USCG To BP, Just Kidding About the Leak

Jim Brown
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On Friday the U.S. Coast Guard told BP that there was no oil leaking from the wellhead on the Gulf floor. On Sunday they retracted that statement saying there was two leaks totaling 1,100 bpd of oil.

The Coast Guard provided an image of crude oil leaking from the wellhead and BP is scrambling to mobilize its fleet of 32 skimmer and boom vessels in order to minimize the damage to the gulf. Weather turned ugly over the weekend and operations were cancelled but once the waves calm they will be back in full force.

BP said the oil was leaking from the 450 ton, 50-ft high blowout preventer on the wellhead. Robotic submarines are being used to try and close the valves on that device to stop the flow of oil. According to BP it will take 24-36 hours for the robotic work to be completed and to know if it will be successful.

If the leak cannot be stopped BP will scramble another of its deepwater rigs in the area and try to drill an adjacent relieve well into the original shaft in an effort to permanently stop the flow of oil. If a relief well is needed it would take a couple months to complete. BP would have to detach the DD3 (Development Driller III) rig from its current assignment, tow it to the area and then anchor it precisely over the leaking well. Once anchored and made operational the rig would have to drill a well into the side of the existing well and inject a compound to permanently seal the initial well. This is complicated because of the 5,000-foot depth and the requirement to be perfectly precise in drilling the relief well. To drill an angled well from a rocking rig 5,000 feet above and hit the original well perfectly is not an easy task. On top of that they have to drill through the steel drill pipe in the first well.

Picture of leak

Another potential way to temporarily solve the problem is to lower a large dome over the initial well and use hoses and pipes to suck the oil out of the dome as it accumulates. This would prevent the oil from dispersing into the gulf. This system has been deployed in shallower water but never in water this deep.

If the robots can't fix the leak it is going to be a tough couple of months for BP.

The robot sub also confirmed the Deepwater Horizon rig was intact and resting on the bottom about 1,300 feet from the wellhead.

Jim Brown

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