FEAR OF a serious spill diminished today when the US Coast Guard said no oil appears to be leaking from the Transocean drilling rig that exploded, caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We’ve been able to determine there is nothing emanating from the wellhead,” Rear Admiral Mary E Landry, commander of the Coast Guard’s Eighth District, said on ABC TV.
But the search for 11 missing workers continued today and officials are trying to contain what spilled after the blast and prevent any threat to the coast. Coast Guard officials said Gulf shipping lanes are so far unaffected by a moving oil sheen left when the oil platform sank.
“With the size of the current oil sheen and the direction of the current, we don’t expect it will [affect shipping lanes]”, a Coast Guard official told Fairplay this morning. “But we are monitoring the situation closely.”
The Coast Guard estimated the at 0930 local time as up to 10 by 10 n-miles.
It also said images transmitted from remote submarines show “there’s very little or no oil leaking out at this time. But we’re still assessing, and we’re prepared to respond in case oil starts to leak out.”
Industry analysts indicated that a major spill could bog down President Obama’s recent initiative to open the US East Coast to offshore drilling – approval of which could have curtailed tanker demand.
Firefighters used underwater robots yesterday to attempt to close valves that had allowed the fire to burn before the platform sank. Three “very large” oil spill skimming vessels were sent to the scene, Coast Guard spokeswoman Katherine McNamara told Fairplay.
More than 3,000 n-miles have been searched for those missing since 20 April, when the blast ripped through Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon, a 32,588gt mobile offshore drilling unit.
Before the explosion, the rig carried 2.6M litres of diesel fuel and was pumping 8,000 barrels (1.27M litres) of crude oil a day, the BBC reported.