BP to Test Cap on Leaking Oil Well

BP may be getting closer to stopping the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Today, the company will attempt a pressure test to evaluate the effectiveness of a 40-foot-tall stack of valves designed to seal the leaking oil well. For 48 hours, BP plans to stop the flow of oil as a test. If successful, the valves should stop the leak until BP can seal it with cement next month. If unsuccessful, they’ll go back to the current strategy of piping to surface ships as much of the estimated 60,000 barrels of oil gushing out of the well per day. oil leak camera The pressure test is intended to help BP understand exactly how it can stop the leak. Knowing how much pressure is inside the cap will tell them whether they can seal all the oil in or have to allow some to flow off in order to keep pressure down. The now 84-day-old oil leak was caused on April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico. BP stopped trying to plug the leak at the end of May, when several attempts, including a previous cap, failed to have any real effect. Pressure-monitoring equipment that is part of today’s test was not available in May when BP originally tried this approach. The cap is made up of three large valves similar to the blowout preventers that oil drillers use to handle unexpected surges in pressure—a component that obviously and tragically failed in the Deepwater Horizon case. The well is sealable if it can withstand the expected pressure incurred when the cap is sealed on. Lower than expected pressure, however, is not a good thing, as that would imply a leakage in the well bore. According to BP, the hardest part of the installation of the cap, which has been underway for several days, is already done. The rest is relatively easy and will culminate in the pressure test scheduled to begin today. The tragic death of 11 workers in the April 20 explosion and the untold amount of oil that continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico and onto the battered shores of Louisiana and other states in the region have thrust to the forefront our pressing need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, whether foreign or domestic. For 84 days (nearly three months), up to 100,000 barrels of oil (estimates vary widely) have been leaking into the Gulf each day. The catastrophic consequences of even a single accident on an offshore oil rig are now all too evident. As is the need to embrace even faster renewable resources like wind and solar power. Source: Business Week Photo Credit: TreeHugger

Posted on July 12 in Solar News by .

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