Oil giant BP succeeded Sunday in connecting a mile-long pipe to help capture what it hoped will be a majority of the oil flowing from a damaged well into the Gulf of Mexico — “an important step” toward capping the massive spill, the company said, but not a complete solution.
The company initially connected the suction pipe for about four hours just after midnight Sunday, sending some oil, gas and water to an oil tanker 5,000 feet above the seabed, but then the pipe was dislodged. It was reconnected late Sunday morning.
“We’re looking to optimize this over the next couple days to try to produce as much oil and gas as we can,” said Kent Wells, BP’s senior vice president for exploration and production, at a press conference. He added that while the amount of oil being captured was gradually increasing, the company had not measured it
The effort doesn’t plug the massive oil leak that began on April 20 when an offshore rig caught fire and sank, but it’s the first success in almost a month to begin capping the erupting flow. A similar effort had failed early Saturday.
Despite BP’s success Sunday, scientists say the large swatch of oil covering the Gulf already has had a monumental ecological impact.
Satellite images taken Saturday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory show the oil may have already entered the Gulf Loop current, which could pull it through the Florida Keys and into South Florida, according to an analysis by Mitch Roffer, an oceanographer who runs Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service and has been tracking the spill.