A special cap is capturing more oil pouring from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico today, but that bit of hope was tempered by a sharp dose of pragmatism as a federal government’s official warned the crisis could stretch into the autumn.
The inverted funnel-like cap is being closely watched for whether it can make a serious dent in the flow of new oil. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, overseeing the government’s response to the spill, reserved judgment, saying he didn’t want to risk offering false encouragement.
Instead he warned that the battle to contain the oil is likely to stretch further into 2010. The cap will trap only so much of the oil, and relief wells being drilled will not be completed until August. In the meantime, oil will continue to spew out.
“But even after that, there will be oil out there for months to come,” Admiral Allen said. This will be well into the fall. This is a siege across the entire Gulf. This spill is holding everybody hostage, not only economically but physically. And it has to be attacked on all fronts.”
Since it was placed over the busted well on Thursday, the cap has been siphoning an increasing amount of oil. On Saturday, it funnelled about 1.67M litres to a tanker on the surface, up from about 946,000 litres on Friday.
But it is not clear how much is still escaping from the well that federal authorities at one point estimated was leaking between 1.89M and 3.79M a day. Since the spill began nearly seven weeks ago, roughly 87.1M to 185.5M litres have leaked into the Gulf.