BP Inserts Siphon Into Oil Leak
BP PLC successfully inserted a tube into the broken pipe leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday, a person close to the containment operation said, increasing the chances that the company will be able to siphon off much of the oil now gushing into the sea.
The tube is designed to capture a large part of the oil spewing from the pipe and direct it securely to a ship on the surface.
A BP spokesman declined to comment, saying only that the containment operation was continuing.
For the past three weeks, oil has been spewing into the Gulf from a ruptured well nearly a mile below the surface, threatening an environmental catastrophe along the Gulf coast. The leak was caused when the Deepwater Horizon rig, which had been drilling the well for BP, exploded on April 20, killing 11 crew members.
Earlier efforts to contain the spill ran into a series of setbacks. BP made a first attempt to insert the tube late Saturday, but it fell out following a collision between two subsea robots. Before that, a huge dome that was to be lowered onto the leak got clogged up with gas crystals, or hydrates.
It’s still unclear whether the new siphoning operation will work. Even in the best-case scenario, the tube won’t capture all the leaking oil.
The pipe connected to the tube is full of nitrogen, which will gradually be pulled back to allow oil and gas to flow into it. But the process must be done slowly to avoid seawater entering. Seawater could form hydrates that might block the pipe and stop the flow of oil to the surface.
BP has also received permission from federal authorities to resume spraying chemical dispersants into the leaking oil underwater, a method it says has proved effective in curtailing the oil slick.
On Saturday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Salazar released a letter to BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward asking him for a clear understanding of the company’s commitment to pay for damages from the spill. The U.S. secretaries wrote that their understanding is the company will not rely on a federal liability cap or seek reimbursement from the U.S. government or an oil spill liability trust fund. The move came one day after U.S. President Barack Obama criticized BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co., which was cementing an undersea pipeline into place when the Deepwater Horizon blew up and sank, for pointing fingers at each other at a Congressional hearing on the oil spill.
A BP spokesman said in an email that the company “will respond directly” to the authors of the letter.
Read more: Wall Street Journal
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