Coast Guard approves underwater inspection of BP well, Deepwater Horizon wreckage for oil

11 30, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

The Coast Guard announced Thursday that it has approved another investigation of the BP Macondo wellhead and nearby wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon drillship to determine if they may be the source of a recurring sheen at the site. The plan by BP and Transocean, owner of the ship, was submitted by the companies on Nov. 9, after the sheen was reported to the Coast Guard's National Response Center by Bonny Schumaker, founder of the California-based non-profit On Wings of Care, after she flew over the area.

At the time, Schumaker reported that during several flights over the wellhead she was able to direct the Schmidt Ocean Institute's Research Vessel Falkor to the sheen site, where scientists on the ship conducted their own underwater inspection with an ROV and found no indication of oil coming from the well or the wreckage, which are a mile below the water's surface.

The new inspection plan, which also will use submarine ROVs, calls for an inspection of potential sources of oil in the vicinity of the wellhead and wreckage. The research will begin on Monday.

A Coast Guard news release said Capt. Duke Walker, who serves as Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the spill response, "tasked BP and Transocean with developing a comprehensive array of options for permanent remediation of oil that could still be contained within wreckage in the vicinity of the original Deepwater Horizon incident.

BP conducted a similar ROV inspection plan in October, after a similar sheen was spotted on Sept. 16. That investigation found small amounts of oil escaping from a 40-foot-high cofferdam, and a second ROV mission plugged the openings in that structure.

The cofferdam was used in a failed attempt to halt the flow of oil from the leaking well after the April 2010 accident.

"No further oil emissions from the containment dome were observed after the cap and plugs were put in place," said the Coast Guard news release.