BP has successfully attached a valve to the end of the broken drilling pipe at the Macondo well in the US Gulf and plans to try to shut that leak later today. The move is not expected to reduce the estimated 5000 barrels per day of oil gushing from the well but it will close one of three sources, leaving the UK supermajor only two other leaks to address, BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said. Crews first cut the jagged end of the drill pipe, which extends beyond the end of the broken riser. Next they fabricated and installed the valve.
A plan to contain the other two leaks was delayed slightly, Suttles said Tuesday at a press conference. Suttles said on Monday that he expected to load the first of two massive containment domes onto a work boat Tuesday, but today he said that operation is planned for noon Wednesday. It is expected to take about 12 hours for the first dome to reach the location of the leak. Once on location, it should take another 48 hours to lower the 70-ton structure, which measures 14 feet by 24 feet by 40 feet over the largest leak at the end of the riser and secure it to the seafloor, Suttles said. BP will then bring in Transocean’s drillship Discoverer Enterprise and connect the dome to the ship with a system of pipes. Suttles hopes to begin pumping oil into the drillship within six days. Once on board, it will be processed and loaded onto a tanker to be brought to shore. Work continues on two more domes, one of which is set to go over a smaller leak at the juncture of the riser and the lower marine riser package.
The Transocean semi-submersible rig Development Driller III spudded the first of two planned relief wells shortly after 3 pm local time Sunday. The spud, originally planned for late last week, had been delayed by bad weather. The well will take between two to three months drill to about 18,000 feet and then intercept the blown-out well, Suttles has confirmed. The UK supermajor has decided to bring in a third rig, the Transocean semi-submersible rig Development Driller II, to spud a second relief well. The rig will arrive on location in about 10 to 12 days and will "race" to spud a second relief bore. BP continues to look at installing a new blowout preventer (BOP) on top of the existing well, which could then be used to shut the well. It is understood that the BOP on board the Transocean drillship Discoverer Enterprise will be used. The drillship is on location. According to Transocean's fleet inventory, the BOP is a Hydril 18¾in 15,000 psi, six-ram system with a Cameron 15,000 psi wellhead connector.
However, if the plan does not work it could cause the flow from the well to increase by eliminating the back pressure created by the crimped riser. The fleet inventory indicates the Deepwater Horizon's riser was provided by Vetco. BP has continued to spray dispersant underwater to attack the oil before it hits the surface. Suttles confirmed that the subsea dispersant is the same as that sprayed on the surface. Suttles said BP was pleased with the results and hoped to have photos that would allow him to assess if the technique is effective. BP began subsea spraying operations yesterday.
There have been no confirmed reports of oil making landfall on the southern Louisiana coast, Coast Guard officials said. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said the Coast Guard investigated reports that oil had hit the beach at Chandeleur Island but did not find any oil. Landry said containment operation was tracking “heavy pockets of emulsified oil" to prevent them from hitting the coastline, but some surface oil “sheen” may eventually reach the shore. Meanwhile, storms that had moved through the Gulf are clearing, leaving calmer seas, and winds are expected to shift to the north, slowing the oil’s approach to the coast. BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles said the huge oil slick is not expected to hit the shore for another three days. Forecasts for the trajectory of the huge oil slick off the US Gulf Coast did not show it hitting the shore for another three days, he told a press conference. It is believed that at least two offshore gas processing platforms have been shut in due to the spill, but the Coast Guard has issued conflicting reports on the number and status of those platforms.