BP gets iffy about 'top kill' oil containment strategy, looks toward LMRP cap

By Phaedra Friend Troy

After focusing on the “top kill” containment strategy for more than a week, BP seems to be moving its attention elsewhere to ease the amount of oil spilling from the Macondo well in the deepwaters of the Gulf of Mexico.

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.

The “top kill” oil spill containment solution involves pumping very heavy drilling fluids into the well to slow the flow of oil, followed by pumping cement into the well to permanently seal it.

While the world has been waiting for the “top kill” method to be deployed, BP has been reminding the public in its daily reports that this technique has never been used before at a water depth of 5,000 feet and that its success is uncertain. Today’s report is no different.

Currently, a series of diagnostic tests are being performed on the BOP to “determine whether the ‘top kill’ procedure can be successfully executed,” the BP statement reads. Once these tests are completed, the decision will be made whether or not to deploy the “top kill” technique.

Should this technology be used, the procedure could take up to two days to complete. Furthermore, the “junk shot” technique, where objects of varying size are injected into the empty cavities of the BOP to help clog to flow, may be used in conjunction with the “top kill” method.

LMRP Cap Containment System

Should the oil spill response team not move forward with the “top kill” procedure or should the “top kill” procedure prove ineffective at stopping the flow of oil from the Macondo well, the next oil spill containment solution slated is the lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system.

The LMRP capping technique involves cleanly cutting the damaged riser from the top of the BOP at the device’s lower marine riser package. Then, an LMRP cap, which is a specifically designed oil spill containment device with a sealing grommet, would then be connected to a riser on the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and placed over the existing LMRP.

The goal of the LMRP cap is to capture the oil and natural gas spilling from the BOP via the existing LMRP. The cap is on location and ready to be deployed by the end of the month.

Another oil spill containment option involves lowering a second BOP over the existing BOP.

Furthermore, the two relief wells are still being drilling to help mitigate the pressure pushing the oil and natural gas from the damaged Macondo well.

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