The Blog

Gulf Update: Some Oil Disappears, Static Kill Seems to Be Working

Back to the beach.

3:00 PM, Aug 4, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

ABC was first to report at the end of July that at least some of the oil spewed by the Deep Horizon well seemed to be breaking up, evaporating, and dispersing on its own— so much so that cleaning crews were having trouble finding the slick.

At its peak last month, the oil slick was the size of Kansas, but it has been rapidly shrinking, now down to the size of New Hampshire.

Today, ABC News surveyed a marsh area and found none, and even on a flight out to the rig site Sunday with the Coast Guard, there was no oil to be seen...

The numbers don't lie: two weeks ago, skimmers picked up about 25,000 barrels of oily water. Last Thursday, they gathered just 200 barrels.

That doesn't mean the oil is completely gone, of course, but Rush Limbaugh is certainly entitled to a bit of an I-told-you-so moment for those who called him a monster for suggesting this might happen. Some of the oil remains below the surface, and long-term effects of both the oil and the chemical dispersants on the Gulf ecosystem may take a while to become clear. The disaster's not over, but it's nice to hear some good news.

At the White House briefing today, officials gave much credit to "Mother Nature" for having helped with the clean-up, but Gibbs declined to apologize for slamming the BP CEO for minimizing its possible impact.

"Nobody owes Tony Hayward an apology," he said.

The good news continues today with BP's announcement that its "static kill" seems to be preventing the flow of oil, with a "bottom kill" forthcoming:

This morning, BP reported that the static kill procedure was working so far as the mud pumped into the blown out well was holding back the oil. The company will monitor the situation to ensure the well remains stable before sealing the well permanently with cement. The next step will be the bottom kill procedure, where the company will inject mud and cement 2.5 miles beneath the sea floor through the relief well.

And, the government is prepared to report that three quarters of the oil has been collected or evaporated, and poses much less risk than anticipated. They are dismissing fears that there are giant globs of underwater oil left leaving unaccounted for:

A government report finds that about 26 percent of the oil released from BP’s runaway well is still in the water or onshore in a form that could, in principle, cause new problems. But most is light sheen at the ocean surface or in a dispersed form below the surface, and federal scientists believe that it is breaking down rapidly in both places...

The report, which is to be unveiled on Wednesday morning, is a result of an extensive effort by federal scientists, with outside help, to add up the total volume of oil released and to figure out where it went.

The lead agency behind the report, the oceanic and atmospheric administration, played down the size of the spill in the early days, and the Obama administration was ultimately forced to appoint a scientific panel that came up with far higher estimates of the flow rate from the well. Whether the new report will withstand critical scrutiny is uncertain; advocacy groups and most outside scientists had not learned of it on Tuesday.

Obama told the AFL-CIO, after hearing an update on the oil spill, "The long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end." My general skepticism of the federal government advises me to take this report with a grain of salt, but word of progress is good.

Recent Blog Posts