Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Top Kill Fails - Solution for Stopping the Gulf Oil Spill - Part 2: How ...


Cap Connector Is Installed on BP Well : The New York Times


Cap Connector Is Installed on BP Well

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
BP deployed additional recovery vessels to the well area in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.

NEW ORLEANS — BP said Sunday that it had made progress toward installing a new cap that could contain all of the oil spewing from its out-of-control well in the Gulf of Mexico, and that a flotilla of skimmers was helping to collect the additional oil leaking while the procedure was under way.
Blog posts about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Marc Morrison/BP, via European Pressphoto Agency
Workers at the surface prepared to deploy a new three-ram capping stack that may eventually capture all the oil from the well.
“We’re pleased at this point at how it’s going,” Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president in charge of the effort, said at a briefing on Sunday afternoon. But he added that the work was not expected to be finished until Wednesday at the earliest.
Live video from the seabed showed a 12-foot-long pipe — a connector of sorts between the top of the well and the new, tighter-fitting cap — being lowered into position, attended by several remotely operated submersibles. If all goes as planned, the new cap will be lowered on top of the pipe and connected with a tight seal.
With the pipe in place, oil could be seen gushing from it, as it had gushed from the top of the well after a looser-fitting cap was removed Saturday.
That cap had been diverting 15,000 barrels of oil a day to a ship on the surface. The new cap should eventually enable BP to contain all of the oil from the well, estimated at up to 60,000 barrels a day; until it is installed, oil will continue to gush unimpeded from the top of the well.
To cope with the additional oil, Mr. Wells said, two more oil-skimming boats were being added to the 46 already near the well site, about 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. Skimmers collected 25,000 barrels of oil and water on Saturday, he said, and 15 controlled burns were conducted. With relatively calm seas, “it was a good day in terms of containing oil at the surface,” Mr. Wells said.
BP has expressed confidence that the new cap will succeed. But given the number of engineering efforts that have failed since oil began gushing after the blowout on April 20, the company has another looser-fitting cap on standby should the installation encounter significant snags.
The new cap, which should eventually not allow any gas or oil to escape, will be used to divert more oil to collection ships that will be brought in over the next two to three weeks, Mr. Wells said.
“We’ll continue to ramp up the capacity so that sometime along the line, whatever the flow is, we’ll capture it all,” he said.
Mr. Wells also said Sunday that a new oil collection system, which would funnel up to 25,000 barrels a day from a pipe below the cap to another ship, would be brought up to full capacity over the next three days.
That may help reduce the amount of oil that is now leaking from the top of the well. Another system, which is diverting 8,000 to 9,000 barrels of oil a day to another vessel, is not affected by the cap work.
Mr. Wells said one surprise was that when a remaining stub of pipe was removed from the top of the well early Sunday in preparation for the cap installation, only one piece of drill pipe was found inside. Earlier video had shown two pieces of drill pipe in the stub — one that should have been there and another that ended up there after the blowout.
“We don’t know where the second piece of pipe has fallen to,” he said.
The new cap has three valves that will be used to restrict the flow of oil and gas to gauge the pressure inside the well. Based on the results, BP will decide how to proceed with other collection efforts.
Mr. Wells said that a relief well that will be used to stop the leak and permanently seal the well was on pace to intercept the blown-out well at the end of the month, and that the procedure to stop the flow of oil by pumping mud into the well, followed by cement, could take several weeks after that.

New BP cap set for slow tests of how it holds oil



New BP cap set for slow tests of how it holds oil

NEW ORLEANS – With a tight new cap freshly installed on its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, BP planned gradual tests starting Tuesday to see if the device can stop oil from pouring into the sea for the first time in nearly three months.
The cap would be just a temporary solution, but it offers the best hope yet for cutting off the crude that has fouled the Gulf since theDeepwater Horizon rig leased by BP exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.
Engineers will slowly shut down three valves that let oil flow through the 75-ton capping device to see if it can withstand the pressure of the erupting crude and to watch if leaks spring up elsewhere in the well. National Incident Commander Thad Allen said the process of closing the valves, one by one, would start later Tuesday.
If pressure inside the cap stays in a target range for roughly six hours after the valves are closed, there will be more confidence the cap can contain the oil, Allen told a news briefing at BP's U.S. headquarters inHouston. That target range is 8,000 to 9,000 pounds per square inch, he said. Anything lower could indicate another leak in the well.
Allen and BP officials repeatedly cautioned there are no guarantees about the delicate work a mile below the sea. Allen urged Gulf Coast residents watching the possible fix evolve to be patient.
"They ought to be interested and concerned but if they hold their breath, they'll run out of oxygen. I won't be," Allen told The Associated Press after the briefing.
The tests could last anywhere from six to 48 hours, Allen and BP said.
Kent Wells, a senior vice president at the oil giant, declined to talk about BP's next steps until the test results are in hand.
"It's not simple stuff. What we don't want to do is speculate around it," Wells said in a BP news briefing.
The cap's installation Monday after three days of undersea preparations was good news to weary people on the coast from Texas to Florida, who have waited for BP to make good on its promise to clean up the mess.
"Hopefully this is the moment when they get it cut off," said Prentiss Ming, 23, a Pizza Hut manager from Pensacola, Fla., who was on the beach there. "But you can't really believe it."
Still, even if the oil is stopped, the consequences are far from over.
"I ain't excited about it until it's closed off completely," said James Pelas, 41, a shrimper working on his boat at a marina in Venice, La. "Oil's scattered all over the place."
The cap will be tested by closing off three separate valves that fit together snugly, choking off the oil from entering the Gulf. BP expects no oil will be released into the ocean during the tests, but remained cautious about the success of the system.
Pipes can be hooked to the cap to funnel oil to collection ships if BP decides the cap can't take the pressure of the gusher, or if low pressure readings indicate oil is leaking from elsewhere in the well.
Even if the cap works, the blown-out well must still be plugged. A permanent fix will have to wait until one of two relief wells being drilled reaches the broken well, which will then be plugged up with drilling mud and cement. That may not happen until mid-August.
Even if the flow of oil is choked off while BP works on a permanent fix, the spill has already damaged everything from beach tourism to the fishing industry.
Tony Wood, director of the National Spill Control School at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi said the sloppiest of the oil — mousse-like brown stuff that has not yet broken down — will keep washing ashore for several months, with the volume slowly decreasing over time.
He added that hardened tar balls could keep hitting beaches and marshes each time a major storm rolls through for a year or more. Those tar balls are likely trapped for now in the surf zone, gathering behind sand bars just like sea shells.
"It will still be getting on people's feet on the beaches probably a year or two from now," Wood said.
But on Monday, the region absorbed a rare piece of good news in the placement of the 150,000-pound cap on top of the gushing leak responsible for so much misery.
Around 6:30 p.m. CDT, live video streams trained on the wellhead showed the cap being slowly lowered into place. BP officials said the device was attached around 7 p.m.
Residents skeptical if BP can deliver on its promise to control the spill greeted the news cautiously.
"There's no telling what those crazy suckers are going to do now," Ronnie Kenniar said when he heard the cap was placed on the well. The 49-year-old fishermen is now working in the Vessel of Opportunity program, a BP-run operation employing boat owners to lay boom, ferry coast guard officers and deliver supplies.
As of Tuesday, the 84th day of the disaster, between 90.4 and 178.6 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico
BP underwater video:
Weber reported from Houston. Associated Press writers Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, Matt Brown and Tom Breen in New Orleans, Holbrook Mohr in Belle Chasse, La. and Matt Sedensky in Pensacola Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.
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P – This image taken from video provided by BP PLC Tuesday, July 13, 2010 shows a pressure guage which will …





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