Robots replace cap over gushing BP oil well

July 12, 2010 by Mira Oberman
An oil coated containment boom is seen on the beach on July 9, in Waveland, Mississippi. BP reported good progress in its high-stakes effort to fully contain the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by fixing a tighter cap over the giant gusher, now raging largely unchecked.

Engineers worked Monday to replace a cap over a gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico after reporting good progress in attempts to contain the worst environmental disaster in US history.

Operations reached a critical phase as engineers raced to take advantage of a stretch of fine weather in the midst of the Atlantic and install a new system with the potential to capture all the leaking crude.

Expected to take between four and seven days, the round-the-clock work began at midday on Saturday when the old, less efficient cap was ripped off a fractured pipe a mile down on the by robotic submarines.

"We are pleased with our progress," BP Vice President Kent Wells told journalists. "We have carefully planned and practised this whole procedure. We've tried to work out as many of the bugs as we can."

A transition spool must first be lowered and bolted onto the leaking pipe before a gigantic funnel -- weighing 150,000 pounds (68 tonnes) and dubbed the "Top Hat 10" -- can be set in position.

The old "Top Hat" collected 25,000 barrels (one million gallons) of crude on average each day, but estimates suggest that could be less than half the total leak.

BP says the new system and the deployment of a third containment ship called the Helix Producer will raise capacity to between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels a day, enough to contain the whole leak.

"We'll capture it all at some point," said Wells.

The new system is also designed so it can be disconnected and reconnected more easily in the case of a hurricane and has a built-in device that should give the first precise estimate of the overall flow.

"We're in a very critical point in the containment efforts," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told NBC television. "The new containment procedure will more than triple our containment capacity when it's all said and done."

No permanent solution is expected until mid-August at the earliest when the first of two relief wells is due to be completed -- allowing drilling fluids to be injected into the well, which would then be sealed with cement.

The removal of the old cap forced the suspension of the main containment operation, but a separate siphoning system is taking a smaller proportion of the oil, some 8,000 barrels a day, to be flared off on a surface vessel.

Wells said two more ships would join a fleet of 46 skimming vessels scooping oil off the sea, and 15 controlled burns of crude had been carried out on Saturday thanks to the calm conditions.

Oil has washed up on beaches in all five Gulf states -- Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida -- forcing fishing grounds to be closed and threatening scores of coastal communities with financial ruin.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Feinberg, the man charged with doling out compensation to victims of the spill, said Sunday he could not estimate whether the initial 20-billion-dollar fund set up by BP would be enough to pay compensation claims.

But US and British media reported Sunday that BP was in talks to sell up to 12 billion dollars (9.5 billion euros) of assets, including a substantial stake in a giant Alaskan oil field, to Apache Corporation as it seeks to build up the disaster fund.

While the containment effort and the claims process continued apace, the attorney general said the Justice Department was still weighing whether to bring criminal charges.

"We are in the process of accumulating documents, talking to witnesses on both the criminal side and the civil side," Eric Holder told CBS's "Face the Nation" program.

Holder stressed that when he announced the probe on June 1, he had been careful not to mention BP by name as the British energy giant was not the only party involved with the Deepwater Horizon rig.

At congressional hearings back in May, BP, rig owner Transocean and oil services provider Halliburton blamed each other for the spill as executives from the three oil titans were grilled by US lawmakers.

The BP-leased rig exploded on April 20 killing 11 workers. It sank two days later, unleashing the nation's worst ever environmental disaster.

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4 comments

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KBK
not rated yet Jul 12, 2010
I viewed a recent toob vid, one taken by concerned citizens, just after the hurricane Alex situation.

They managed to get their Cessna into the air and over the Macondo site before being stopped by the BP hired/connected government/etc thugs.

Their film showed the slicks being well over...90 miles long and continuing out of sight. Now, this is while viewing in a Cessna AIRCRAFT.

The major point is that the Corexit dispersant breaks up the oil and most importantly...as this is the big part of why BP and those trying to keep things out of the public want it to go....the Corexit hides OVER 95% of the oil BENEATH the surface, out of sight. Now..think of oil slicks... about 60 (or more)miles by 90 miles in size. And that is with over 95% of the oil not making it to the surface.

The statements about 5,000 barrels a day are now a known lie.

The statements about 50-60,000 barrels a day are also a lie.

The first I heard...the pressure was set at OVER 100kpsi.

Sounds about right.
KBK
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2010
Point is, if they manage to put a full cap on there, then they will show their hand as the number of ships required to move more than 60,000 barrels a day will tell the tale. Pay very close attention.

They are also covering up the point that the seabed in the immediate are is near totally eroded.

And the other major point is that they KNEW that they were never supposed to go into that reservoir. They knew the pressure levels were so high that no known human made containment system could ever handle it, period. They knew this. Start looking -and looking hard- on the net. You will eventually find this information. Problem is that most readers will have to do a complete 180 degree turn in their minds and thoughts before they can even begin to 'go there'.

Thus, they cannot even begin touching their keyboards to find such information.

This was the same crew that surrounded the events of September '01.

Are you starting to 'get' this stuff yet?
Caliban
3 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2010
"BP says the new system and the deployment of a third containment ship called the Helix Producer will raise capacity to between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels a day, enough to contain the whole leak."

If the leak is actually between 25k and 60k barrels a day, then what need for a cap able to deal with 80k?

I am in agreement with you KBK- the BP-only estimates and the "official", government-backed estimates are conscious lies. And since we don't have access to the seafloor, there is no way to independently verify the rtesults of this operation. Will it all be contained? Will more be captured than BP claims? Will constriction of flow cause oil to flow through the seafloor sediment?

IMO, this "leak" is most likely in the 100-120k barrel per day range.

On this one, though, I have to rule out conspiracy, as everything I've managed to turn up points to "mere" blind, stupid, corner-cutting corporate greed.

Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2010
60 minutes did this segment soon after the rig explosion:

http://www.cbsnew...ol;lst;2

It features details revealed by Mike Williams, one of the engineers on the rig, and analysis by Dr. Bob Bea, the Engineer who analysed the shuttle disaster, and who was called upon to perform the same function for this disaster.

Another portion of the segment details the potential for an even greater disaster involving another BP rig in the Gulf.

A very clear, consist account of proximate events, easily understandable for anyone, regardless of level of expertise in Petroleum Engineering.

There are additional segments available below the video from the link above, if anyone is interested in further details.

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