BP has announced the cost of the oil spill clean up in the Gulf of Mexico has risen to $3.5bn (£2.3bn) as efforts continue to cap the leaking well 5,000ft below the surface.
The damaged lower marine riser package (LMRP) containment cap was successfully removed from the Deepwater Horizon’s failed blow-out preventer this weekend with the use of robotic submarines. Following this, a ‘transition spool’ was installed and bolted onto the remaining flange on the blow-out preventer.
According to BP, the next step will be lowering a new stack of valves, known as a capping stack, on top of the transition spool and sealing it together. These valves will be designed to gradually close, allowing them to either shut off the flow of oil or divert it to pipes connected to collection ships on the surface.
‘We remain on track to have the sealing cap in place within the four-to-seven-day time frame,’ said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration and Production.
Meanwhile, BP stated the Q4000 service platform will still continue its duties of collecting oil and gas and burning it off at the surface. The company gained permission to do this from federal authorities in June as part of their promise to triple the amount of crude it stops spewing into the sea.
According to Suttles, over the last 24 hours the Q4000 collected 8,235 barrels of oil.
On 10 July, the LMRP containment system, which was connected via pipe to the drill ship Discoverer Enterprise, collected 7,096 barrels of oil. With the removal of the LMRP cap, the Discoverer Enterprise has since been discontinued.
Suttles said the total volume of oil collected or flared by the containment systems to date is approximately 779,000 barrels.
He added the company will later today commission a new oil-capture system, a rig called the Helix Producer, as part of its effort to ramp up its containment capacity to 60,000-80,000 barrels per day starting the end of July.
It is likely to take several days to ramp up the Helix to full capacity, which is about 25,000 barrels a day.
BP noted the sealing cap system, the Q4000 system, the flexible riser system and the planned additional containment systems have never been deployed at these depths or under these conditions, and their efficiency and ability to contain or flare the oil and gas cannot be assured.
There is still work being done on the first relief well, which started on 2 May. Suttles said the company has reached a measured depth of 17,840ft. The relief well is intended to intercept the original well at approximately 18,000ft.
Operations will then begin to kill the flow of oil and gas from the reservoir by pumping specialised heavy fluids down the relief well. The second relief well, which started on 16 May, is just below 16,000 feet.
Suttles said that while uncertainty still exists, the first relief well and kill operations could be performed by the end of July at the earliest.
He added that the company is also continuing its work on surface spill response and containment efforts.
With 50 skimmers out on the water yesterday, the company was able to collect more than 18,000 barrels of oily water, according to Suttles. With 14 flare teams in place, the company completed 15 controlled burns of collected oil and gas over 12 hours.
The company revealed that these operations have recovered approximately 720,238 barrels (30.25 million gallons) of oily liquid to date. In addition, a total of 286 controlled burns have been carried out to date, removing an estimated 238,095 barrels of oil from the sea’s surface.
The total length of containment area deployed as part of efforts to prevent oil from reaching the coast now stretches 3.1 million feet (587.12 miles).