In addition to threatening offshore facilities, subsea pipelines and coastal refineries with huge winds and waves, this year's hurricane season could pose a real threat to the ongoing oil spill containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.
Not only would an oncoming hurricane stop the oil spill clean-up efforts at sea and onshore, a hurricane would most likely threaten the oil spill containment successes we have seen in the last week with the LMRP oil spill cap.
The LMRP oil spill cap involved severing the damaged drilling riser from the top of the BOP and placing a cap on the cut, connected to a new riser. This new riser transports the oil and natural gas that is spilling from the Macondo well to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship 5,000 feet above.
Today, James Watson, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral and federal on-scene coordinator of the oil spill response gave BP a 72-hour deadline to submit contingency plans should a hurricane threaten or vessels/facilities fail.
Should the Discoverer Enterprise fail, another rig can be on site to pick up the slack; additionally, BP has a number of coals in the fire in efforts to enhance its current oil spill containment efforts.
Nonetheless, the oil and natural gas that is spilling from the Macondo well needs to be collected by a facility on the water's surface. If a vessel is located in the direct path of a hurricane, it would have to move out of the way. Thus, disconnecting from the Macondo well and again spilling the hydrocarbons into the water.
Or would it? Would BP be able to acquire an FPSO to retrieve the captured oil and gas, offload it, and face a hurricane?
In general, FPSOs are popular both because pipelines are not needed because the vessels can offload to tankers, and because the FPSOs can unhook and travel out of the way of threatening storms. FPSOs have been widely used in Asia Pacific, where typhoons actively threaten offshore oil and gas production.
Here, hydrocarbon flow is shut-in via a valve on the BOP, but as we all know, the shut-off valve on the Macondo BOP is not operable.
I'm interested to see what BP comes up with ... stay posted.