Crews struggling to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will light some of the petroleum on fire at 11 a.m. Central time in an attempt to burn it off before it reaches shore. A Coast Guard spokesman said on Wednesday that crews would begin with an initial burn in a confined area of the spill to determine the density of the oil.
Fire-resistant containment booms will be used to corral some of the oil on surface, which will then be ignited, Petty Officer 2nd Class Prentice Danner said. It was unclear how large an area will be set on fire or how far from shore the first fire would be set.
According to a statement released by the group of industry and government officials supervising the burn, the oil will be consolidated “into a fire resistant boom approximately 500 feet long; this oil will then be towed to a more remote area, where it will be ignited and burned in a controlled manner.”
From there, officials will conduct “small, controlled burns of several thousand gallons of oil lasting approximately one hour each.”
“The big things that we have to pay attention to are the sea conditions,” Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Carleton said. “Solid oil obviously has the ability to burn, but it doesn’t burn the same way that gasoline does.”
Tony Hayward, chief executive of British Petroleum, which leased the rig, known as Deepwater Horizon, described slick the spilled oil as very light, like “iced tea,” and only one-tenth of a millimeter thick, as thin as a human hair. “We will be judged primarily on the strength of our response,” said Mr. Hayward, who was in Southwest Louisiana to supervise the burn.
Another Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Matt Moorlag said, “It’s a historically proven technique, and it has multiple preventative safety measures in place to ensure that that burn area remains controlled, We shouldn’t see any shoreline that sees that smoke.”