BP Oil Containment Plan Halted
May 9, 2010
(ChattahBox) – BP Plc’s latest effort and main strategy to prevent oil leaks from damaging wildlife and tourism on the US coast have been halted. Ice-like crystals have formed on the 100-ton containment box made of steel and concrete while engineers lowered it almost a mile underwater Saturday, forcing crews to suspend action on the attempt to contain the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. The buildup caused by gas hydrates, ice-like solids that form when methane gas combines with water under certain conditions, made the box too buoyant and clogged it up, meaning workers had to lift it from its carefully positioned location over the leak site Saturday and move it to the side while they attempt to unplug it. “I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet,” said BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles. “What I would say is what we attempted to do last night didn’t work.”
Mr. Suttles said BP anticipated the formation of hydrate crystals, but not to this extent. The company plans to take two days to remove the hydrates and determine next steps. One option includes injecting methanol, a chemical used as antifreeze, to prevent hydrates from forming, Mr. Suttles said. Among BP’s other efforts to contain the flow of hundreds of thousands of liters of crude per day, the company is drilling a relief well to pump the leaking reservoir. But BP says the well will take about three months to complete.