So much for capping that oil spill: BP encountered a significant problem today as it tried to place an enormous steel dome over a leaking oil well at the bottom of the ocean. The problem was gas hydrates, crystals that are lighter than water, which built up under the dome. The crystals were making the dome buoyant and they clogged the top of the dome, which would have stopped oil from being funneled. So BP was forced to set it down next to the leak and think about its next step.
“I wouldn’t say it has failed,” says Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer. “What I would say is what we attempted to do last night wasn’t successful.” The company plans to take the next 48 hours to figure out what to do next. Meanwhile, the leak is spilling 5,000 gallons of oil a day into the ocean. Sigh.