Alex boosts waves to 7 ft above spilling Macondo well

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, June 30 -- Hurricane Alex moved west through the Gulf of Mexico toward Mexico on June 30, producing wind and waves that halted skimming efforts of the oil spill about 200 miles away off Louisiana.

National Incident Commander Thad Allen reported winds of 17-22 knots and 7 ft waves in the key area of oil spill response efforts on the surface above the deepwater runaway Macondo well, operated by BP PLC.

Skimming crews were ready to move back into position once the winds and seas calm, Allen said.

Alex also delayed installation of the Helix Producer floating production unit, which will be the third vessel to collect oil and gas from the spill. Response crews need a calm sea in order to attach 24 bolts to hook up the Helix Producer with a floating riser system, Allen said.

Before the hurricane, BP had expected the Helix Producer would be collecting oil by June 30, but now it is expected to start collecting oil sometime next week. Already the Discover Enterprise drillship and the Helix Q4000 multiservice vessel are together collecting about 25,000 b/d of oil, Allen said on June 30.

The Producer, coupled with a tanker, is intended to provide additional containment capacity of 20,000-25,000 b/d. Together with the Discoverer Enterprise and Q4000 systems, the addition of this new system is expected to increase total oil containment capacity to 53,000 b/d, Allen said.

A June 30 meeting was scheduled in Washington, DC, between BP executives and federal officials to review plans to boost future oil and gas collection capacity and to outline the transition to installing a different cap on the failed blowout preventer.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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