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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Water News; Department of Energy - Gulf Oil Spill updates

Water News; - Department of Energy - Gulf Oil Spill updates  can be found at
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At the request of the President, Secretary Chu assembled a scientific team of top scientists and has made three trips to Houston, monitoring the progress of BP's effort to contain the leak and helping to design the strategies for moving forward. When not in Houston, the Secretary and his team of scientists have been receiving regular updates from BP officials and asking questions to ensure that all options are considered. The team consists of the following scientific experts:

•Dr. Tom Hunter, Director of the Department of Energy's Sandia National Labs

•Dr. George A. Cooper, an expert in materials science and retired professor from UC Berkeley

•Richard Lawrence Garwin, a physicist and IBM Fellow Emeritus

•Dr. Alexander H. Slocum, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT

Secretary Chu is on the phone with his science team a minimum of 1-2 times a day, 7 days a week, and the calls frequently last 90 minutes or more. Secretary Chu and members of his team also have a dialogue with BP executives each morning.

•At the direction of the President, this week Secretary Salazar and Secretary Chu convened a meeting with oil industry executives to review BP's updated containment plans and identify additional resources that could be brought to bear to build upon what is already the largest cleanup effort in the nation's history. While the companies have already offered and provided expertise and resources, the meeting was an opportunity to update those efforts based on the expanded and accelerated containment plan that the government recently directed BP to develop.

•We have urged BP to use the choke and kill lines to collect oil from the BOP. These lines are designed to pump mud into the BOP and are not used to produce oil under normal circumstances. BP had discounted that option initially but were pushed by us to look at it again, and decided after the choke/kill attempt that it would work. Since only one ship can be connected to the riser that is connected to the top hat, BP has connected the choke line to another ship on site. That line is now available, allowing another 5,000 - 10,000 BPD to be produced in addition to the 18,000 BPD that can be collected by the Enterprise from the top hat.

•The team insisted that BP bring in additional ships so they will have the capacity to collect more oil from the BOP, and we have examined the configurations of lines they are using to optimize the amount of oil that can be collected. A ship currently leased by Chevron has been reconfigured so it can also receive oil from the choke and kill configuration. It will be able to produce an additional 10,000 BPD.

•Our science team has designed a new more permanent cap with BP that can replace the top hat and allow a permanent production riser to be attached to the BOP. This could have a capacity to collect the entire flow of the well up the main riser.

•Due to our suggestion, BP used high energy gamma rays to image parts of the internal state of the BOP. Lab personnel have independently analyzed the 2D gamma ray images. That imaging is crucial in helping understand what is happening inside the BOP and informing the approach moving forward. For example, it told engineers which valves and rams inside the BOP were closed and which were open, and it showed that a piece of drill pipe was stuck inside the BOP. Trying to determine what was wrong with the BOP without this information is akin to determining why your car has stopped running if you have no working gauges and can't open the hood.

•They strongly encouraged BP to collect additional pressure measurements, which were very valuable in interpreting the behavior of the well and BOP after each top kill and/or junk shot attempt, and ultimately those measurements helped the government and BP determine that the top kill was not going to work and that it was time to move on. The measurements also showed that the top kill attempts did not significantly erode the BOP.

•During the top kill attempts, the team suggested rechecking all of the hydraulics on the BOP, which BP did. As a result, one of the pipe ram valves closed more tightly and provided more resistance to the flow.

•The team conducted an extensive suite of structural analyses to assess the stability of the riser system in support of the choke and kill series.

•The team conducted an independent set of analyses to explain the oil and mud flow during the choke and kill series. This provided an understanding of the operational limits of the containment system going forward.

•The Secretary asked for and received detailed briefings from BP on the work to drill the relief wells that will ultimately kill the well. The team continues to monitor progress and evaluate the effectiveness as this proceeds to ensure that BP is on track to stop the leak.

•Team members have suggested design improvements for the top hats to achieve a tighter seal and capture more of the oil. Some of these modifications may be incorporated into additional top hats in construction if they are needed.

•The team insisted that BP add a device to measure pressure in the top hat so that a more accurate flow estimate can be obtained.

•BP has asked the scientific team to develop additional backup and contingency plans. For example, they have asked the team to propose ways of storing some of the oil captured from the well undersea in the event that an approaching hurricane forced the drillship Enterprise (which is collecting the oil from the top hat) to leave the scene.

As part of the Obama Administration's ongoing commitment to transparency surrounding the response to the BP oil spill, the Department of Energy is providing online access to schematics, pressure tests, diagnostic results and other data about the malfunctioning blowout preventer. The information is posted at, which is updated regularly with additional data.

You can find out more about what steps DOE is taking to help stem the impact of this spill and cap the flow of oil by reading our fact sheet. We also provide updates through Energy Assurance Daily on impacts to energy infrastructure from events of national significance, including the BP oil spill.
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