A Month Later: BP is siphoning 60% of the spilling oil, plans 'top kill' soon

By Phaedra Friend Troy

The riser insertion tube tool that was deployed over the weekend has ramped up the amount of oil it is capturing.

For comprehensive coverage of the Deepwater Horizon incident, oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and efforts under way to resolve them, visit PennEnergy's Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico special section.

BP reports that the insertion tool that was injected into the broken drilling riser is now siphoning some 3,000 barrels of oil a day, or 60% of the oil that is leaking from the Macondo well, in addition to 14 million cubic feet per day of natural gas.

Measuring 4 inches in diameter, the riser insertion tube tool has been transfering the leaking oil to the drillship Deepwater Enterprise 5,000 feet above. The vessel then processes the petroleum, separating the water from the crude and flaring the natural gas.

Subsea ROVs capped the first of three leaks, leaving the drilling riser on which the insertion tool is working, as well as the failed blowout preventer (BOP).

‘Top Kill’ Effort at the Ready

While the insertion tool has stemmed a large amount of the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, the failed BOP remains the main oil leak source; and oil spill responders continue to focus on shutting off the well at this source.

In an operation where heavy drilling fluids are injected into the well to slow the flow of oil, and then the well is cemented to seal it, the “top kill” solution remains the next oil containment procedure. With most supplies at the ready, BP plans to attempt this effort within the next few days.

Also, the “junk shot” procedure remains on the books as an oil containment option. Here, objects of varying sizes would be injected into the BOP to seal off flow.

In fact, the “top kill” and “junk shot” measures may be deployed simultaneously.

Drilling Relief Wells Continues

The Development Driller II and Development Driller III are both on location and have begun operations to drill two relief wells.

Although the effort will take some three months, the relief wells will help to reduce pressure in the Macondo reservoir, and thus slow the flow of oil from the ruptured well.

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