ON THE GULF OF MEXICO —
They also released surface floats that will drift with the current, tracking the likely path of any contamination from the damaged rig. The “drifters” have global positioning devices and transmitters.
As the researchers worked in choppy Gulf waters, federal and private vessels bustled around the Hercules rig, about 55 miles southwest of Grand Isle, La.
Federal officials said natural gas detectors and high-capacity water hoses were being installed on the rig, while another rig was readied to drill a relief well for a permanent plug.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it approved Walter Oil’s permit to drill the well, and crews were preparing the Rowan EXL-3 rig for drilling. Once the drill gets into the original pipe, drilling mud and then cement will be pumped in as a permanent seal.
Because the well was natural gas, not oil, experts said the pollution threats were far less than those posed by some previous accidents. BP’s Macondo well, which blew wild in April 2010, lost an estimated 200 million gallons of crude oil as well as natural gas. It fouled marshes and beaches across four states before being capped.