Environmental news from California and beyond

« Previous Post | Greenspace Home | Next Post »

Gulf oil spill: Urged on to greater speed, BP ramps up oil collection

June 14, 2010 | 11:33 am

Responding to federal demands to speed up efforts to contain the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, BP officials have submitted a revised plan that will allow the company to collect more than 50,000 barrels of oil a day by the end of June -- about two weeks earlier than the company had originally planned.

On Friday, Coast Guard Rear Admiral James A. Watson, the federal on-scene coordinator of the disaster response, gave the company 48 hours to speed up its strategy to collect the oil leaking into the gulf. On Monday, Watson issued a statement saying BP, "after being directed to move more quickly," was "now stepping up its efforts to contain the leaking oil."

The company has been collecting about 16,000 barrels per day from the broken well using a containment cap that funnels the oil to a processing ship. But federal experts have estimated that the well has been spewing at least 40,000 barrels per day.

BP claims the maximum capacity of its current system is 18,000 barrels per day. An additional plan set to start Tuesday will siphon up to 10,000 barrels a day more using pipes and equipment from BP's failed "top-kill" plan, which sought to stem the flow of oil by using drilling mud.

For a number of days, the company has planned to scrap those two systems, eventually replacing them with a new system of floating risers. The revised plan, however, calls for all of these remedies to be deployed concurrently, said David Nicholas, a BP spokesman.

If all goes well, that would allow the company to capture from 40,000 to 53,000 barrels of oil a day from the sea by the end of June, creating "sufficient capacity to cover the upper end" of the federal government's leak rate estimate, according to the plan submitted to the Coast Guard.

The company said that, in mid-July or later, it would have the capacity to collect 60,000 to 80,000 barrels per day.

"Their revised plan also includes methods to achieve even greater redundancy beyond the month of June, to better allow for bad weather or unforeseen circumstances," Watson said in his statement. "We have continuously demanded strategies and responses from BP that fit the realities of this catastrophic event, for which BP is responsible.  We will continue to hold them accountable and bring every possible resource and innovation to bear."

-- Richard Fausset, in Atlanta