Oil spill containment: 'top kill' still planned, other options developed

Source: BP

Subsea efforts continue to focus on progressing options to stop the flow of oil from the well through interventions via the MC252 blow out preventer (BOP) and to collect the flow of oil from the leak points. These efforts are being carried out in conjunction with industry experts and governmental authorities.

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.

Plans have been developed for a series of interventions via the BOP; it is currently anticipated these may be carried out over a period of about a week, commencing in the next few days. These interventions have not been carried out at these depths and conditions before and the success of individual options cannot be assured.

'Top Kill'

The first planned intervention is the so-called "top kill" operation where heavy drilling fluids would be injected into the well to stem the flow of oil and gas and, ultimately, kill the well. Most of the equipment is on site and preparations for this operation continue, with a view to deployment within a few days. If necessary, equipment is also in place to combine this operation with the injection under pressure of bridging material to seal off upward flow through the BOP.

Sophisticated diagnostic work using remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) will precede the 'top kill' to allow the procedure to be planned in detail. The knowledge from this diagnostic work will be instrumental in determining whether to proceed with this option. 

Lower Marine Riser Package

Being progressed in parallel with plans for the top kill is development of a lower marine riser package (or LMRP) cap containment option. This would first involve removing the damaged riser from the top of the BOP, leaving a cleanly-cut pipe at the top of the BOP's LMRP. The LMRP cap, an engineered containment device with a sealing grommet, would be connected to a riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and then placed over the LMRP with the intention of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well and transporting it to the drillship on the surface. The LMRP cap is already on site and it is anticipated that this option will be available for deployment by the end of May.

Additional options also continue to be progressed, including the option of lowering a second blow-out preventer, or a valve, on top of the MC 252 BOP.

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