The BOP may provide more clues to spill
The five-storey blowout preventer (BOP) that has been spewing oil from the Macondo well a mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico has been brought to the surface, where it will be photographed, videoed and investigated by officials.
As a safety precaution, the lifting of the 300-ton BOP took over 24 hours to raise a mile to the service, due to the formulation of ice-like crystals, called hydrates. Darin Hilton, the captain of the transporting vessel the Helix Q4000, said the hydrates needed to melt before they reached the service, as they are combustible. The same crystals put pay to BP's plan for a giant 100-ton dome in the Spring, which formed and clogged a riser pipe which was designed to transport leaking oil to a transport vessel at the surface.
On board the Helix Q4000 vessel, the BOP will be shipped to a NASA facility in Louisiana, to undergo further investigation and tests to better ascertain the intrinsic causes for the oil spill. Investigators know that the original explosion, which caused the death of 11 rig workers, was caused by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well, and travelled up the riser pipe, expanding as it burst several seals and barriers before igniting.
The issue for investigators is understanding how the methane gas escaped, and why the BOP didn't perform what it was designed to do; namely, to seal the well pipe at the foot of the eruption and why a leaking seal couldn't be closed by submersibles once oil was escaping into the Gulf.
Transocean, the Deepwater rig owners have claimed that the BOP may have been in perfect working condition, and the surging methane gas brought with it unforeseen debris from the well that blocked seals that prevented the BOP from shutting its valves. However, documents have surfaced showing the BOP did have a small hydraulic leak, which could have reduced its effectiveness.
Like this article? Get the RSS feed: