Oil Spill Solution: BP to deploy subsea oil recovery system on largest oil leak

Source: Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center

The Subsea Oil Recovery System is a large structure that can be placed over the largest leak source in the Transocean Deepwater Horizon Rig. The system is designed to collect hydrocarbons from the well and pump them to a tanker at the surface, where they will be stored and safely shipped ashore. Weather permitting, deployment of the system is planned within the next six to eight days. 

How it works 

The system is made up of a 125-ton, 14’ x 24’ x 40’ structure that will be set on top of the largest leak source. This leak is located at the end of the riser, about 600 feet from the wellhead.

Equipment at the top of the system is connected to a 5,000 foot riser that will convey the hydrocarbons to the surface ship, the Deepwater Enterprise.

Once in place, oil will flow up into the containment system’s dome to the surface ship.

Once on the surface ship, the hydrocarbons will be processed and oil will be separated from water and gas. The oil will then be temporarily stored before being offloaded and shipped to a designated oil terminal onshore.

The Deepwater Enterprise is capable of processing 15,000 barrels of oil per day and storing 139,000 barrels.

A support barge will also be deployed with a capacity to store 137,000 barrels of oil.

This system could collect as much as 85% of oil rising from the seafloor. 

How it was developed 

This is the first time this system will be used at this water depth.

To develop the system, BP quickly located existing structures that had previously been used as coffer dams in shallow water recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

After Katrina, these structures were lowered over damaged wellheads to allow divers to repair wellheads.

BP engineers have worked closely with the firm Wild Well Controls, Inc. to convert these structures for use in deep waters.

What’s next 

This system is being fabricated in Louisiana and will be transported to the Deepwater Enterprise.

Once on site, the system will be lowered to the seabed.

ROVs will monitor the installation and will complete connections to the riser (tubing).

Because of the weight of the structure and the muddy conditions at the sea bottom, “mud flaps” have been added to the sides of the structure. These flaps enable the structure to settle into the sea bottom and complete the enclosure.

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