A boat carrying a 40 feet containment dome, or cofferdam, which is designed to siphon off the oil polluting the Gulf of Mexico has finally arrived to the spot where a blown-out well is spewing gallons of petroleum onto the seabed, a spokesman for BP, Mark Salt, said on Thursday morning.
British Petroleum (BP) plans to lower the container into the water later Thursday, Salt said.
Engineers are hoping that it will be the best short-term solution in controlling the leak that has worsened since it began just two weeks ago. The hope is that the container will collect the leaking oil, which would be sucked up to a drill ship on the surface. BP hopes that the dome will be able to collect as much as 85 per cent of the almost 800,000 litres of crude that have been gushing out of the well daily for the last two weeks. If the operation is successful, BP plans to deploy a second, smaller dome to deal with a second leak in the ruptured pipe.
“If all goes according to plan, we should begin the process of processing the fluid and stop the spilling to the sea on Monday,” said Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer. However, he later added, “It’s very complex, and it will likely have challenges along the way.”
BP said that putting the large structure into place could take several days. Another boat with a crane will be used to drop the contraption to the seafloor and cover the gusher of oil spewing from the seabed — a technique that has never been attempted at a depth of about 5,000 feet underwater, according to Suttles.
BP announced early Wednesday that it had managed to cap one of the three existing leak points from the sunken rig on Tuesday night; however, it was the smallest of the three existing leaks. The leaks sprung after an oil rig that the multinational petroleum firm had leased, the Deepwater Horizons, exploded on April 20, which killed 11 people, and sank two days later.
“While this is not expected to affect the overall rate of flow from the well, it is expected to reduce the complexity of the situation being dealt with on the seabed,” BP said in a statement.