Thursday, July 15, 2010

BP announces oil leak has stopped

BP announces oil leak has stopped in Gulf of Mexico for first time in 3 months (see live video)
Cindy Adams - US Headlines Examiner

BP oil spill update: Testing on new cap begins, spill should be contained by July 19

BP announced Thursday that oil has stopped leaking into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since its rig exploded on April 20.

Undersea robots worked through the night on a leak that was found after BP began testing its new well cap Wednesday afternoon. The test was conducted by turning off pipes that send some of the oil to surface vessels so the full force of the oil was centered on the cap. After two of the three valves on the cap had been closed, it was determined that one was still leaking.

BP PLC Vice President, Kent Wells, said the new leak was repaired by replacing the assembly, or choke line, on the suspect pipe.

ABC News reports that the cap remains a temporary fix and the leak will only be permanently quelled after two relief wells that are currently being drilled can reach the leak and permanently plug it with cement and heavy drilling mud. BP has stated this will likely occur mid-August.

To see live video of the well and the repairs being done, click here.

Now that the leaky pipe has been replaced, BP will have to begin retesting by letting additional oil leak out of the cap temporarily and once again turning off a pipe that is sending oil to a surface ship, in order to determine whether the new cap can withstand the full force of the erupting oil.
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Friday, July 9, 2010

New cap, ships could contain Gulf leak by Monday

Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The federal official leading the Gulf oil spill cleanup said Friday a new containment cap and an additional ship collecting oil could effectively contain the spill in the next three days.

The work to replace a leaky containment cap on the well head with a tighter one will begin Saturday, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said. At the same time, a ship connecting to a different part of the leak is expected to come online Sunday.

Oil will flow unimpeded into the Gulf during the cap switch for at least part of the weekend.

If all goes according to plan, the combination of the cap and the new vessel could collect all the leaking oil by Monday, stopping it from escaping into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since April 20.

"I use the word 'contained,'" Allen said. "'Stop' is when we put the plug in down below."

Work continues on what officials hope will be the final plugging of the well - drilling on two relief wells through which mud and cement will be pumped to stop the leak once and for all. That's expected to happen sometime in mid-August.

The new containment cap is expected to form a better seal over the well head, to allow more of the oil to be collected and sent up to ships on the surface for collection or burning.

"Technically it's pretty achievable," Allen said. He said if the new cap can't be placed on the well, the old cap will be put back and there are multiple backup caps available in case any one cap fails.

The new, tighter cap should be in place early Monday. Allen said the ship Helix Producer, which is to be hooked to a different part of the leaking well - lower than the new cap - will start collecting oil Sunday and be fully operational Tuesday. He has previously said that the full system should be able to collect 60,000 to 80,000 barrels a day.

The schedule for both efforts has been accelerated to take advantage of what could be a rare window of good weather. The hookup of the Helix Producer was delayed this week by poor weather. But an unexpected break in weather patterns creating choppy seas provides a window of a week or so with waves of only 1 or 2 feet.

"Everybody agrees we got the weather to do what we need," he said.

Containing the leak is not the same as stopping the environmental catastrophe that began April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers.

The relief wells remain the best option for a final plug to the leak, at which point cleanup and restoration become the main focus.

Though officials said the first relief well could be finished by the end of July, weeks ahead of schedule, they are quick to point out that such an optimistic timetable would require ideal conditions every step of the way.

That is something that has rarely happened since the leak began.