Video: Gulf oil slick workers brace for tropical front

  1. Transcript of: Gulf oil slick workers brace for tropical front

    ANN CURRY, anchor: The cap on that oil well in the gulf is still holding this morning, but now what? NBC 's chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson tells us what is coming up. Anne , good morning.

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good morning, Ann. In many ways, this seems like the test that will never end. And that's just fine with the people here as long as it keeps the oil from flowing into the gulf. But a potential problem looms just on the horizon. For six days now the ceiling cap has held back the oil, but there is trouble brewing in the Caribbean . A tropical wave near Puerto Rico could become a tropical depression or storm by Thursday, closing the weather window at the leak site that has allowed crews to make so much progress.

    Admiral THAD ALLEN, Retired (National Incident Commander): The probability is low at this time that there would be gale-force winds that could impact the well site. That could change and develop over the next few days. Obviously we're watching that very, very closely.

    THOMPSON: BP is working on another way to stop the oil. This plan is called static kill, a low-pressure version of the unsuccessful top kill. BP wants to pump heavy drilling mud through the blowout preventer with the sealing cap closed to plug the well. The government has yet to give the go-ahead.

    Mr. KENT WELLS (Senior Vice President): If it's approved to do so, it's 100 percent chance we'll go ahead with it. I think we'll have covered all of the risk analysis, all of the issues with the procedures and stuff.

    THOMPSON: BP believes the well is stable and though five leaks have been detected, National Incident Commander Allen dismissed them as drips.

    Adm. ALLEN: We found nothing that would be consequential towards the integrity of the well head to date.

    THOMPSON: Now the price tag for this cleanup is $4 billion, and yesterday BP sold assets in the US, Canada and Egypt to help pay the bill. Ann :

    CURRY: All right, Anne Thompson this morning. Anne , thanks.

By
updated 7/21/2010 7:32:45 PM ET 2010-07-21T23:32:45

Rain storms moving toward the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday temporarily shut down undersea efforts to seal BP's ruptured well, interrupting work just as engineers get close to plugging the leak with mud and cement.

BP corked a relief tunnel deep beneath the sea floor to keep it from being damaged. The tunnel will be used to close up BP's leaky well, hopefully sealing it off for good.

BP vice president Kent Wells says the relief well was plugged Wednesday morning and drilling was halted.

Boat captains were told to clear out of the Gulf as a tropical storm system threatens the area.

Tom Ard, the president of the Orange Beach Fishing Association, says captains who showed up at docks to skim for oil Wednesday were sent home and told they wouldn't be going back out for five or six days because of weather.

Forecasters say a tropical weather system likely will move into the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend. It has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm within the next 48 hours.

Scientists have been closely watching to determine if the cap is displacing pressure and causing leaks underground. If they can't observe the cap because of bad weather — for up to four days, Allen said — they could decide to reopen the cap to avoid missing signs the well is buckling.

In Florida, crews were removing protective boom intended to buffer the state's inland waterways in the Panhandle from oil. High winds and storm surge could carry the boom into sensitive wetlands, damaging those areas.

  1. Click here for related content
    1. AFP - Getty Images
      NYT: Rig crew voiced safety concerns
    2. Newsweek: Scientists oppose berms, other efforts
    3. Tropical Storm Bonnie moving toward oil spill
    4. Messy cleanup of BP oil spill damages the Gulf
    5. Field Notes: Tricky TV shots from sub in Gulf
    6. Field Notes: Oil spill illnesses, injuries double
    7. How to help: donate, volunteer, report incidents

It could take several days to evacuate ships from the well site 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, where the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 and touching off one of America's worst environmental crises. Shell already has begun evacuating personnel not essential to producing and drilling on their operations in the Gulf.

President Obama's pointman on the disaster Thad Allen said an evacuation could delay operations as much as two weeks before work would resume to kill the well at the bottom.

Shell Oil, the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, already has begun evacuating personnel not essential to producing and drilling on their operations in the Gulf.

BP crews are in the final stages of readying a relief tunnel before boring into the side of the ruptured well to dump heavy mud and cement, sealing it for good. BP also may pump mud and cement from the top, to make efforts at the bottom easier. That procedure, called a surface kill, would occur before the well is ultimately plugged from below.

Before talk of nasty weather, BP was inching closer to completion and had aimed for early August for the plug.

The well has spewed somewhere between 94 million gallons and 184 million gallons into the Gulf. BP has invested $4 billion on the spill so far.

The temporary cork in the well has helped cleanup efforts, and Allen said skimming vessels are starting to have trouble finding oil to collect. BP has about 1,600 boats operating daily in waters off Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, 600 fewer than last week, said Matt Kissinger, director of BP's "vessels of opportunity" program in the region.

Some boat captains, many earning more through the cleanup than they typically do from fishing, are worried it's a sign BP is leaving the Gulf too early.

Shrimper Minh V. Le of Bayou La Batre had both of his boats out skimming for oil initially, but one has been deactivated.

"A lot of us have put a lot of sweat into the program," he said. "You've got a 100-degree heat index, and there's a lot of wear and tear on our boats. If something breaks down it can cost $30,000. What they're paying isn't a drop in the bucket."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Month 4

loading photos...
  1. The Blue Dolphin, left, and the HOS Centerline, the ships supplying the mud for the static kill operation on the Helix Q4000, are seen delivering mud through hoses at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, on Aug. 3, 2010. In the background is the Development Driller III, which is drilling the primary relief well. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Eddie Forsythe and Don Rorabough dump a box of blue crabs onto a sorting table at B.K. Seafood in Yscloskey, La., on Aug. 3, 2010. The crabs were caught by fisherman Garet Mones. Commercial and recreational fishing has resumed, with some restrictions in areas that were closed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Chuck Cook / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Sea turtle hatchlings that emerged from eggs gathered on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida are released at Playalinda Beach on the Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville, Fla., on Aug. 2, 2010. The sea turtles were born at a Kennedy Space Center incubation site, where thousands of eggs collected from Florida and Alabama beaches along the Gulf of Mexico have been sent. (Craig Rubadoux / Florida Today via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A crab, covered with oil, walks along an oil absorbent boom near roso-cane reeds at the South Pass of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana on Aug. 1, 2010. BP is testing the well to see if it can withstand a "static kill" which would close the well permanently. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A boat motors through a sunset oil sheen off East Grand Terre Island, where the Gulf of Mexico meets Barataria Bay on the La. coast, on the evening of July 31. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Oil approaches a line of barges and boom positioned to protect East Grand Terre Island, partially seen at top right, on July 31. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is seen near an unprotected island in the Gulf of Mexico near Timbalier Bay, off the coast of Louisiana on Wednesday, July 28. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Greenpeace activists stand outside a BP gas station in London, England, on July 27 after they put up a fence to cut off access. Several dozen BP stations in London were temporarily shut down to protest the Gulf spill. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. James Wilson sells T-shirts to those arriving in Grand Isle, La., for the music festival Island Aid 2010 on July 24. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Activists covered in food coloring made to look like oil protest BP's Gulf oil spill in Mexico City on July 22. The sign at far left reads in Spanish "Petroleum kills animals." (Alexandre Meneghini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. People in Lafayette, La., wear "Keep Drilling" tee shirts at the "Rally for Economic Survival" opposing the federal ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, July 21. Supporters at the rally want President Obama to lift the moratorium immediately to protect Louisiana's jobs and economy. (Ann Heisenfelt / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A flock of white ibis lift off from marsh grass on Dry Bread Island in St. Bernard Parish, La., July 21. Crews found about 130 dead birds and 15 live birds affected by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on July 19 in the eastern part of the parish behind the Chandeleur Islands. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the BP Oil Spill Victim Compensation Fund testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on July 21 in Washington, D.C. The hearing was to examine the claim process for victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An American white pelican has its wings checked during a physical examination at Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Hospital by Michael Adkesson and Michael O’Neill on July 21. The bird, along with four other pelicans, was rescued from the Gulf Coast oil spill and will be placed on permanent exhibit at the zoo. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Native people of the Gwich'in Nation form a human banner on the banks of the Porcupine River near Ft. Yukon, Alaska July 21, in regard to the BP oil spill with a message to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development. The images include a Porcupine caribou antler and a threatened Yukon River Salmon. (Camila Roy / Spectral Q via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  1. Image:
    Gerald Herbert / AP
    Above: Slideshow (15) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 4
  2. Image: Economic And Environmental Impact Of Gulf Oil Spill Deepens
    Mario Tama / Getty Images
    Slideshow (64) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 3
  3. Image: Oil Spill In The Gulf
    Digitalglobe / Getty Images Contributor
    Slideshow (81) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 2
  4. Image: Dispersed oil caught in the wake of a transport boat floats on the Gulf of Mexico
    Hans Deryk / Reuters
    Slideshow (53) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 1
  5. Image:
    Gerald Herbert / AP
    Slideshow (10) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Rig explosion

Map: Gulf oil spill trajectory

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments