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Controlled Burn of Deepwater Horizon Oil Slick Scheduled for Today

The extent of the sheen as of 27 April. Click to enlarge.

Responders to the BP/Transocean Deepwater Horizon incident have scheduled a controlled, on-location burn of oil from the spill to begin at approximately 11 a.m. Central Time today. The explosion and fire on, and subsequent sinking of, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig left some 1,000 barrels of oil (42,000 gallons) per day flowing from the broken drill pipe. (Earlier post.)

As of 10:40 am 27 April, an irregular sheen of oil on the Gulf waters had spread to 100 miles by 45 miles at its extremes. A 2-mile circle of dark oil was surrounding the surface point of the underwater flow. A flyover on 27 April at 5:00 p.m. showed a rainbow sheen approximately 600 miles in circumference with areas of emulsified crude. The edge of the sheen is approximately 23 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

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Graphic depicting the underwater efforts (not to scale). ROVs are trying to activate the blowout preventer (BOP) while BP is positioning to drill a relief well. Click to enlarge.

Part of a coordinated response combining tactics deployed above water, below water, dozens of miles offshore, as well as closer to coastal areas, today’s controlled burn is intended to remove oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and marine and other wildlife.

Workboats will consolidate oil into a fire-resistant boom approximately 500 feet long. This oil will then be towed to a more remote area, where it will be ignited and burned in a controlled manner. The plan calls for small, controlled burns of several thousand gallons of oil lasting approximately one hour each.

No populated areas are expected to be affected by the controlled burn operations and the reponsders anticipated impacts to marine mammals and sea turtles. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will continuously monitor air quality and burning will be halted if safety standards cannot be maintained.

The US Minerals Management Service (MMS) is in contact with the oil and gas operators in the sheen area to discuss any concerns with operations that may arise from their activities with the response efforts underway. Currently, no production has been curtailed as a result of the response activities.

The responders expects that the vast majority of this slick will be addressed through natural means and through use of chemical dispersants. The burn will not affect other ongoing response activities, such as on-water skimming, dispersant application, and subsurface wellhead intervention operations.

  • More than 76,580 feet of boom (barrier) has been assigned to contain the spill. An additional 167,220 feet is available and 385,080 feet has been ordered.

  • To date, the oil spill response team has recovered 6,206 barrels (260,652 gallons) of an oil-water mix. Vessels are in place and continuing recovery operations.

  • 70 response vessels are being used including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels.

  • 64,748 gallons of dispersant have been deployed and an additional 110,960 gallons are available.

Preparations are also underway in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama to set up a protective boom to minimize shoreline impact.

These efforts are happening concurrently with BP/Transocean’s continued efforts to stop the crude that is still leaking from the well. BP is the responsible party due to the fact that they own the oil that was leaking from their well.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar yesterday announced the next steps for the investigation that is underway to determine the causes of the explosion, which left 11 workers missing, three critically injured, and an ongoing oil spill that the responsible party and federal agencies are working to contain and clean up.

Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Secretary Napolitano, US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, Secretary Salazar and DOI Deputy Secretary David Hayes also held meetings yesterday with BP, the responsible party in the oil spill, to discuss the response effort.



This is such a sad event. I do think the controlled burn is a good idea at this point...will be nothing compared to the emissions of that icelandic volcano.


Not to mention, it was (mostly) going to end up burned anyway, in engines. No harm in doing it where it is.


Could the use of a few safety valves have reduced the volume of the spill?


Anybody here ready for another rousing chorus of "Drill Baby Drill!" ??? No? well in other news the nitwits of Nantucket are still fighting wind turbines being place off shore. They should think themselves lucky.


I was getting the impression they'd be setting miles of the ocean on fire, but its actually just whats inside of a 500 ft long boom? Doesn't even sound like its worth the trouble when taken into the context of the size of the spill.

Every little bit helps I guess - good luck to them on this.

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