LMRP oil spill cap reinstalled, containment resumes

By Phaedra Friend Troy

The lower marine riser package (LMRP) oil spill cap is back in business. After being removed from the BOP, allowing the oil and natural gas to gush unabated into the Gulf of Mexico for more than 10 hours, the LMRP cap has been reinstalled and is collecting hydrocarbons once again. 

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.

At 8:45 CST on June 23, the LMRP cap was removed from the Macondo well as a precautionary measure because there was an unknown liquid seeping from a valve aboard the Discoverer Enterprise drillship.

In a press conference, National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen said that the leak of the unknown liquid may have been caused by an accidental bump by an ROV which turned a valve some 5,000 feet below the water’s surface. 

Much concern centered on the fear that gas hydrates were forming in the LMRP cap, blocking the flow of the escaping hydrocarbons. One of the earliest oil spill containment measures was thwarted by gas hydrates, which are similar to ice crystals and form at these great water depths.

After studying the oil spill cap system, it was revealed that a vent had been closed accidentally.

Nevertheless, the unexpected liquid pouring from a valve aboard the drillship is a prime example of what BP has been saying from the beginning of this effort: this has never been done before at these water depths, and continued success is uncertain.

On the other hand, the LMRP cap alongside the secondary oil spill containment system, which remained in operation, are seeing some much needed success. The day before the mishap, the containment system – both the LMRP cap and the secondary system – collected more than 27,000 barrels of oil.

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