BP, Coast Guard prepare for potential hurricanes in Gulf of Mexico
Jun 22, 2010, 21:16 GMT
Washington - US officials are keeping close watch on a weather system over the Caribbean as they formulate plans for the spewing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico should a hurricane approach, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said Tuesday.
A weather system over the central Caribbean Sea, which is currently producing showers and thunderstorms, has conditions that appear 'conducive' for development of a tropical depression over the next several days, the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said. There is a 40-per-cent chance of it becoming a tropical cyclone over the next two days.
Allen, who is overseeing the US government response to the BP Plc well disaster, said officials are monitoring the storm's progress and are developing plans should a hurricane or tropical storm come near the ruptured well head. The response would depend on conditions at the scene, he said.
Under current conditions, a ship currently being used to siphon some of the oil coming out of the well would have to be moved to a safe harbour, forcing it to come off line for about 10 days, Allen said. If weather conditions warranted, at least three to seven days notice would be required to move the ships from the scene, leaving oil to flow unabated.
But Allen said efforts to increase the amount of oil being captured over the coming weeks and the planned deployment of more tankers to the scene could give officials more flexibility in the event of a less severe storm.
Efforts to capture the oil before it spills into the Gulf have been able to siphon off a record amount of oil in the last 24 hours - nearly 26,000 barrels, Allen said.
Some 30,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil are spilling into the water each day, according to government estimates. Efforts to halt the flow have so far been capturing only a fraction of that. It could take weeks before the flow is stopped and months, or even years, before the environmental damage can be repaired.