News / USA

BP's 'Top Kill' Procedure Poses Technical Challenges

Top kill process is to put heavy kill mud into the well so that it reduces the pressure and then the flow from the well
Top kill process is to put heavy kill mud into the well so that it reduces the pressure and then the flow from the well

BP oil company is making final preparations to try to seal off an undersea oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, by filling it up with heavy mud.  The company is relying on a method that has proven successful mostly on land.

BP officials say the best hope for stopping the oil leak this week rests on a procedure that has been used to stop countless oil leaks before, but never in deep water.  For weeks, BP experts have been studying conditions, especially the intense pressure that exists at the well head 1.5 kilometers under water.

During a trip to the Louisiana coastline this week, BP chief Tony Hayward said there is still doubt about the procedure, in spite of the exhaustive preparations. "It has never been done in 5,000 feet of water.  If it was on land, we have a high confidence of success," he said.

 

One of the initial hurdles posed by the broken well is how to connect tubes that will carry the mud from surface vessels into the well on the sea floor.  BP has connected the tubes to a 450-ton piece of equipment called the blow-out preventer at the well head.  The device was supposed to seal the well when it blew out, but failed to do so.

In a video posted on BP's web site this week, senior Vice President Kent Wells said teams have already repaired part of the blow-out preventer, or BOP. "We have successfully been able to activate two isolation valves so we believe we have put the functionality of that pod back to work," he said.

Another challenge the BP team faces is delivering the mud to the well head.  On land, oil crews often have direct access to the well, but in this case, they must use a deepwater drill rig and remote-controlled submarines on the sea floor.

Kent Wells described how the mud will travel a long route, from a surface vessel into a drill rig called Q400, and then down towards the well. "From the pumping vessel [the HOS] the mud comes into the Q4000, goes down through the drill pipe, into the equipment we have put on the sea floor.  It ultimately goes into the control valves of the BOP and starts fighting against the flow of the well," he said.

BP has deployed four pumping vessels to the area, which are capable of delivering up to 50 barrels of mud a minute.  Still it is unclear whether it will be enough to stop the flow of oil, which is spewing from a well at least 5.5 kilometers below.

In case the top kill fails, BP says it is working on other methods to stop oil from leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.  Wells says the firm has designed a valve system that can be used to cap the blow-out preventer and siphon oil to a surface vessel. "We believe by doing this we will create an option that will capture more of the flow that we have been able to capture so far," he said.

The ultimate solution for the oil leak is to drill a relief well that will intersect the existing well and choke the flow of oil.  Two separate rigs are drilling relief wells now, but the work may not be finished until August.  BP officials say they hope for success with at least one method of capping the well before then.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid