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BP's dome can be seen in the back of the boat, being hauled to the site, several weeks ago.  (Source: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

BP is drilling two relief wells, but has to make it through over 15,000 ft of bedrock.  (Source: BP)
Gulf oil spill continues to unfold like a train wreck in slow motion

When you put a man on the moon or in space, you make absolutely sure you have a well developed backup plan of what to do in case of a failure.  Out on the deep sea the same rules apply -- you try to make sure there are no failures in the first place, and when one does occur, you need a clear plan to take control of the situation.

Such a plan has been glaringly absent by BP in the wake of the explosion of its
Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  Safety measures failed due to dead batteries and the company has shown itself largely unable to stop the flow of oil, even after close to two months.

Now the company has experience yet another embarrassing setback.  On Wednesday morning operators using the containment dome to siphon off some of the spilling oil witnessed a "burp in the line".  That "burp" turned out to be a serious problem with the containment dome, which forced BP to remove the dome.

The current theory is that one of the robotic submarines that pokes around and examines the dome accidentally collided with it.  The problems were possibly the result of a vent on the dome that releases some of the pressure being closed.  It is unknown, though whether the possible collision produced more extensive damage of any kind.

Now BP faces a new issue.  Even if the dome is intact, methyl hydrates (ice-like formations that can occur when gas meets seawater) may have formed when the oil hit the seawater.  That would prevent the dome from properly functioning.  BP is currently examining the pipe looking for them.  If there were methyl hydrates BP says the process would take "significantly longer" as they would likely have to clean the pipe.

The real problem becomes that there's even more oil flowing now that the pipe has been cut to make way for the containment dome.  Cutting the pipe was obviously the only option after several failed attempts to place the dome.  However, doing so increased the oil flow 20 percent (while capturing roughly half of the escaping oil).

BP is still trying to siphon off oil using its vessel Q4000, according to Gulf, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.  Yesterday it reportedly burnt off 10,425 barrels worth of oil.  That's roughly ten percent of the 100,000 barrels daily that BP estimates is spilling out of the pipe.  Some sources say that the amount coming out could be even greater.

Meanwhile dolphins, whales, sea birds, and endangered sea turtles are suffering of the effects of the spill and the toxic dispersants used to try to break up the exiting oil.  Even as they try to flee into the Gulf Coast swamps, many are dying and washing up onshore.

On land humans are suffering as well.  There's been a tremendous financial loss as the fishing industry and tourism industry has been brought to a screeching halt.  Many small business have folded entirely, and some are contemplating a move from the Coast to try to find work.

BP has still not revealed how long it will take to bring a permanent end to the spill.





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