From: Bruce Nichols, Reuters, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published April 27, 2010 06:54 AM

Gulf of Mexico oilspill spreads

An oil spill from a leaking underwater well grew to cover 1,900 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico on Monday as the U.S. Coast Guard scrambled to keep the slick from reaching the fragile Gulf Coast shoreline.

The well, 5,000 feet under the ocean surface off Louisiana's coast, is leaking about 1,000 barrels of oil a day. The spill, which the U.S. Coast Guard has called "very serious," has put the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Florida on alert for potential oil contamination.

Swiss-based Transocean Ltd's Deepwater Horizon sank on April 22, two days after it exploded and caught fire while finishing a well for BP Plc about 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

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As of Monday afternoon, there were no impacts to the shore and the spill remained about 30 miles off the Louisiana coast at least three days from landfall, said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry.

Wildlife impact was said to be minimal. An aircrew from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Sunday spotted three sperm whales near the spill but they did not appear affected, officials said.

The incident casts a pall over the oil industry's push for access to more offshore acreage in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast, and comes just weeks after President Barack Obama unveiled plans for a limited expansion of U.S. offshore oil and gas drilling.

In an attempt at a quick fix, U.S. agencies this weekend deployed four remotely operated underwater vehicles to dive unmanned to the ocean floor to try to activate a balky blowout preventer, a 450-ton tangle of pipes and valves that usually works automatically.

If that plan fails, London-based BP, which owns the oil well and is financially responsible for the cleanup, will have to drill one or more relief wells into the damaged well bore under the seabed to intercept the flow.

Photo from NASA, courtesy of Affiliate MONGABAY.com  Note ships in comparison to the extent of the oil spill.  This is a close up of a much larger area affected. Pls visit for more photos: http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0426-nasa_oilspill.html

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63O27L20100426

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