BP starts up second spill containment system; updates flow estimate

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, June 16 -- BP PLC announced oil and natural gas is flowing through a second spill containment system attached to the Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon rig’s failed blowout preventer (BOP) on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in the Gulf of Mexico.

Separately, a federal team of scientists and engineers updated the deepwater Macondo well flow rate, putting it at 35,000-60,000 b/d. The latest estimate is based on pressure measurements available after BP cut a riser pipe on June 3 and installed additional sensors.

BP’s second collection system supplements a lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap system, which remains in operation. The new system is connected directly to the BOP and carries oil and gas through a manifold and hoses to the Q4000 multiservice vessel.

The manifold involved previously was used in the failed “top kill” effort in late May when BP tried to stop the flow from the runaway Macondo well in 5,000 ft of water. BP operates the well. An Apr. 20 blowout resulted in an explosion and fire on the Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible that killed 11 crew members.

The Q4000, owned by Helix Energy Solutions Group Inc., uses a specialized clean-burning system to flare oil and gas. Oil and gas collected from the spill first reached the Q4000 at 1 a.m. CDT on June 16. Operations continue to stabilize and optimize the performance of the second containment system.

On June 16, BP senior executives met with US President Barack Obama and senior administration officials in Washington, DC, to discuss arrangements to ensure that all legitimate claims in the gulf spill are paid in a timely manner.

Updated flow rate estimate
Based on updated information and scientific assessments, Flow Rate Technical Group Director Marcia McNutt, also is director of the US Geological Survey, said FRTG teams believe the most likely flow rate is 35,000-60,000 b/d.

BP is implementing multiple strategies to expand leak containment capabilities to 60,000-80,000 b/d by mid-July (OGJ Online, June 15, 2010).

For June 14, BP said it collected 15,420 bbl of oil and flared 33.2 MMcf of gas through the LMRP cap system. BP plans soon to start releasing figures for the oil and gas collected through the Q4000 direct connect system as well.

US Sec. of Energy Steven Chu said the latest flow rate estimate brings together several scientific methodologies and the latest detailed information from the sea floor, which he called “a significant step forward in our effort to put a number on the oil that is escaping.”

FRTG teams continue to collect data and refine these estimates, Chu said, adding, “It is important to realize that the numbers can change. In particular, the upper number is less certain—which is exactly why we have been planning for the worst-case scenario at every stage and why we are continuing to focus on responding to the upper end of the estimate.”

In other news, the Unified Area Command said it will move its spill response staff from the 7-week base in Robert, La., to a 38,000-sq-ft space in New Orleans that will better facilitate continued 24-hr activities.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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