BP to Attach New Cap on Leaking Oil Gusher

July 12, 2010

BP Plc said it expects to attach a new containment cap later Monday that should more than triple the amount of oil being collected from the energy giant’s leaking Gulf of Mexico wellhead.

“We have the cap very close and later today we’ll be attaching it,” Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, told a media briefing. “It could take well through the day to complete.”

Once the new and larger cap is installed, Suttles said BP will shut down two vessels siphoning oil from the leak — one of which is expected to start up on Monday — to monitor pressure and check the integrity of the blown-out well.

Those tests could last 48 hours or longer, he said. If the cap works as intended, all crude oil should be contained and “there would be no flow,” Suttles said.

“Depending on the results, we’ll either continue to contain the flow while we wait on the relief well or potentially be able to close the flow in,” he said.

But he stressed that even if the cap can shut off the flow a mile below the surface, BP must still finish the relief well at even greater depths so it can pump in heavy drilling fluid and then cement to permanently plug the leak.

On Monday, the first of two relief wells, begun on May 2, was about 190 feet from intercepting the blown-out well that is 13,000 feet beneath the seabed, Suttles said.

While the relief well could intercept the blown-out well by the end of July, BP says it remains on target to kill the leak by mid-August.

The siphoning vessel, the Helix Producer, was due to start up on Sunday but Suttles said problems with two systems emerged during tests.

“Both of those problems have been resolved. They did set us back a day,” he said.

A second siphoning vessel, the Q4000, collected and burned off 8,235 barrels of leaking oil on Sunday, Suttles said.

(Additional reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

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