The BP / Transocean oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico continues with little signs of abating on day 42. Since the explosion and fire aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010, all attempts to end the leak have failed. The latest attempt, “Top Kill” was termed a failure by Saturday, May 29. 30,000 barrels of “mud” were used in this attempt to plug the leak.
The current estimate for the rate of flow of the crude oil from the leak is 12-19,000 barrels per day, or 500-800,000 gallons. In calm weather, controlled burns can be conducted and the Unified Incident Command (UIC) reports conducting over 120 to date. These have removed nearly 67,000 barrels of oil from the surface. In addition, in calm seas, skimming operations have removed 321,000 barrels of an oil / water mix.
Two relief wells are being drilled. When a relief well successfully intercepts the leaking well, cement will be pumped into the leaking well to cap it permanently. Neither well is expected to reach target until August and media reports suggest that experts believe several attempts will be necessary to achieve interception. If the relief well misses, the drill must be partially withdrawn and a new direction chosen. It is not starting over but adjusting the drilling near the target well.
BP is currently working on preparing the site for its next attempt at controlling the leak. The Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) Cap will then be deployed. It is a containment system and will not stop the leak or control all the oil escaping from the well.
BP first has to clear away existing pipe and damaged riser, providing a clear area for the LMRP Cap. When all that material has been cut away and removed to the surface, the Cap will be placed. A riser from the Cap will carry the recovered oil and natural gas to a vessel on the surface, where the gas will be burned and the oil stored.
BP cautions that this procedure has never been attempted at these depths.
About 30,000 claims for damages have been submitted to BP, and about 15,000 payments totaling $40 million have been made. The UIC states that no claims have yet been rejected. BP has some 496 claims adjusters working in the affected region.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal continues to press the UIC for permission to carry out the state’s entire dredging and sand-boom plan. The plan would close channels between off shore islands, among other control measures, blocking the oil slick from the mainland and the delta marshes. The state has presented plans for 24 segments of booms and dredging but the UIC has only approved six. Governor Jindal, in his statement, points out that the plan was presented to the UIC weeks ago and no decision has been made.