A novel but risky attempt to use a 100-ton steel-and-concrete box to cover a deepwater oil well gushing toxic crude into the Gulf of Mexico was aborted Saturday after ice crystals encased it, an ominous development as thick blobs of tar began washing up on Alabama’s white sand beaches.
The setback left the mission to cap the ruptured well in doubt. It had taken about two weeks to build the box and three days to cart it 50 miles out then slowly lower it to the well a mile below the surface, but the frozen depths were too much for it to handle.
Still, BP officials overseeing the cleanup efforts were not giving up just yet on hopes that a containment box — either the one brought there or a larger one being built — could cover the well and be used to capture the oil and funnel it to a tanker at the surface to be carted away. Officials said it would be at least Monday before a decision was made on what next step to take.
"I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet," BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said. "What I would say is what we attempted to do … didn’t work."
The Tribune reports there was a renewed sense of urgency as dime- to golfball-sized balls of tar began washing up on Dauphin Island, three miles off the Alabama mainland at the mouth of Mobile Bay.