American Morning

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July 21st, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Exclusive look at Navy airship aiding Gulf cleanup effort

A U.S. Navy MZ-3A manned airship provides logistical support for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. (U.S. Navy photo via Getty Images)

(CNN) – Rough seas, high winds and thunderstorms are the last thing cleanup crews in the Gulf of Mexico need right now. It's challenging enough to spot oil slicks and skim them off the ocean surface in calm conditions. But a new tool is helping crews put a small dent in this enormous disaster. It's a blimp, and we have been granted exclusive access to climb aboard. Our Rob Marciano and Amber Lyon report. Watch Video

Critical tests on the capped well in the Gulf of Mexico will continue Wednesday as scientists work on the ultimate solution to end the oil disaster.

Pressure testing on the capped well was extended for another 24 hours Tuesday, said Thad Allen, the federal government's point man on the spill.

The tests on the new, tightly fitting containment cap began Thursday and are designed to determine the effectiveness of the cap.

Though the new cap has stopped the incessant flow of oil into the Gulf, government officials and BP have said that the cap on the well is only a temporary fix for the oil disaster that started on April 20.

BP officials are still working on the permanent fix, relief wells that are slated to be in place by the end of July. Officials are also exploring a new tactic called "static kill" to help stop the oil's flow.

The "static kill" would involve pumping mud into the well to force oil back into the reservoir below, officials from BP have said, noting that the option could succeed where similar attempts have failed because pressure in the well is lower than expected.

Geologist Arthur Berman said on CNN's "American Morning" on Tuesday that the relative simplicity of a static kill makes it an attractive option for BP.

"I think the reason that they're considering it is because they've yet to intercept the well bore," Berman said. "They're very close, a few feet away with the relief well, as everyone knows. But to actually intersect the 7-inch pipe does involve a bit of technology and accuracy, whereas if they do the static kill through the existing well bore at the top, there's less uncertainty about their ability to actually get the mud into the pipe."

No visible oil has flowed from the well since Thursday, when BP closed all the valves in the new custom-made cap that was installed July 12. Federal officials said Tuesday that one reported leak is coming from another old well a couple miles away and is inconsequential.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was visiting Washington on Tuesday, said he "completely understands" the anger that "exists ... across America" regarding the oil well operated by BP that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico three months ago.

"It is BP's role to cap the leak" and compensate people affected by it, he said during a visit with President Barack Obama. Cameron said he is in regular touch with the leadership of BP, a British-based company.

Two House subcommittees held a joint hearing Tuesday to investigate the role of the Interior Department in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Legislators are trying to figure out who's responsible for the crisis and how better government regulation of energy producers might help avert such disasters in the future.

A report in London pointed the finger at BP's beleaguered chief executive Tony Hayward.

Hayward is preparing to step down from his position within the next 10 weeks, the Times of London reported Tuesday, citing "sources" close to the company.

Hayward and his management choices have drawn a barrage of criticism since BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident began spewing oil. Its share price hammered, BP is fighting to ensure that it has the resources to pay the billions it now faces in fines, cleanup expenses and compensation claims from local workers and businesses.

There is a "growing expectation" that Hayward will announce his departure in late August or September, the Times reported. "You would be hard-pushed to find anyone within the company who does not think he is irreparably damaged -

both by his own performance and by the event itself," the newspaper quoted one company insider as saying.

BP strongly denied the Times' report.

"There is no truth in this article," Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman based in Houston, Texas, told CNN. "Mr. Hayward is not leaving."

Filed under: Exclusive • Gulf Oil Spill
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Mike

    Look, this was not about Sherrod, she is being used as a tool. This is about trying to change the conversation to something the Democrats feel is a winning argument for them. We will be hearing "RACISM!" yelled all the way to November. It's was a weak excuse to pick a fight, but it resonates with their voting block

    July 25, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  2. T. Laney

    Ya Know, BP keeps talking about compensating the people effected by this "spill", you spill a glass of milk. This is the wrong word,I'm sure of that! All of America and all of it's people are and will be effected by this "spill" and every spill around the world, that causes death and desrtuction, to peoples lives and living's, animals,birds,fish..........................ect.. there really is no compensation. But, we are all on the fast track to killing whats left after years and years of abuse to our, all of our's Planet. This is how we compensate our World. What an embarassment.

    July 24, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  3. James Bond

    Hi folks,
    Good to see the US Navy are running a real slick operation. I wonder if they manage to cap the well soon if the USN will then send the blimp to China, as they just had a pipeline problem that has made a big mess of the yellow river estuary and adjacent beaches.
    If you want a helium sniffing laugh the try airship dot me, the worlds only LTA comedy site from Montenegro.
    Regards JB

    July 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  4. Peyton

    The Sherrod situation has been portrayed as a White House screwup when the real issue is the dishonesty of a right wing blogger who should be exposed for the low life he is, the failure of the media to do their job and the acceptance of news organizations, such as FOX to be an accomplish in destroying another human being. We are such a hateful nation that we want to reach out and destroy anyone we don't agree with.

    July 22, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  5. jim

    Discuss more on the role of the airship in the Navy itself. What is its normal rule in the Navy and how is it expected to play an operational role. More importantly, how is it different than the blimps of WWII

    July 22, 2010 at 7:13 am |
  6. more waste

    This article has little info on the role of the airship and MORE RHETORIC AND "bp" PROPAGANDA.

    YOU'LL learn in November voote WE're not as dumb as you think we are and OUR VOTE will begin to take this nation back from waste and insults as this.

    July 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm |