Coast guard my use controlled burn for Gulf oil spill

with top executives of BP, which was leasing the rig and is required by law to pay for the cleanup. Last fall, as the federal government was weighing tougher safety and environmental rules for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, BP objected, saying its voluntary programs were successful.

BP engineers have not been able to activate a device known as a blowout preventer, a valve at the wellhead that was supposed to stop oil flow in an emergency and is the only short-term solution for capping the well.

Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer for exploration and production at BP, defended the company’s efforts, and said the cleanup was costing $6 million a day. He said engineers had not given up on engaging the valve and were exploring other possible fixes.

Suttles said that a plan to use a type of tent or dome to collect the oil was progressing and was two to four weeks from being operational. On Tuesday, the company received permits to drill a relief well, which would be started half a mile from the current well site. Crews plan to drill toward the current well and then inject it with heavy fluids and concrete to seal it. Kaufman notes that the solution is experimental at this depth, however, and is months away.

Coast Guard officials said they were not expecting landfall for the spill in the next three days. Doug Helton, the incident operations coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s emergency response division, said winds would change Wednesday and start pushing the spill north and west toward the Mississippi Delta. “It is going to land eventually,” Mr. Helton said.

The prospect alarmed fisherman and ecologists along the Louisiana coast. Governor Bobby Jindal requested that the Coast Guard set up protective booms around several wildlife refuges in the Delta.

Those delicate coastal rookeries and estuaries factor into the consideration for the surface burn. Such a burn would most likely ease the impact on wildlife.

The oceanic agency issued a guide to the burn that advised as follows:

“Based on our limited experience, birds and mammals are more capable of handling the risk of a local fire and temporary smoke plume than of handling the risk posed by a spreading oil slick. Birds flying in the plume can become disoriented, and could suffer toxic effects. This risk, however, is minimal when compared to oil coating and ingestion.”

Admiral Landry said that a burn would take place offshore where no one on land could see it.

A burn does not get rid of the oil entirely. It leaves waxy residue that can either be skimmed from the surface or sink to the bottom of the ocean. sink to the bottom of the ocean.