Gulf Oil Spill: New Methods Used to Attempt Containment

May 16, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Seagulls feed not far from the massive BP oil spill offshore May 14, in the sensitive marshlands near Venice, Louisiana. Oil continues leaking out of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead as BP works to contain the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  (John Moore/Getty Images)
Seagulls feed not far from the massive BP oil spill offshore May 14, in the sensitive marshlands near Venice, Louisiana. Oil continues leaking out of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead as BP works to contain the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (John Moore/Getty Images)
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill response team is continuing to try methods to contain the gushing oil located on the sea floor, 5,000 feet below the water’s surface in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We will continue our relentless efforts to secure the source of the spill. In the meantime, we will employ every available technique we can to minimize the environmental impact on coastal habitats, communities, and the marine ecosystem,” stated Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, the national incident commander for the spill, in a press release from the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center.

According to the Joint Information Center, a four-inch diameter tube tool was tested on the gushing riser Saturday night. The tube was inserted into the riser, capturing some oil and gas. The tube was dislodged during the test, but after inspection was reinserted into the riser.

The riser insertion tube tool, as it is called, does not capture all of the leaking oil, but may succeed in reducing the amount of oil entering Gulf waters. The tube carries the oil and gas up to the surface to the drill ship Discoverer Enterprise.

The information center reports the Enterprise has the ability to separate the water, oil, and gas and then offload the oil safely onto another ship.

On Saturday the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard approved BP using oil dispersants subsea near the oil well leak. Oil dispersants are chemicals that bind with the oil, breaking it into small drops. The chemical dispersants are generally less toxic than the oil, but were previously used for cleanup at the surface.

According to the Joint Information Center, use of the dispersants subsea is a new approach and preliminary tests show using them at the leak source reduces the amount of oil reaching the surface.

“Dispersants are not the silver bullet. They are used to move us toward the lesser of two difficult environmental outcomes,” stated EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a Joint Information Center press release.

The response team will continue to monitor the dispersant method for negative impacts on the environment.