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After 85 days of hemorrhaging in the Gulf of Mexico, a long term solution may finally be in sight. A new cap was put in place on July 12 that is intended to slow and then eventually stop the flow of oil. The plan is fairly simple: the cap will be placed over the broken pipe and three open valves will be slowly turned off if â€śintegrity testingâ€ť indicates that the cap is sealed tight enough and can handle the pressure. High pressure readings will demonstrate that the cap is effectively containing the oil while a low reading would indicate that the oil is leaking somewhere else. These tests are expected to take anywhere between six and 48 hours. While this is currently the best hope for stopping the flow of oil, none of this technology has been tested a mile under water and at freezing temperatures and is therefore not a guaranteed solution.Â Below, remotely controlled robots are used to install the new cap.
There are three possible outcomes from this new system. The best case scenario, obviously, is that the cap will stop the flow of oil into the gulf completely. However, it is likely that the new cap will only stanch the leak and ships on the surface will still be required to siphon the escaping oil. On the bright side, the new cap will allow four oil collection ships to attach to the well instead of the three allowed by the previous cap. Experts estimate that with the new cap in place 60,000-80,000 gallons of oil could be collected daily. In the worst case, testing could indicate that there is more damage to the well than thought previously and oil could begin flowing from multiple locations.
On April 20, 2010, the world witnessed an environmental catastrophe of monumental proportions as a BP oil rig experienced an explosion that sent it 5,000 feet below the surface, causing pipe leaks that are still spewing thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day. Multiple miles of shoreline have been affected and are enduring economic, environmental and public health consequences. Ultimately, the spill is the worst in history; some estimates place the BP disaster at 72 million gallons more devastating than 1989 Exxon Valdez incident. While area residents are undoubtedly suffering from a government mandated fishing halt as well as an almost dead stop in the tourism season, the creatures most affected are the Gulfâ€™s indigenous marine plants and animals.
Already, dead birds and fish are washing up on the shores of Louisiana and even though the long term effects are still unknown, scientists are beginning to talk about possible extinction scenarios. Many already endangered species inhabit the Gulf and others use it as a vital breeding or feeding ground along their migration route. Sea turtles, whales and dolphins are of primary concern, but the Gulf is also home to the Bluefin Tuna and the brown pelican, two species on the verge of joining the endangered list.