BP Containment Fails

SUBHEAD: British Petroleum oil containment box fills with methane ice and clogs. Image above: BP Containment chamber on way to Gulf Oil spill. From (http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/may/06/062339/boat-containment-box-gulf-oil-site/news-breaking) By Harry Weber & Sarah Larimar on 8 May 2010 in Huffington Post - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/08/gulf-oil-spill-containment_n_569031.html) A novel but risky attempt to use a 100-ton steel-and-concrete box to cover a deepwater oil well gushing toxic crude into the Gulf of Mexico was aborted Saturday after ice crystals encased it, an ominous development as thick blobs of tar began washing up on Alabama's white sand beaches.

The setback left the mission to cap the ruptured well in doubt. It had taken about two weeks to build the box and three days to cart it 50 miles out then slowly lower it to the well a mile below the surface, but the frozen depths were too much for it to handle.

Still, BP officials overseeing the cleanup efforts were not giving up just yet on hopes that a containment box – either the one brought there or a larger one being built – could cover the well and be used to capture the oil and funnel it to a tanker at the surface to be carted away. Officials said it would be at least Monday before a decision was made on what next step to take.

"I wouldn't say it's failed yet," BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said. "What I would say is what we attempted to do ... didn't work."

There was a renewed sense of urgency as dime- to golfball-sized balls of tar began washing up on Dauphin Island, three miles off the Alabama mainland at the mouth of Mobile Bay and much farther east than the thin, rainbow sheens that had so far arrived sporadically in the Louisiana marshes.

"It almost looks like bark, but when you pick it up it definitely has a liquid consistency and it's definitely oil," said Kimberly Creel, 41, who was hanging out and swimming with hundreds of other beachgoers. "... I can only imagine what might be coming this way that might be larger."

About a half dozen tar balls had been collected by Saturday afternoon at Dauphin Island, Coast Guard chief warrant officer Adam Wine said in Mobile. Authorities planned to test the substance but strongly suspected it came from the oil spill.

A long line of materials that resembled a string of pompoms were positioned on a stretch of the shore. Crews walked along the beach in rubber boots, carrying trash bags to clear debris from the sand.

Chamber Removed from Oil Well SUBHEAD: BP Oil-collection chamber removed from leaking Gulf oil well. Image above: BP Containment chamber being readied before submersion. From (http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/may/06/062339/boat-containment-box-gulf-oil-site/news-breaking) By David Wethe on 8 May 2010 in Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=ayj5oJpNtf8M&pos=2) BP Plc’s latest effort to prevent oil leaks from damaging wildlife and tourism on the U.S. coast are being stymied as cold and pressure a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico formed ice that clogged a containment device. The device, a 40-foot-tall steel chamber BP hoped would capture the gushing oil and funnel it to an overhead drillship, was blocked by ice crystals formed from gas hydrates at the well site, the company said. An estimated 5,000 barrels of crude are spilling each day from the well, threatening shrimping and fishing grounds that supply a quarter of the U.S. seafood. “I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet,” Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said yesterday. BP expects to break up the hydrates by sending warm water through an insulating layer, he said. The Macondo well began spewing oil into the Gulf after an April 20 explosion on Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon rig. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday stopped public access to Louisiana’s Chandeleur and Freemason islands, where BP and federal officials Thursday said oil from the spill first reached shore. Tarballs ranging in size from dimes to golf balls, were recovered yesterday on the shore of Dauphin Island, Alabama, about 50 miles northeast of Chandeleur. Best Hope The containment system, now set aside on the seabed about 200 meters (656 feet) from the biggest leak, was London-based BP’s best hope for slowing the spread of oil while it drills a relief well aimed at relieving pressure so the flow can be stopped altogether. BP has 20 experts studying the possibility of injecting pieces of rubber into the well to stop up the pipe. “We continue to look to see if that’s going to be a viable option” and not make the leak worse, Suttles said yesterday at a press conference in Robert, Louisiana. Meanwhile, BP will consider ways to prevent the containment dome from clogging, such as applying heat. Hydrate gases crystallize like ice in the cold waters and high pressure 5,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. BP engineers thought the opening atop the dome was large enough that it wouldn’t clog with hydrates, Suttles said. The company expected the containment system, a rectangular structure with a pyramid-shaped dome on top, to capture as much as 85 percent of the flow of oil. He said the relief well is “ahead of plan,” having reached a depth of 9,000 feet. Methane Bubble The explosion and fire aboard the rig, which BP leased from Geneva-based Transocean, killed 11 workers. A bubble of methane gas that shot up the drill column and burst through several seals and barriers caused the blast, the Associated Press reported on May 7, citing interviews with rig workers obtained by a California engineering professor. Suttles declined to comment on the report. The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Minerals Management Service will begin an investigation May 11 to identify the factors leading to the incident, according to a government statement issued yesterday. The Minerals Management Service, overseer of offshore drilling, completed inspections of all deepwater drilling rigs operating in the Gulf without identifying hazards, regional director Lars Herbst said at a press conference May 7. Blowout Preventer Inspectors checked test records of blowout preventers, an assembly of valves atop wells on the seafloor. The blowout preventer on the BP well failed to stop a mixture of oil and gas from ejecting unexpectedly and igniting the rig, according to Suttles. Houston-based Cameron International Corp. supplied the blowout preventer for the Deepwater Horizon. Besides possibly injecting rubber cuttings into the well, engineers are considering installing a second blowout preventer atop the first, Suttles said. Similar containment boxes have been used to funnel crude from leaking wells in shallow water. This is the deepest deployment of such a system, according to a fact sheet provided by BP. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said efforts to battle the spill are the biggest she’s ever seen. Suttles said more than 8,500 responders and 4,000 volunteers are involved. Calm seas have enabled BP to burn as much as 9,000 barrels of oil from the surface, Suttles said May 7. Controlled burns weren’t planned yesterday because of high winds, Coast Guard Petty Officer Connie Terrell said in a telephone interview. The Coast Guard and BP have been skimming oil from the Gulf. BP planned to do more skimming yesterday and to drop additional dispersant on the slick, company spokesman Mark Proegler said. Oil accounts for about 10 percent of the 45,000 barrels skimming boats recovered so far, Suttles said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration widened a fisheries closure in the Gulf of Mexico on May 7, calling it necessary to reassure consumers that fish and shrimp caught in the region are safe to eat. .

No comments :

Post a Comment