BP in mid-June began collecting oil & gas from the first phase of a system that taps into the choke and kill valves on the Macondo well's failed blowout preventer. The system employs the same flow lines and manifold used in the company's unsuccessful top kill attempt in May. The choke line transports hydrocarbons to the Q4000, where both oil & gas are flared off using a cleaner-burning EverGreen system. The kill line was to be connected to the Discoverer Clear Leader in late June; combined with the lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap installed atop the BOP and connected by riser to the Discoverer Enterprise, engineers hope to bring oil recovery capacity at the site to 53,000b/d by the beginning of July.
The next step, planned for this month, is to remove the LMRP cap and replace it with a tighter-fitting, more secure containment dome that could capture 40,000-50,000b/d and transport it to a pair of floating production units via floating risers. The risers will connect to flexible hoses that can be easily disconnected and reconnected in the event of a Gulf of Mexico hurricane. BP said the entire system could gather 60,000-80,000b/d while the company completes the first of two relief wells being drilled at the site. At press time, the first of these had reached a depth of nearly 12,000ft below the seabed and was scheduled for completion in early August.
Helix Producer I and Toisa Pisces have been mobilized to the Mississippi Canyon block 252 site to process hydrocarbons from the dual riser system, should the plan come to fruition. Two tankers would collect the produced oil.
A government-appointed panel of scientists, using several different analytical methods, has now put the spill rate for the well at somewhere between 35,000b/d and 60,000b/d. The oil slick has closed 81,000 square miles of the Gulf to fishing, infiltrated Louisiana's delicate marshlands and soiled beaches from Louisiana to western Florida. OE