Friday, July 09, 2010

Day 81 BP Oil Spill Update: 5th Circuit Denies Moratorium

Jul 9: At a 10 AM briefing this morning Thad Allen, the National Incident Commander for the Deepwater BP Oil Spill response was joined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Allen reported that the hook up with the Helix Producer, which is expected to increase the recovery operation from the current average of 25,000 to 53,000 barrels per day, and has been delayed due to weather condition since June 30, is now proceeding. He said the operation could begin the expanded recovery sometime on Sunday. 

    Allen issued a letter to BP Chief Managing Director Bob Dudley requesting him to provide me within 24 hours a detailed timeline on how BP intends to proceed -- that's removing existing containment cap and putting on another cap on that will allow BP to actually seal the well at that point. Allen said he has had several discussions with Mr. Dudley on the procedure and there is a table top exercise in Houston for 11:00 AM where they are going to go through all the procedures. He said, "we could at the earliest start removing the current capping device upon the wellbore sometime tomorrow. That would be followed a period where there would be no capping device, and we continue to produce through the Q4000 and the Helix Producer when it comes online.

    "But there would be a multi-day period there while we're putting the new containment cap on whether it be some exposure to hydrocarbons going into the environment.  We continue to move forward.  We think this weather window presents a significant opportunity for us to accelerate the process of capping -- shutting down the well from the top and increasing the prospects for being able to kill the well from below through the relief wells. Regarding the relief wells, we continue to make progress there. As of yesterday, we had moved to 17,780 feet in measured depth. We can move to 17,830 feet. It's getting very, very close. Things are going to get slow at this point as they go in small sections."

    BP reported on the latest recovery operations and indicated that for the last 12 hours on July 8 (noon to midnight), approximately 7,940 barrels of oil were collected and approximately 4,150 barrels of oil and 27.2 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared. On July 8, total oil recovered was approx. 24,395 barrels (16,305 barrels of oil were collected; 8,090 barrels of oil were flared; and 55.5 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared. Total oil recovered from both the LMRP Cap and Q4000 systems since they were implemented is approx. 709,100 barrels. An additional 22,000 barrels were collected from the RIT tool earlier in May bringing the total recovered to approx. 731,100 barrels.
    The other major news relating to the oil spill was the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denial of the Administration's request to stay the district court decision which lifted the six month moratorium on deepwater drilling (See WIMS article in our Environmental Appeals Court blog). Thus, there is currently no moratorium; however, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has reportedly indicated a new moratorium will be issued shortly.
    Access the complete transcript of the latest press briefing (click here). Access the letter from Allen to Dudley (click here). Access the new RestoreTheGulf website for links to the latest Unified Command updates and more (click here). Access the latest BP update (click here).