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BP Plans to Deploy Subsea Oil Recovery System in 6-8 Days, Weather Permitting

Concept of the subsea oil recovery system. Not to scale. Click to enlarge.

BP is working to deploy a subsea oil recovery system over the largest leak source in the Transocean Deepwater Horizon Rig that it hopes will capture up to 85% of the oil rising from the sea floor following the sinking of Deepwater Horizon on 22 April. This will mark the first time such a system will be used at this water depth (5,000 feet / 1,524 m).

The system is designed to collect hydrocarbons from the well and pump them to a tanker at the surface, where they will be stored and shipped ashore. This effort is one of several BP is attempting to mitigate the leakage or the effects of the leakage at the source (including the application of underwater dispersants) prior to being able to shutting off the flow.

The underwater recovery system with “mud flaps” on the sides. Click to enlarge.

Last week, BP identified a third leak in the wreckage of the riser of the deep underwater well, and NOAA pushed the estimates of the leak rate up to 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons US) per day, although the rate could be higher given the uncertainty in ascertaining the actual flow. (Earlier post.) (The Oil Drum has posted a technical backgrounder on oil well pressures, blowout preventers and the Deepwater Horizon spill.)

The subsea oil recovery system will use a 125-ton, 14' x 24' x 40' structure that will be set on top of the largest leak source. This leak is located at the end of the riser, about 600 feet from the wellhead. Equipment at the top of the system is connected to a 5,000 foot riser that will convey the hydrocarbons to the surface ship, the Deepwater Enterprise.

The FPSO will process the captured hydrocarbons and separate oil from water and gas. The oil will then be temporarily stored before being offloaded and shipped to a designated oil terminal onshore.

Approximate oil locations from April 29, 2010 to May 3, 2010 including forecast for May 4 based on trajectories and overflight information. Produced May 3, 2010. Source: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

The Deepwater Enterprise is capable of processing 15,000 barrels of oil per day and storing 139,000 barrels. A support barge will also be deployed with a capacity to store 137,000 barrels of oil.

To develop the system, BP located existing structures that had previously been used as coffer dams in shallow water recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. These structures had been lowered over damaged wellheads to allow divers to repair wellheads. BP engineers have worked closely with the firm Wild Well Controls, Inc. to convert these structures for use in deep waters.

Because of the weight of the structure and the muddy conditions at the sea bottom, “mud flaps” have been added to the sides of the structure. These flaps enable the structure to settle into the sea bottom and complete the enclosure.

The system is being fabricated in Louisiana and will be transported to the Deepwater Enterprise. Once on site, the system will be lowered to the seabed. ROVs will monitor the installation and will complete connections to the riser.

NOAA has restricted fishing in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico threatened by the BP oil spill from the mouth of the Mississippi to Pensacola Bay. The closure will be in effect for at least 10 days.

The state of Louisiana has already closed vulnerable fisheries in state waters within 3 miles of the coast. NOAA is closing areas directly adjacent to the area closures enacted by Louisiana, and is working with state governors to evaluate the need to declare a fisheries disaster, which would facilitate federal aid to fishermen.



A supertanker can carry 2,000,000 barrels of oil, so at 5,000 barrels per day - BP will lose a supertanker of oil every 400 days(~13 months).


After hours without comment on the above supertanker comment - I realized that GCC readers understand.

Even at $100/barrel, the leak is only $.5 million/day. A single oil CEO's pension is $400 million.

ExMo, Shell, and BP annual revenue totals exceed $1,000 billion (Wiki). The entire Gulf Coast seafood industry is only $2.4 billion annually.

Present Oil, like Wall Street, sprang from the BBB(Bush Buddies Business). The BBB gave us the terms "global financial meltdown" and "too big to fail" - so bend over.

After all, we've been bending for them at the gas pump on the way to the Bank for generations.


At 5,000 barrels of oil a day this spill will release as much oil as the EXXON Valdez in just 30 days, however the news reports I've been watching lately are routinely saying the spill is now at 10,000 bpd.

Whatever they're going to do they better hurry!


Putting this relatively small casing over the major leak source may not be that easy. Wish tham well.


What a mess.

Alternative energy (solar/wind) may not produce as much power as fossils (yet) but do not come with the risk of catastrophic failure either.
One of the pities of this mess is that all the money wasted on trying to clean it up (hopeless) could have been spent to develop alternatives.


"The top recipient of BP-related donations during the 2008 [election] cycle was President Barack Obama himself, who collected $71,000."


Yeah but overall 70% of their donations go to republicans;


"Former NOAA Oil Spill Cleanup Boss Says Obama Waited Too Long In Gulf Disaster"


"Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Burning should have started a week ago, former NOAA official says"

Richard Burton

5000 barrels a day is very conservative, more recent estimates are more like 25000 barells a day.By my math that is about 750 gallons per minute of crude oil spurting out into the sea, or a million gallons of crude oil per day!!A spill that never would have happened but for our drilling technology, which vastly exceeds our ability to protect the environment(and us!) from mishaps.


DESPITE PLAN, NOT A SINGLE FIRE BOOM ON HAND ON GULF COAST AT TIME OF OIL SPILL ( "If U.S. officials had followed up on a 1994 response plan for a major Gulf oil spill, it is possible that the spill could have been kept under control and far from land. The problem: The federal government did not have a single fire boom on hand. The "In-Situ Burn" plan produced by federal agencies in 1994 calls for responding to a major oil spill in the Gulf with the immediate use of fire booms. But in order to conduct a successful test burn eight days after the Deepwater Horizon well began releasing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf, officials had to purchase one from a company in Illinois. When federal officials called, Elastec/American Marine, shipped the only boom it had in stock, Jeff Bohleber, chief financial officer for Elastec, said today. At federal officials' behest, the company began calling customers in other countries and asking if the U.S. government could borrow their fire booms for a few days, he said. A single fire boom being towed by two boats can burn up to 1,800 barrels of oil an hour, Bohleber said. That translates to 75,000 gallons an hour, raising the possibility that the spill could have been contained at the accident scene 100 miles from shore."



Shouldn't that be the sole responsibility of the drillers? Safety regulations (even those already in place) will have to be tightened (a lot) up to avoid other spills like this one. Regulations enforcement will also have to be reviewed. All direct and indirect regulations enforcement cost should be paid by drillers, otherwise no drilling baby drill.


Who was in charge in 1994?


"The spill's bigger impact could be on offshore drilling. President Obama says no new leases will be approved until a review is done as to what caused the spill. Monday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger withdrew his support for a plan to expand existing drilling operations off the California coast, citing the massive oil spill."

This will cost BP about $10B when all is done. That's one half of their net in 2008. This does not include the loss of good will and image that BP was carefully managing. The cost of deepwater drilling has skyrocketed and will affect the price of oil worldwide. Which means an even greater emphasis on N Americans adopting electrified transportation.

Pickens has dropped the wind farm but is now touting a plan to convert all new 18 wheelers to NG. Not a bad idea. According to him this alone will reduce OPEC imports by half.

Henry Gibson

Even old 18 wheelers can be converted instantly to partial natural gas operation by shoving a natural gas hose into the intake air filter case. More automated systems can do the same thing. People forget that most oil spills come from tankers and there is little logic to stopping off shore drilling before stopping the use of tankers. A neutral bouyancy hose can be used to bring the oil to the surface from the cover and multiple covers can be used to feed the same hose. Containment booms can be used with oil skimmers not only fire. ..HG..


The problem with Pickens plan was not technical but political; it would have required upgrading the grid across state lines. Others have said he was only in it for the money he'd get from water rights and such but if he really cared about money that much why has he given away $700 million to charities?


HEADLINE NEWS: Off-shore wind farm reports massive "air spill" - No damage done.

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