BP burning oil from leaking ruptured gulf well

2010-06-17 08:26

Using a specialised flare system, BP began slowly burning oil

siphoned from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico as part of its plans to more

than triple the amount of crude it can stop from reaching the sea.

Energy giant BP said it had burned 198 725 litres of oil by noon

yesterday. Oil and gas siphoned from the well first reached a semi-submersible

drilling rig on the surface of the Gulf around 1am local time.

Once that gas reaches the rig, it will be mixed with compressed

air, shot down a specialised boom made by Schlumberger and ignited at sea. It’s

the first time this particular burner has been deployed in the Gulf of

Mexico.

BP spokesperson Tristan Vanhegan said engineers were still working

to optimise the system, which the firm previously said could incinerate anywhere

from 800 000 to 1.5 million litres of oil daily once it’s fully

operational.

Under pressure from the Coast Guard, the energy firm is attempting

to expand its ability to trap leaking oil before it reaches the water. Already,

oil and gas are being siphoned from a containment cap sitting over the well head

and flowing to a drill ship sitting above it in the Gulf of Mexico.

Adding the burner is part of BP’s plan to expand its containment

system so it can capture as much as 8.3 million litres of oil a day by late this

month, or nearly 90% of what a team of government scientists have estimated is

the maximum flow out the well.

Only a relief well, which BP says will be completed in August, will

completely stop the flow of oil. Still, comments from President Barack Obama and

federal officials have raised expectations that the flow of oil could be

significantly contained by the end of the month.

The Coast Guard has been pushing the British energy firm to bring

more equipment and boats to the scene to deal with the leak. But plans remain

subject to uncertainty.

An earlier containment box clogged with an icelike slush. A smaller

“top hat” containment was abandoned. Attempting to clog the blowout preventer

with junk did not work. Neither did forcing heavy drilling mud down the well

bore to stanch the flow.

While the new containment cap placed on the well has been

collecting more than 2.3 million litres of oil daily, the system has its own

limits. A single bolt of lightning on Tuesday struck the drilling ship

collecting oil from the cap, started a fire and forced oil collection to stop

for hours.

Lightning storms are the least of the weather worries as the Gulf

enters hurricane season.

 


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