said.
Rep. Edward Markey Lashes Out at BP
On Sunday Rep. Edward Markey, a democrat from Massachusetts, lashed out at BP and accused the company of "burying its head in the sand on these underwater threats" and compared the underwater plumes to "hidden mushroom clouds."
In response to Markey's statement Dudley said the joint incident command will investigate the plumes, but "as of today, it is hard to even comment on them."
But the scientists say these plumes are not huge "mushroom clouds" under the sea . In fact, they are not visible to the human eye. What they detected were dips in the oxygen level of the water between 2000-6000 feet. Microbes (bacteria) are feasting on the oil, and that frenzied meal is causing them to consume oxygen as well, but the scientists say that so far not at dangerous levels.
The biologists says they are actually quite pleased with the way the bacteria are devouring the oil in the deep, and are beginning to question the wisdom of using dispersants at the source of the leak – they believe they might interrupt that bacterial smorgasbord. Although BP and the Coast Guard have been saying that dispersants are the reason we are not seeing more oil rise to the surface.
When asked if the chemical dispersants were making the situation in the Gulf worse by depleting the oxygen, Dudley said the dispersants are like "soap suds."
"It is like soap that breaks up the oil into small, very small droplets and then it degrades, bio degrades. And that's part of the natural process of it," Dudley said. "And so what will happen then is a little of the oxygen will be reduced, that means the bacteria is working. We think we see the natural processes at work here through the use of dispersants."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.