BP raises siphoning rate of Gulf oil leak to 2,000 bbl/day

18 May 2010 16:35  [Source: ICIS news]

Discoverer EnterpriseHOUSTON (ICIS news)--BP has doubled the amount of oil it was siphoning from the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico to 2,000 bbl/day, the company said on Tuesday.

The company said on Monday it was siphoning about 1,000 bbl/day through a mile-long tube that had been inserted into a pipe from the sunken rig and had planned to increase the extraction rate. Oil was leaking from the sunken rig at an estimated rate of 5,000 bbl/day.

BP said it increased the extraction rate slowly in order to prevent excess water from entering the pipe. Excess water could have increased the chances of crystallised gas hydrates forming, which could have blocked the flow, the company said.

“If we could get half or so of the total flow - really, in excess of 2,000 bbl/day - we would all be extraordinarily pleased,” BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said during a late Monday conference call.

The tube was siphoning oil and gas to the drillship Discoverer Enterprise at the surface. Oil was being stored on the ship, while gas was being flared, BP said.

The company noted that the 2,000 bbl/day capture rate could still be increased.

“It is expected that it will take some time to increase the flow through the system and maximise the proportion of oil and gas flowing through the broken riser that will be captured and transported to the drillship,” BP said.

Over the weekend, underwater robots had inserted the four-inch (10 cm) diameter tube into a leaking 21-inch riser pipe, which rested on the sea floor nearly a mile under water.

The tube, however, would not come close to siphoning all of the oil, the company said. To completely stop the flow, BP was continuing to work on its “top kill” operation, in which heavy drilling fluids would be injected into the well to stem the flow, followed by cement to seal the well, the company said.

That operation would be deployed in the “next week or so”, BP said on Tuesday.

The top kill method would stop the flow over the short-term. A permanent solution involved the drilling of two relief wells.

Construction of the first well began in early May, and drilling work on the second - which would effectively serve as a backup - began on Sunday, BP said.

Both wells were expected to be complete by mid-August.

The company raised its estimate for the cost of containing the oil spill to $625m (€506m), including grants of $70m to the four affected Gulf coast states.

Oil began leaking from the well after the 20 April explosion of the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig.

($1 = €0.81)

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By: Ben DuBose
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