BP might burn some collected oil in gulf spill

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, June 10 -- BP PLC expects to install another collection system that will supplement its lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap system on the deepwater Macondo well in efforts to divert more oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The new system, called the Q4000 direct connect, will receive oil and gas, which will be flared. BP plans to burn both oil and gas using a specialized EverGreen burner made by Schlumberger Ltd.

It will be the first time for industry to use the EverGreen burner in the gulf although it has been used elsewhere, Kent Wells, BP senior vice-president of exploration and production, told reporters during a June 10 technical briefing from BP’s west Houston offices.

Pending the anticipated August completion of a relief well to 18,000 ft to permanently seal the well, BP is working to contain the oil spill and developing systems so that surface vessels can be moved if a hurricane hits the gulf.

Transocean Ltd.’s semisubmersible rig Deepwater Horizon drilled the Macondo well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 for BP and partners. The Deepwater Horizon exploded Apr. 20, leaving 11 crew members dead. The semi sank Apr. 22 (OGJ, May 3, 2010, p. 31).

Direct connect system
The Q4000 was used as the command center during the “top kill” effort in which heavy drilling fluid was pumped into the well in a failed attempt to stop the flow of oil and gas. Wells said top kill equipment on the Q4000 is being replaced with production equipment.

A manifold on the seabed, also part of the top kill operation, will be used in the direct connect system. An additional 14,050 ft of hose was added between the manifold and the Q4000, a surface vessel, so it could be moved away from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship, which receives oil and gas collected by the LMRP cap system.

“We hope early next week to collect more oil and gas through this (direct connect) system,” in addition to volumes collected by the LMRP cap sitting on top of the failed blowout preventer (BOP) stack, Wells said.

The LMRP cap system has collected more oil daily since it was installed. On June 9, the LMRP cap system collected 15,800 b/d. The total volume collected since June 4 is 73,300 bbl. On June 4, the LMRP collected 6,100 b/d.

National Incident Commander and retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told reporters the Q4000 direct connect system is expected to add 5,000-10,000 b/d collection capacity.

Meanwhile, Wells believes daily volumes being collected by the LMRP cap will continue to increase.

“We will never be satisfied until no oil is going into the gulf,” Wells said. Oil from the Enterprise drillship is going into an oil barge that will take it to Mobile, Ala. A second vessel is on the way so it will be available while the first vessel travels to Mobile.

The oil barge has a 140,000 bbl capacity, and the second vessel will have 230,000 bbl capacity, Wells said.

NOAA provides update
Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on June 8 released NOAA’s analysis that confirmed the presence of less than 0.5 ppm of Macondo oil in samples taken from the surface to 3,300 ft of water.

Sampling was done 40 nautical miles and 42 miles northwest of the wellhead and 142 miles southeast of the well, she said.

“Along with the analysis of the oil, we have also been fingerprinting the oil,” Lubchenco said. “You can fingerprint it and determine if it’s from the Mississippi Canyon 252 site or some of the other oil that is in the gulf naturally. What we have found is that hydrocarbons in the surface samples taken 40 nautical miles northeast from the wellhead were indeed consistent with the BP oil spill.”

Oil found in samples 42 miles from the well at the surface, 162 ft, and 4,500 ft were in concentrations too low to do fingerprinting, she said. Oil found in samples taken 142 miles from the wellhead at 330 ft of water and 1,000 ft of water were inconsistent with oil from the oil spill.

Lubchenco said the subsurface oil is being moved around by subsurface currents.

“We will continue to do research to understand where it is and in what concentrations and what impact it will have,” Lubchenco said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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