BP on Monday expressed optimism that its latest strategy to quell the oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico by installing a new cap on its ruptured wellhead was proceeding as per plan. According to National Incident Commander Thad Allen, this strategy could potentially contain the entire leak in a matter of days.
In a statement over the weekend BP said that following approval from Admiral Allen, it had begun replacing the existing lower marine riser package (LMRP) containment cap — the so-called “top hat” system — over the Deepwater Horizon’s failed blow-out preventer (BOP) with a new sealing cap assembly (the “capping stack”).
“Installation of the sealing cap is proceeding as planned,” BP added, noting that the Discoverer Enterprise vehicle had removed the LMRP cap and its flange, or connecting projection.
Simultaneously, the disaster response team said that skimming operations had been “doubled” at the well site. Skimming and other methods of removing oil assumed particular importance after it was learned that the process for deployment of the capping stack would paradoxically increase the amount of oil leaking temporarily.
Thus during the procedure, close to 60,000 barrels of oil per day are expected to be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico without any containment. To mitigate this heightened flow, Admiral Allen had earlier pressed BP operations chief Robert Dudley to use a third containment ship, the Helix Producer.
In addition to skimming off this interim excess flow of oil, Admiral Allen’s team said “favourable weather conditions allowed responders to conduct a successful controlled burn operation for the third consecutive day”. They added that to date the controlled burns had helped to remove more than 10.3 million gallons of oil from the water.
Meanwhile BP has continued digging relief wells, as a fail-safe option in case the containment caps should be unable to halt the oil gushing into the Gulf. The disaster response team reported over the weekend that “The drilling of relief wells continues… The Development Driller III has drilled the first relief well to a depth of 17,810 feet below the Gulf surface. The Development Driller II has drilled the second relief well to a depth of more than 15,900 feet below the surface.”
BP shares trading higher
BP also issued an update on the cost to the company efforts to mop up the spill. In a statement, the oil major said, “The cost of the response to date amounts to approximately 3.5 billion dollars, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid, and federal costs.” Yet BP’s shares were trading almost seven per cent higher on Monday, as rumours of the company planning an asset sale worth $100 million abounded, as did rumours that other oil giants, such as ExxonMobil were considering buying out the beleaguered BP.
However, even as the administration and BP continue to battle the leak, which began in late April, a presidential commission charged with investigating the spill and prescribing rules for future offshore drilling held its first public meeting on Monday, media reports said. According to CNN, “The National Oil Spill Commission has six months to determine what happened… and how to prevent something similar from ever happening again.”