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Oil & Gas

BP Opens Second Containment System

June 16, 2010
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On Wednesday BP began collecting crude oil from a second containment system that the company hopes will help stem the thousands of barrels escaping from their damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico, reports The New York Times. The company is siphoning the oil through a series of pipes and hoses to a ship, which will then clean and burn the oil and gas mixture in a processing device called an EverGreen burner. The method BP has been using since June 3 — a containment cap — has been able to collect about 15,000 barrels of crude oil a day. But based on new estimates of the flow rate released on Tuesday, that may be only about one quarter of the amount leaking daily. BP said it would release information on its website about how much oil this second containment system was able to capture, once the measurements became available. The second containment system is attached directly with pipes and other equipment to the failed blowout preventer, the device that was supposed to shut off the flow of oil. That equipment had already been installed for the failed “top kill” effort weeks ago. Scientists estimated that the flow rate ranged from 35,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels a day — up from the rate they issued only last week, of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. It continues a pattern in which every new estimate of the flow rate has been dramatically higher than the one before. The latest number is based on new information, including high-resolution video made after the riser cut, and on pressure readings taken by a device that was inserted this week into the equipment at the sea floor. The containment cap has still been BP’s most successful method for collecting some of the oil that has been leaking from the undersea well, and it has only been partly effective. If the new range of flow estimates proves correct, and if BP is ultimately found guilty of gross negligence in its actions leading to the disaster, the company could be assessed fines of up to $258 million a day. Those fines could come on top of payments for cleanup costs and to cover economic damage to Gulf Coast businesses.
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