THE cap that ended BP’s three-month oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico was set to come off yesterday as a prelude to raising a massive, failed piece of equipment and preparing for a final seal on the broken seafloor well.
Engineers and the government were not expecting crude to break out again when the cap is lifted, but the government wasn’t offering any guarantees and oil collection vessels were set to be on standby on the surface just in case.
The cap is an elongated metal cylinder that was placed on top of the failed blowout preventer to finally stop the flow of oil and gas on July 15. With the cap gone, the old blowout preventer can be removed and a new one put in place before engineers try to seal the well for good deep underground.
Once the cap and blowout preventer are removed, a lot will be riding on the stability of a plug that was created when mud and cement were pumped down into the well from the top. Essentially, the pressure exerted downward served to counter the pressure coming up.
But Rice University engineering professor George Hirasaki said there is still uncertainty about whether the cement settled everywhere it needed to in order to keep oil and gas from finding its way up.
The government still plans on ordering BP, the majority owner of the well, to do the so-called bottom kill operation.
But it believes the wisest course is to put on a new blowout preventer first to deal with any pressure that is caused when the relief well intersects the blown-out well.
The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion April 20 killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of oil spewing from BP’s undersea well.
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