July 12th, 2010
02:50 PM ETPermalink
Cleanup workers scoop up oil along the Mississippi Gulf Coast earlier this month.
[Updated 2:50 p.m., July 12]
With oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for almost three months, every attempt to stop the leak has failed, or fallen short. We look at how we ended up here: what BP has tried and why it has yet to succeed.
July 10, 2010
Solution: New better-fitting containment cap • BP said it was going to remove the old containment cap, replacing it with another that has a better fit. Robots removed six giant bolts from the apparatus July 11 so the new cap could be positioned.
• Scientists will then be able to gauge the pressure inside the well and determine whether the cap is holding in the oil or if crews will need to continue siphoning oil.
• BP says it will conduct a “well integrity test,” which involves closing the stack end and stemming the flow coming from the well.
• If it works, oil collection via the vessels, Q4000 and Helix Producer, will cease. BP will then close in on the perforated pipe. This process, which will be done in collaboration with U.S. government officials, could take up to 48 hours.
Expectation • In the best-case scenario, the containment cap would have the ability to actually close down the valves and slowly contain all the oil – not plug the well.
• If oil collection was still necessary, over the next two to three weeks, 60,000 to 80,000 barrels (2.52 million to 3.36 million gallons) a day could be collected as part of the containment process, BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said. That's because the containment cap would allow four collection ships to access the well, rather than the maximum of three allowed by the old cap.
• The oil giant said earlier as well that the cap "should improve containment efficiency during hurricane season by allowing shorter disconnect and reconnect times."
• Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said he approved the cap-switch plan to take advantage of favorable weather predicted for coming days and because, once the switch is complete, the resulting capacity to contain oil "will be far greater than the capabilities we have achieved using current systems." Allen also stressed that once the capping device is on, "we would get the most accurate flow rate to date."Outcome • Oil is still gushing as the new cap is being set in place. In the meantime, the first relief well BP plans to use to shut down the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is now just five feet away from the main well and 30 feet above the hoped-for intersection point, BP's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said