BP’s Spillcam Shows Submersible Robots Working on Third Attempt to Stop Oil Spill
After BP’s attempt to plug its leak with a “top kill” operation failed on the weekend, engineers are now preparing for the deployment of the so-called lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system.
The deployment of the LMRP cap containment system is already the third attempt to stop the oil leak since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20. The operation involves the removal of the broken riser pipe so engineers can then position a containment cap over the well’s opening.
The cap is designed to reduce the oil flow and is connected to a riser collecting the oil and gas and taking it to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship on the ocean surface.
BP’s so-called “Spillcam” has been streaming live footage of submersible robots working on the complex operation. Two previous attempts to stop the spill - a containment dome and the top kill operation – failed.
The difficulties of stopping the flow of oil and gas from the well have raised questions about the ability to control and manage accidents in unfamiliar locations and under unfamiliar circumstances. Similar to BP’s previous attempts to control the oil spill subsea, a deployment of a lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system has never been tried before a mile beneath the ocean.
The underwater operations are made difficult by a number of conditions, including the high pressure and low temperature environment at the ocean floor, the force of the flow of the oil, and the challenge to rely on remotely operated vehicles. The likelihood of success of BP’s newest operations remains unclear at best. The removal of parts of the broken structure will temporarily increase the flow of the leak. Furthermore, the operation will not close down the oil leak; it will only capture some of the oil and direct it to a ship waiting at the surface.
In the absence of better alternatives, BP’s is now drilling relief wells which most likely will not be completed before August.