This story was updated following a 3 p.m. press conference on Apr. 29.
OGJ Senior Staff Writer
HOUSTON, Apr. 29 -- A BP PLC executive told NBC’s "Today" show on Apr. 29 that the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico could be five times larger than earlier believed. His comment came the day after a controlled burn on part of the oil spill and a third leak was found.
Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration & Production Inc., confirmed what US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry first said at a hastily called news conference in a Louisiana command center late Apr. 28 in which she announced a third leak.
Landry estimated 5,000 b/d rather than the 1,000 b/d could be spilling into the gulf. For days, officials have estimated 1,000 b/d was leaking from the Macondo well Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilled on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in 4,992 ft of water near Rigel gas field. Deepwater Horizon was working for BP.
An Apr. 20 explosion and fire rocked the semi, leaving 11 crew members missing and presumed dead and injuring 17. A total of 115 people evacuated the rig. On Apr. 22, the semi sank. Cause of the accident remains under investigation.
On Apr. 29, Suttles said the leak could be as high as the USCG's latest estimate. Previously, he had told reporters that it’s difficult and imprecise to measure spilled oil.
At an Apr. 29 news conference, BP said it invited experts from other oil companies to strategize about how to stop the flow of oil from the well in 5,000 ft of water.
In addition, BP is considering using coiled tubing to transport dispersants down to the wellhead. It would be the first time this tactic has been used at this water depth. Landry said she was in contact with Cabinet-level secretaries about the idea.
“This may be the first time we allow it in US history,” Landry said. Suttles said a giant reel of tubing already was in place to implement the subsurface application of dispersants.
Suttles also said Deepwater Horizon crew members reported that they manually tried to activate the blowout preventer before they left the semi. In addition, response crews have tried to activate the BOP from subsea access points.
“That has not stopped the flow,” Suttles said. When asked about a third leak found on Apr. 28, he said he does not believe it represents any difference in pressure or flow rate.
Meanwhile the US Minerals Management Service said its inspectors plan to review BOP inspection records for all deepwater drilling rigs in the gulf during the next 7 days to ensure that all the proper testing has been done on the BOPs.
Controlled burn used
The USCG reported late Apr. 28 that it conducted a controlled burn on parts of the spill out on open water.
Authorities have deployed more than 100,000 ft of boom to minimize damage if oil reaches sensitive shore areas in the Mississippi River Delta. These areas include Venice, La.; Biloxi, Miss.; Pensacola, Fla.; Pascagoula, Miss.; and Theodore, Ala. Authorities are estimating that oil could reach Louisiana Apr. 30.
BP continues working on the BOP on the well, using remotely-operated vehicles. ROVs also are monitoring the wellhead and riser.
Landry said officials monitoring the leak had detected a second leak on the riser closer to the wellhead than the riser leak that authorities already knew about. The wellhead also is leaking.
Suttles said on Apr. 28 that a subsea oil collection system is being built onshore. It would consist of a dome to cover the well and riser. Collected oil would be sent by pipes to a storage vessel on the surface. Authorities estimate it could take 2-4 weeks to implement this subsea dome system.
BP also is preparing to drill a relief well, which was expected to start Apr. 29, into the exploration well using the Transocean Development Driller III, which already is in place. MMS already approved the plans and granted drilling permits.
A second drillship, Transocean’s Discoverer Enterprise, is also on its way to the site.
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