Officials consider controlled burn for oil spill in gulf

A controlled burn is being considered as a way to deal with the oil spill resulting from the explosion, fire, and subsequent collapse of the Transocean Ltd. Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig, US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said.

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Apr. 27 -- A controlled burn is being considered as a way to deal with the oil spill resulting from the explosion, fire, and subsequent collapse of the Transocean Ltd. Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig, US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said.

The Apr. 20 accident left 11 crew members missing and presumed dead. The semi was drilling for BP Exploration & Production Inc. about 52 miles southeast of Venice, La., on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in 4,992 ft of water near Rigel gas field.

The well, which struck oil and associated gas at a total depth of more than 18,000 ft, is estimated to be leaking 1,000 b/d. On Apr. 27, the leading edge of the spilled oil was 20 miles from Venice.

Officials said the spill largely consisted of a rainbow sheen with areas of emulsified crude oil. Landry said a controlled burn was one option to deal with the emulsified oil. The burn would be done during daylight hours, possibly as early as Apr. 28, she said.

The burn, if done, would be smaller and less hot than the rig explosion and fire had been, Landry said, adding that the controlled burn would not be visible from shore and air quality would be monitored.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said, “Burning this oil on the surface is one of the best ways to deal with an open-water spill of this magnitude.” He said crews from his agency were on the way with 1,000 ft of special fire boom to help corral the spill and to assist if the burn was done.

Patterson said the last time crews with the Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program used fire booms to corral and burn oil was a 1995 spill on the San Jacinto River.

Work continues on BOP
Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer of exploration and production, said engineers continued to suggest new methods to stop the oil flow through the blowout preventer (BOP) using remotely operated vehicles.

“We will not stop until we have exhausted every opportunity,” to stem the flow via the BOP, which is the fastest solution available, Suttles said.

In addition, a subsurface oil containment and collection system using a dome over the leak is being built. Pipes would take the oil to the surface where it would be put into a vessel for storage.

BP also plans to drill one or two relief wells. A relief well or wells would intercept the existing wellbore close to the original well’s 18,000 ft TD, he said.

“We will apply every resource available,” Suttles said, estimating during an Apr. 27 news conference that $6 million/day was being spent for recovery efforts from the spill.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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