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Video: ‘Controlled burns’ aim to contain oil slick

  1. Closed captioning of: ‘Controlled burns’ aim to contain oil slick

    >> meredith.

    >>> controlled burns are being used to destroy some of the oil still spewing into the sea on day 4 in the disaster in the gulf. kerry sanders has made his way to the middle of the gulf some 50 miles from shore for an upclose look at the operation. the sun rises here it is a g, stunning view. take a look. that is what used to be deepwater horizon. now it is the recovery effort. you're looking at that flame shooting out there. that is the natural gas that they're burning off that's coming up on the other side there is some other flame, a little hard to make out. that is the q-4,000, a vessel, a somewhat submersible, where they're capturing 15,000, 10,000 barrels of oil. they're forcing air in there and they're burning that oil. of course it's 60,000 barrels a day that is flowing so it's only a portion of the oil that is coming up. as you said, they're also using controlled burns. our voyage out here to get to this spot was really, thankfully, uneventful in somewhat choppy seas. just getting to the deepwater horizon is complicated.

    >> have a good trip.

    >> reporter: late monday we began our 11-hour voyage out to the crippled well on a 230-foot vessel named "the skye falgott" going out to the site and broadcast live to show people what's going on moment by moment. to do that it takes technology. on the back of the vessel is our satellite truck we call the blue mobile named after my friend the late nbc correspondent david bloom who used the truck to broadcast live from the iraq war . it now helps us go live today in the middle of the gulf of mexico . not far away the controlled burns have been an ongoing operation, trying to stop the oil here close to the source before it makes its way to shore. that ugly, thick, black, putrid smoke. it's all intentional and both the coast guard and bp executives say it's working.

    >> incredible.

    >> reporter: do we need to add some additional diesel? .

    >> reporter: if there is any good news in this disaster say the strike team leaders, it's that this oil, light, sweet crude , is combustible.

    >> that looks like ignition.

    >> reporter: the fuse to burn it off, a macgyver-like creation, two milk jugs taped together with floats and then ignited with a flare. the flare melts the jugs which spreads the diesel which flares up and then sparks the crude on fire. if it doesn't ignite the first time, it usually burns the second or third time unless that oil is what they call emulsified, oil mixed with water, making it nearly impossible to catch fire.

    >> this oil is being very stubborn. it's definitely burning some of the crude oil now but it's fighting the wind and the wave action to sustain that burning.

    >> reporter: the operation is so successful they've added another strike team so they can now have three teams working. it's a daylight operation only. they have done 269 burns. some have lasted minutes, others 14 hours . oil burned so far, an estimated 10 million gallons. and so as the sun rises here over the gulf on day 64, you can see the vessels here. we count more than 27 vessels here in support of the operation right over there. that's the enterprise, the q-4,000 where they're burning it off, the relief wells are just a little bit to the side there. you can see the relief wells over there where they're drilling down. they report one of those relief lls is slightly ahead of schedule. if everything goes as planned, those relief wells will actually be able to make that turn and by august meet the pipe and start injecting some heavy mud/concrete to try to shut this down. meredith?

    >> all right, kerry, thank you so much. kerry sanders reporting from the middle of the gulf. amazing to see him there.

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