BP said in a letter to the federal government’s spill recovery coordinator Friday that it would commence work on a new containment cap because there was a good weather window even though it means more oil will flow into the Gulf temporarily.
The letter came in response to Ret. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen’s demands that BP outline its plans. BP projected it could finish the new-cap operation in five days if it doesn’t encounter any unexpected hurdles. Its contingency plan puts the finish time as nine days from commencement of the work. If all goes well, the new system could stop the flow of oil into the Gulf, which has despoiled the fragile coast, rendering some fishing area off limits and soaking untold numbers of sealife in toxic crude.
However, removal of the cap in place now before another collection vessel is brought into full operation would mean significantly more oil would gush into the Gulf as work on the new containment system progresses.
BP could begin removing the containment cap over its gushing well tomorrow kicking off a process to replace it with a stronger device that could take several days. Ben Casselman has details. Plus, behind the rally in stocks and World Cup Preview.
BP declined to comment on the contents of its letter.
Oil has been spewing into the Gulf at many thousands of barrels a day after a BP-owned well had a blowout on April 20, killing 11 workers. The containment cap currently being used has allowed some of that oil to be captured and funneled to a ship on the surface of the water.
The process of putting the new cap in place needs to be started soon because the weather forecast is clear for the next week, Adm. Allen said. The stronger cap will increase the collection system’s ability to withstand storms during what’s expected to be a very active hurricane season.Once BP removes the cap from the top of the failed blow-out preventer on the sea floor, the capacity to capture oil gushing from the leak will temporarily drop.
BP also said the latest arriving oil-collecting vessel, known as the Helix Producer, could start up by Sunday. It should roughly double the site’s capacity to capture oil to about 53,000 barrels a day.
While the new cap could be able to contain all of the oil flowing from the well, BP and the government have always placed more faith in the ability of a relief well to stop the spill. Adm. Allen said drilling of the relief well, underway now, could be finished by mid-August. Some BP officials are more optimistic and told The Wall Street Journal in an interview this week that they hope to have it done by the end of July.
Separately, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said Friday it is withholding reimbursement payments to BP for expenses related to the massive oil spill and that it has already notified its partner about its decision.
The Houston-based company, however, said it is working with BP “in good faith,” to try to reach a resolution. Anadarko, which owns a 25% interest in the BP-operated Macondo well that has been spewing oil into the Gulf for almost three months, received in early June a bill from BP for part of the spill expenses.