BP Considers Options to Stop Spill as Oil Gushes for 21st Day

BP resumes use of chemical dispersant, considers golf balls to plug leak.

ByABC News
May 10, 2010, 3:07 PM

May 10, 2010— -- As oil continues to spew from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico for a 21st consecutive day, British Petroleum executives, government leaders and the oil industry as a whole are working to develop new methods to contain the leak after other efforts fell flat.

Over the weekend, a plan to cap the leak with a 100-ton containment dome failed when icy residue clogged the device, which was intended to pump oil from the site of the leak to a waiting ship. Now the dome sits on the seabed, away from the spill, according to BP. The containment dome strategy came after BP's robots failed to trigger the well's blowout preventer device and clamp the leak nearly a mile underwater.

The company said it has already spent some $350 million since the April 20 explosion that started the disaster, including efforts to stop the leak and contain the damage. Still, oil continues to gush at a rate of about 210,000 gallons a day.

Despite the hundreds of vessels, thousands of workers and 1 million feet of boom deployed to help gather the oil and polluted water, evidence suggests that the oil has already made landfall. Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University professor of environmental studies, tested a sample of the tar balls that landed on Alabama's Dauphin Island over the weekend and estimated with 95 percent certainty that they came from the recent oil spill.

So what are the options going forward?

BP is again using underwater dispersant chemicals to break up the oil before it reaches the surface. That tactic was abandoned last Wednesday after questions about the chemical's environmental impact were raised, but BP said it's using the same approach again, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

There has been little scientific study of the ecological impact of using underwater dispersant, which experts said is essentially like using dish soap and no more harmful than the oil itself.