BP asks for military tech to contain oil spill

Oil giant needs better subsea equipment than is available commercially

Oil giant BP plc has requested assistance from the Defense Department for advanced subsea imaging technology and remote operating vehicles that are not available commercially to contain the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, reports the Houston Chronicle.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said at a news conference April 29 that the company has asked DOD if it can help with better underwater equipment than is available commercially, the Associated Press reports.  

The company tried unsuccessfully this week to activate a giant valve called a blowout preventer on the seabed to cut off the source of the oil spill. The effort to stem the flow of oil from the damaged deepwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is continuing as the oil slick begins to approach Louisiana’s shoreline.

Also on April 29, the federal government delivered skimmers and boomers in an effort to assist BP in its efforts to keep the massive spill contained at sea. The Coast Guard is working with BP on those containment efforts.

Today BP began efforts to protect the coastlines of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi from the damaging effects of the oil spill by putting in place protective booms.

After stating that BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and cleanup operations, President Barack Obama said April 29 that his administration would “continue to use every single available resource at our disposal” to address the incident. That effort includes DOD resources, he said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. Northern Command, the Joint Staff and the Navy are working in close collaboration with the White House and Department of Homeland Security to determine what assets are required, DOD spokesman Geoff Morrell said April 29.

As of April 29, 76 small commercial vessels were on hand to help in the containment and cleanup, with the support of six fixed-wing aircraft, 11 helicopters, 10 remotely operated robotic vehicles and two mobile offshore drilling units, ABC News reports.

The Deepwater Horizon deep-sea oil rig, owned by Transocean and leased by BP, sank on April 22 following an explosion aboard the platform two days earlier. A fire occurred while workers were in the final phases of drilling a well.

The damaged wellhead, which is located 50 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, is almost a mile underwater.

Efforts to cap the well could take as long as four weeks, the Guardian reports. If those fail, the company will have to drill a relief well, which could take as along as three months.

 

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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