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Next step could increase oil gush

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Oil surrounds the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana, Monday, May 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)



By SANDY DAVIS , Advocate staff writer

BP’s latest plan to capture oil from a massive leak in the Gulf of Mexico could result in a temporary increase of up to 20 percent in the oil flow until the containment dome is in place, government scientists said Monday.

Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., gave Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive officer, until Friday to provide proof that there are no underwater oil plumes.

Hayward has denied the existence of the plumes while scientists say they’ve found them in the Gulf.

In another development, BP admitted that drilling on the second relief well was still suspended even though reports on the Deepwater Horizon’s federal response website say it’s continuing.

Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change policy, warned that when BP cuts off a kinked and leaking riser pipe — in its latest plan to contain the oil leak — there could be a temporary increase of up to 20 percent in the oil leaking into the Gulf.

She said the calculation was made by government scientists, whom she did not name.

The increase in the oil leak could occur between the time the pipe is cut off — and leaking oil shoots out the top of the blowout preventer — and a containment dome can be lowered into place, Browner said.

Graham MacEwen, a BP spokesman, said Monday he did not know how much time would pass between the two steps.

Browner said she decided to announce that the leak’s volume could increase because she wanted to make sure that “the American public receives the most accurate information.”

Since almost the beginning of the leak, BP said that it estimated about 5,000 barrels of oil were leaking daily into the Gulf.

But last week, a Flow Rate Task Force, appointed by the federal government, estimated that between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil are leaking daily into the Gulf.

Browner said that the task force plans to estimate how much of an increase in the leak, if any, occurs when BP tries to install the containment dome.

Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said Saturday that within four to seven days, the company planned to install the containment dome, which is known as the lower marine riser package cap.
While Suttles said the cap should contain “most of the leaking oil,” he did say it would not be able to capture all of it.

The cap will be connected to a 5,000-feet long marine riser pipe which will allow the oil to flow into a tanker ship on the surface where it will be stored.

For those who were watching BP’s live video feed of the oil leak on the Internet Monday, BP was not starting to install the lower marine riser package cap.

Remotely operated vehicles could be seen cutting pipe, but MacEwen, the BP spokesman, said the vehicles were only getting other pieces of pipe out of the way.

“We want to have a clear path when we go in and cut the riser pipe,” MacEwen said. “There is other pipe down there that needed to be moved. So they’re cutting it and moving it.”

Underwater oil?
Markey announced Monday that he sent a letter to Hayward asking the head of BP to provide “documentation to substantiate his claims” that there are no underwater oil plumes.

“BP in this instance means ‘Blind to Plumes,’” said Markey, who is the chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee is leading an investigation into the BP oil leak.

The leak began when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. The rig collapsed into the gulf two days later resulting in the oil leaking into the gulf.

Since then, chemical dispersants have been used to break the oil into small droplets which is supposed to make it easier for microbes or bacteria to “eat,” the federal Environmental Protection Agency has said.

However, scientists at the University of South Florida have said that recently they discovered a 22-mile long oil plume underwater they believe is dispersed oil, Markey said.

But Hayward denied that there is any oil underwater over the weekend.

“The oil is on the surface,” The Associated Press quoted Hayward as saying. “Oil has a specific gravity that’s about half that of water. It wants to get to the surface because of the difference in specific gravity.

Markey said that it is imperative that “there is unfettered access to all relevant data or analysis” from BP.

He asked for copies of all “measurements, calculations or other supporting materials on which Mr. Hayward based his statements…”
Relief well drilling halts

Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said Friday that drilling stopped on the second relief well last week when the blowout preventer was removed from it and placed on a ship.

BP is required to have blowout preventers on the relief wells before the company can drill, Suttles has said.

After the containment dome is placed on the blowout preventer in the next few days, Suttles said, BP plans to place the relief well’s blowout preventer on top of the malfunctioning blowout preventer that sits over the out-of-control wellhead on the gulf’s floor.

The blowout preventer has a series of valves that are designed to close off the well in the event of an emergency.

But the Deepwater Horizon oil rig’s blowout preventer failed.

BP’s engineers say it may be possible to shut off the gushing well with the second blowout preventer.

But on Monday MacEwen, the BP spokesman, said plans now call for the blowout preventer to be reinstalled on the second relief well.

“They could resume drilling the second relief well sometime later in the week,” he said.

He said that BP still planned to stack a functioning blowout preventer on the broken one.

“I guess they sourced another blowout preventer from somewhere else,” MacEwen said.

Suttles has said that the relief well will intersect with the out-of-control gushing well in August. Once they intersect, cement will be used to permanently seal off the leaking well.

In the meantime, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday that within 72 hours, it is possible that some of the oil slick could threaten barrier islands off of Mississippi and Alabama.

Also on Monday, Louisiana’s Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Office of Emergency Preparedness reported that oil was on the bayside of Camanida Bridge, Camanida Pass and about a mile off Elmer Island in Jefferson Parish.

Oil was also sighted in the mouth of Belle Pass, Pass Fourchon, and coming from Little Lake into Grand Bayou Blue in Lafourche Parish.


Written by demon53

June 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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