Archive for Friday, July 16, 2010

Well finally stops spewing oil in Gulf

July 16, 2010

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Images taken from video provided by BP PLC show oil flowing from two of three valves on the new 75-ton cap atop the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at 5:04 p.m. CDT Wednesday, left, and the top of the cap at 5:56 p.m. CDT on Thursday, minutes after the flow of oil was choked off. BP vice president Kent Wells said the oil stopped flowing into the water at 2:25 p.m. CDT after engineers gradually dialed back the amount of crude escaping through the last of three vents in the cap, an 18-foot-high metal stack of pipes and valves.

Images taken from video provided by BP PLC show oil flowing from two of three valves on the new 75-ton cap atop the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at 5:04 p.m. CDT Wednesday, left, and the top of the cap at 5:56 p.m. CDT on Thursday, minutes after the flow of oil was choked off. BP vice president Kent Wells said the oil stopped flowing into the water at 2:25 p.m. CDT after engineers gradually dialed back the amount of crude escaping through the last of three vents in the cap, an 18-foot-high metal stack of pipes and valves.

— The oil has stopped. For now.

After 85 days and up to 184 million gallons, BP finally gained control over one of America’s biggest environmental catastrophes Thursday by placing a carefully fitted cap over a runaway geyser that has been gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico since early spring.

Though a temporary fix, the accomplishment was greeted with hope, high expectations — and, in many cases along the beleaguered coastline, disbelief. From one Gulf Coast resident came this: “Hallelujah.” And from another: “I got to see it to believe it.”

If the cap holds, if the sea floor doesn’t crack and if the relief wells being prepared are completed successfully, this could be the beginning of the end for the spill. But that’s a lot of ifs, and no one was declaring any sort of victory beyond the moment.

The oil stopped flowing at 2:25 p.m. CDT when the last of three valves in the 75-ton cap was slowly throttled shut. That set off a 48-hour watch period in which — much like the hours immediately after a surgery — the patient was in stable, guarded condition and being watched closely for complications.

“It’s a great sight,” said BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, who immediately urged caution. The flow, he said, could resume. “It’s far from the finish line. … It’s not the time to celebrate.”

Nevertheless, one comforting fact stood out: For the first time since an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers April 20 and unleashed the spill 5,000 feet beneath the water’s surface, no oil was flowing into the Gulf.

President Barack Obama, who has encouraged, cajoled and outright ordered BP to stop the leak, called Thursday’s development “a positive sign.” But Obama, whose political standing has taken a hit because of the spill and accusations of government inaction, cautioned that “we’re still in the testing phase.”

The worst-case scenario would be if the oil forced down into the bedrock ruptured the seafloor irreparably. Leaks deep in the well bore might also be found, which would mean that oil would continue to flow into the Gulf. And there’s always the possibility of another explosion, either from too much pressure or from a previously unknown unstable piece of piping.

The drama that unfolded quietly in the darkness of deep water Thursday was a combination of trial, error, technology and luck. It came after weeks of repeated attempts to stop the oil — everything from robotics to different capping techniques to stuffing the hole with mud and golf balls.

It’s not clear yet whether the oil will remain bottled in the cap, or whether BP will choose to use the new device to funnel the crude into four ships on the surface.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

BP Halts Containment Test for Consecutive Day

BP has again suspended a pressure test of a containment cap placed over the breached well in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after receiving government approval to proceed. Work crews began testing the cap on Wednesday until a leak was found on one of the caps. The testing has raised hopes of plugging the gusher, but National Incident Commander Thad Allen urged caution.

Adm. Thad Allen: "It would be terrific news if we could shut in the well, but I don’t think we can say that. I think there needs to be an overabundance of caution, and I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up that we can shut this well in, until we get the empirical pressure readings that we need to have, do a seismic survey of the sea floor, and try and understand as well as we can the condition of the well bore and the casings."

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

Oil Smears Hundreds of Birds in Gulf Nesting Area

Biologists meanwhile say oil has smeared hundreds of pelicans and terns on Raccoon Island, the largest seabird nesting area along the Louisiana coastline. The birds haven’t been counted among the government’s list of oiled birds. An estimated 10,000 birds are said to nest on Raccoon Island.

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