Posted on 17 May 2010
BP has scored its first success in the battle to control its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, attaching a tube to the broken pipe on the sea bed to collect the escaping oil and gas.
BP said on Monday that it has been able to skim 151,000 barrels, or 6.3m gallons of oily liquid from the surface of the water
Kent Wells, an executive vice-president of BP, said that the company hoped to stop the leak completely by blocking up the well within 10 days.
The fight to control the spill has been going on for more than three weeks, following the fatal explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, without any effect on the flow of oil, officially estimated at 5,000 barrels a day.
Attempts to close safety valves, or to use a 100-tonne steel container to collect the oil failed in the extreme conditions of the ocean floor in 5,000ft of water.
After previous attempts failed, BP said on Sunday that it had managed to insert a tube into the broken riser, the pipe that had connected the Deepwater Horizon to the well-head on the sea bed, which is the main source of the leak.
A mix of oil, gas and water is being pumped to the Discoverer Enterprise drilling ship on the surface, which is collecting the oil to separate it from the water, and burning off the gas with a flare.
Warm water and methanol are being pumped down around the tube to prevent the creation of gas hydrates, ice crystals that form in the high pressures of deep water, which hampered previous attempts to capture the escaping oil.
Mr. Wells said the volume of oil being collected through the tube was “just not measurable at this point”, but BP hoped to raise the rate at which oil was being brought to the surface.
He added that BP was still working on other plans to stop the oil leak, including the “top kill” to plug the well, which would be ready in a week to 10 days
This would involve pumping heavy “mud” down the well to overcome the pressure of the escaping oil and gas, and then cementing it to seal it closed. As part of the top kill, BP might also fire debris into the valves at the top of the well to block them.