A damaged wellhead on the ocean floor, more than a mile beneath the surface, is discharging an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil each day.
“Burning this oil on the surface is one of the best ways to deal with an open-water spill of this magnitude,” said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. “Our crews are on the way with 1,000 feet of special fire boom to help corral the spill and assist.”
The spill can already be smelled as far away as Florida and Mississippi, according to U.S. Coast Guard reports. Patterson said deliberately burning oil slicks on the water can remove as much as 95 percent of free-floating oil.
“When you burn it, the plume from the fire is the biggest environmental concern, but this far out to sea it will not be as big of a problem,” Patterson said. “As long as that oil is on the surface, it continues to pose a real threat to wildlife.”
Patterson said the last time crews with the Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program used fire booms to corral and burn oil was a 1995 spill on the San Jacinto River.
The Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program has other expertise called upon by industry and state and federal responders to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
“If this oil heads for the coast, be it in Mississippi or Alabama or Florida, we’ll have our wildlife rehabilitation trailers on standby, ready to help,” Patterson said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also requested Texas’ oil spill expertise in tracking the slick. Patterson said the Land Office’s arsenal of data-gathering capabilities includes the Texas Automated Buoy System, which is a series of stationary buoys in the Gulf, as well as drifting buoys that move with the current and relay their information and coordinates via satellite.
“We know this could have happened off the Texas coast, and we want our partners in Louisiana to know that Texas is standing by with additional personnel and equipment,” Patterson said. “The Gulf knows no political boundaries, it’s a resource we’re all duty bound to protect.”