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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid