NOAA: 74% of oil in Gulf gone; moratorium stands Baton Rouge, LA
Chart at the beginning of this story shows graphically what happened to the oil.
Where did all the oil go?
The administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday three-quarters of the 4.9 million barrels of oil that came up BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico have been removed.
The oil has evaporated, been diluted or has been collected since the well began spewing plumes of oil April 20 after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, according to a federal report released Wednesday.
“The bottom line here is that we can account for all but 26 percent and much of that is in the process of being degraded and cleaned up on the shore,” Jane Lubchenco told reporters at a White House news conference.
The announcement was more good news for the federal government, adding to word that BP successfully pushed the oil and gas in its ruptured well back down into the reservoir during a static kill that started Tuesday. The leaking well has been capped since July 15.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, national incident commander, said Wednesday he authorized BP to cement the well — which could permanently seal the structure.
Allen also said that regardless of the success of the static kill, the relief well will be finished for the bottom kill procedure.
“This is the beginning of the end of a phase,” Allen said earlier at the White House press conference. “It is a consequential day.”
Lubchenco said about 25 percent of the oil that leaked either evaporated or dissolved, much like pouring sugar into tea.
Another 17 percent was recovered from the well by ships and 8 percent was burned or skimmed.
While 16 percent was naturally dispersed, only 8 percent of the oil was dispersed by the chemical Corexit, she said. That means that out of the 4.1 million barrels of oil that gushed into the water, only 392,000 barrels were dispersed by Corexit, the White House said.
The 26 percent unaccounted for could be just below the surface of the water in the form of light sheen and weathered tar balls, some could have washed ashore, been collected from the shore, or are buried in the sand and sediments, she said.
In the warm Gulf waters, abundant oil-eating bacteria are busy gobbling up what oil has been left behind, LSU professors have said.
The good news, however, won’t help commercial fishermen and shrimpers to return to work, Lubchenco said. About 24 percent of the federal waters remained closed to fishing and will be until NOAA and the Food and Drug Administration can test the impact of the spill on seafood, she said.
The White House also said Wednesday that the good news will have no impact on the federal moratorium to deepwater exploratory drilling in the Gulf.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the federal government is still accumulating information about the cause of the oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers.
Until that can be determined and other rigs can be proven safe, the six-month moratorium will remain, Gibbs said.