May 13, 2010 -- On day 24 since the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, and as oil and natural gas continue to gush from the ground, BP has come up with yet another idea for stopping the flow of crude -- number two of at least seven repair schemes in the works by the company.
The first plan, a boxy dome, was meant to capture leaking oil and siphon it to the surface. That failed when the dome clogged with ice created when escaping methane interacted with the materials of the dome and the cold seawater.
In a new attempt to stop the undesired flow of oil, undersea robots will attempt to insert a smaller pipe inside the broken end of the well pipe. If that works, a tube will then suck the oil/gas mixture to a huge ship on the surface. Once on board, the oil will be separated and stored.
"I think you will see an improvement in the reduction of the flow rate at the well in the next two weeks," said Eric Smith a professor at the Tulane University Energy Institute who has been in regular contact with engineers at the drill site. "With luck, it could be a very significant reduction."
Smith has watched the video BP released of the oil gushing from the broken pipe on the sea floor. BP has estimated 200,000 gallons of oil a day are pouring into the sea. Smith agrees.
Even if BP is able to stop the leak, there are still millions of gallons of oil just off the coast. For 24 days, the slick has stayed at sea, but it looks like it won't much longer.
Although the slick remains offshore, the forecast for the weekend shows a strong south wind pushing it perilously close to shore. More than 500 vessels, from skimmers to barges, are at work battling the giant oil slick, but it may take nothing short of a miracle to avoid a serious ecological disaster.