Video: BP aims to stop oil leak with smaller dome

  1. Transcript of: BP aims to stop oil leak with smaller dome

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: And now to the blame game over that massive oil spill that has now leaked four million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico . On Capitol Hill on Tuesday there was plenty of finger-pointing as crews gear up for yet another attempt to stop the leak. NBC 's Anne Thompson is in Venice , Louisiana , with more. Anne , good morning to you.

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good morning, Meredith . That top hat containment dome is out at the leak site and it is in the water. D -- BP plans to send it down some 5,000 feet to the sea floor and then use robotic submersibles to place it over the biggest leak. It's the latest Hail Mary pass in an effort to curtail this mammoth leak. With one-ton sandbags from the air and thousands of feet of boom on the water, Louisiana fortified its defenses against the oil slick ; while on Capitol Hill , the executives of the companies involved in the deadly explosion on the oil

    rig pointed fingers at each other: BP, Transocean, Halliburton.

    Mr. LAMAR McKAY (Chairman and President, BP America): Transocean , as owner and operator of the Deep Water Horizon drilling rig , had responsibility for the safety of drilling operations.

    Mr. STEVEN NEWMAN (President and CEO, Transocean LTD.): As the lease operator and the well owner, that falls on BP .

    Mr. TIM PROBERT (President, Global Business Lines, Halliburton Company): Halliburton 's confident that the cementing work on the Mississippi Canyon 252 well was completed in accordance with the requirements of the well owner's well construction plan.

    THOMPSON: From Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu , a pointed question.

    Senator MARY LANDRIEU: Will BP pay?

    Mr. NEWMAN: We are going to pay all legitimate claims. All legitimate claims.

    Sen. LANDRIEU: And define legitimate, please, for us.

    Mr. NEWMAN: I -- substantiated claims.

    THOMPSON: Eleven men died when the rig exploded. The slick put thousands of Louisiana 's fishermen out of work. And this week tar balls washed up on a barrier island beach near the mouth of the Mississippi . How much impact have you...

    Mr. CORY ANDERSON (US Environmental Services): We're looking at 100 to 300 yards of impact, and it varies from more in one place -- location to the other.

    THOMPSON: Crews in hazardous materials suits scooped up the tar balls and contaminated sand. This is a scene Louisiana 's governor wants to prevent at all costs.

    Governor BOBBY JINDAL (Republican, Louisiana): We're going to do everything we can to protect our coast using Louisiana people, Louisiana plans, Louisiana resources.

    THOMPSON: An effort that now appears to drag on for months. Now, today Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will meet with BP officials in Houston to try and brainstorm on new ideas to plug this leak, which is now entering its fourth week. Meredith :

msnbc.com news services
updated 5/11/2010 10:32:52 PM ET 2010-05-12T02:32:52

A second, smaller oil containment box was lowered into the sea near the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The box was being slowly submerged to the seabed Tuesday. But it won't be placed over the spewing well right away. BP spokesman Bill Salvin says engineers want to make sure everything is configured correctly and avoid the same buildup of ice crystals that stymied their first attempt at using a larger box that was about 100 tons.

This box will be connected to a ship on the surface by a pipe-within-a-pipe when it's lowered. Crews plan to pump in heated water and methanol so ice won't build up.

Salvin said undersea robots will position the box over the gusher by Thursday.

More than 4 million gallons of oil have spewed from the well since a drilling rig exploded April 20. At that rate, the accident could eclipse the Exxon Valdez disaster by Father's Day.

BP attempted to install a massive containment device over the larger of two leaks on the sea floor to funnel oil to the surface for collection.

But after lowering the huge dome into the sea on Thursday night the company said Saturday that chamber was blocked by hydrates, or crystallized gas, and had to be removed.

The icelike hydrates are crystals formed at high pressure and low temperature where water and natural gas are found.

There will be less seawater in the smaller dome, which will reduce the chance of hydrate formation, BP said. Moreover, methanol will be injected into the chamber to try to prevent the formation of hydrates.

The original dome, which took about two weeks to build, was four stories high and weighed 98 tons. The smaller dome, which will be anchored to the sea floor with pipe, is four feet in diameter and five feet high, BP said.

The design for both calls for siphoning captured oil up to a ship via a milelong pipeline.

The company is also planning to try and block the crude flow with a "junk shot," in which materials including golf balls, knotted rope and shredded tires will be shot at high pressure into the well's failed subsea blow-out preventer.

That process will take about two weeks, BP said.

All of the techniques BP is trying have never been attempted at the water depths of this well, which is 5,000 feet below the surface and where equipment is being maneuvered with remotely controlled vehicles.

BP also drilling a relief well in order to take pressure off the gusher and then cap it permanently. But that effort is expected to take up to 80 more days.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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