Attempt to Lower Containment Dome Postponed

Jim Brown
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The operation to lower the 78-ton containment box over the worst of the three leaks had to be postponed on Thursday due to volatile gases rising out of the ocean over the well. As the calm intensified the lift was called off to prevent an explosion from possible sparks on the vessels preparing to lower the box. After the initial Horizon disaster operators felt it was prudent to wait until the wind returned to lower the risk of another fire.

The containment box was built by Wild Well Control of Houston Texas. The pictures below disseminated by the Associated Press. The Joe Griffith was the ship tasked with taking the box to the well site.

BP claimed on Wednesday they had stopped one of the leaks by cutting the riser pipe laying on the seafloor and capping it with a robot sub. There is roughly 5,000 feet of riser still connected to the well and laying on the ocean floor in a crumpled heap. The box was custom built to match the pipe and the contours of the sea floor exactly where it is going to be deployed.

Since this has never been done at these depths the engineers are afraid the oil and water mix flowing up the pipe could freeze under the intense pressure and cold. They are afraid the ice chunks would then clog the pipe to the tanker and then push out under the containment box again. In order to prevent this rig above will pump warm water and methanol into the box.

The overhead rig, the Transocean Deepwater Enterprise drillship will be connected to the box by a drill pipe inside a riser pipe. The dual pipes will allow the warm water and antifreeze to piped down one pipe and the oil and water to be pumped up through the other. This drillship can process 15,000 barrels of oil per day. When the fluids and natural gas reaches the drillship they will flow into a closed processing system normally used for normal well testing. The oil will be piped into a storage tank that holds 139,000 barrels and the gas will be flared and the water dumped back into the sea.

The oil will later be transferred to another tanker and sent to BP's 455,790 bpd refinery in Texas City for processing.

The largest leak is coming from a broken section of the riser. The remaining leak is coming from the same bent riser where it is still connected to the blow out preventer. A second containment box is being built to lower over the BOP. Until then the robot subs are still trying to force the BOP to close. BP is also considering a top kill device that they would attach to the BOP and attempt to force cement and glue into the well in an effort to plug the well from the top.

I thought it would be easier to cut the riser free from the BOP and just use one box over the BOP but BP officials are afraid that cutting the riser off could unleash the full force of the well which they claim could produce as much as 60,000 bpd in an unrestrained flow. The fact the riser is sharply bent in multiple places appears to be slowing the flow from the well.

Jim Brown

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