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An Update on BP’s Efforts to stop the Gulf Oil Spill

1. New cap over the blowout preventer (BOP) to allow more efficient oil recovery:

BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) told the U.S. Coast Guard late Friday that it would start work on a new containment Saturday instead of waiting until it has hooked up a third vessel to handle oil recovered from its leaking deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a letter to Ret. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, BP projected it could finish the new-cap operation in five days if is doesn't encounter any unexpected hurdles. Its contingency plan puts the finish time nine days from now.

The accelerated plan is designed to take advantage of an eight-day window of favorable weather. _WSJ
While the new cap could capture more oil, it would require taking off the old cap, which would release more oil into the sea until the new cap was placed over the BOP.

Even with a new cap, some oil would still be escaping, Allen explained, since the seal cannot be 100% effective.

Additionally, a partial leak is desirable, he said, because oil coming out means seawater is not intruding into the pipe, which if it did would lead to icy hydrate formation and the eventual plugging of the pipe. _Upstream

Update 10July: Work has begun on replacing the LMRP cap with a new cap capable of capturing a larger volume of oil and gas.

2. New recovery vessel Helix Producer to be added next week to bring oil recovery above 50,000 barrels per day. The Helix Producer had been delayed by bad weather, but should be moved into play fairly soon.

BP also said the third oil-collecting vessel, known as the Helix Producer, could start up by Sunday. It should roughly double the site's capacity to capture oil to about 53,000 barrels a day.

3. Floating riser system to be installed next week, following installation of the new LMRP cap.

The system, which would have floating riser systems leading to four vessels at the surface would have more processing capacity (up to 80,000 barrels per day) and would be more resilient in bad weather.

The first floating riser containment system, which will be attached to the Helix Producer, is now expected to be ready towards the end of the week, said BP.

Hooking up the new system requires BP to replace the current containment cap with one that would be firmly attached to the well, which could potentially catch all of the oil. _Upstream

4. Relief wells for ultimate securing of the Macondo well:

Allen also said the first of two relief wells intended to intercept and plug the leak should bore into the stricken wellbore in seven to 10 days.

But he said the plugging process could be lengthy, so the target date remains early to mid August rather than this month.

BP managing director Bob Dudley told the Wall Street Journal, "In a perfect world with no interruptions, it's possible to be ready to stop the well between 20 July and 27 July." _Upstream

What will have to happen is when the relief well is adjacent to the well bore and close enough to be able to turn to make the penetration, then we'll first penetrate the area outside the well pipe.

And we will see if there is oil there or not. At that point mud will be pumped into the wellbore to see if that contains the well. If that does not, the mud and a (inaudible) plug will be inserted and then we will drill again into the inner pipe.

That will be the second attempt to plug the well if oil is coming up through the pipe with mud and cement. These two procedures will take us into August. There're things that could happen that could shorten that but right now into August is what the official estimate is. _TOD

"Heading Out", a professor of mining who writes at The Oil Drum, exressed frustration with President Obama's "brains trust", which apparently has been sitting on some of the plans -- unable to decide whether to give the go-ahead.

The bottleneck here is the “brains trust” that Secretaries Chu and Salazar have assembled, and who will vet the idea. Here is my gripe. They have known about the design and the plans for weeks now. They have a short window of opportunity before the next storm rolls in and stops the effort, and they are only now getting the paperwork that they have to approve. It does not seem unreasonable to ask why this wasn’t done over a week ago, so that approval was in hand the moment that the weather allowed the procedure to begin. If the weather closes in again before the approval is given and the process completed, whose fault is this?

If the new cap is on, then when mud flows up the well it will go through the BOP and the sealed cap and up to the surface so that there is an additional pressure on the bottom of the well. If it is not, then the mud column weight above the BOP is lost. But the Federal Government is in charge, and processes and procedures must be followed, as they are repeatedly now informing folk. Sigh! So if the opportunity is lost, why that is just the way things go!

This points up the different mentality between bureaucrats such as Salazar, academics like the "brains trust", and people in the real world who have to get things done within certain windows of opportunity.

BP has to do everything according to government bureaucratic regulations -- or be subject to ruinous fines and penalties on top of what it is already paying. But government regulations are not always compatible with getting the job done, in the real world.

If the federal government cannot break through its own bureaucratic red tape in a situation such as this, then that government has become so sclerotic that it is living on borrowed time.

Meanwhile, how long can the sycophantic media continue to cover for the incompetence of this congress and this administration?

By. Al Fin

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