Robots tighten cap on oil leak

16:30, July 11, 2010      

Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum 

Undersea robots manipulated by engineers 1.6 kilometers above began work yesterday removing the containment cap over the gushing well head in the Gulf of Mexico to replace it with a tighter-fitting cap that could funnel the oil to tankers at the surface.

If all goes according to plan, the tandem of the tighter cap and the tankers could keep the oil from polluting the fragile Gulf as soon as tomorrow.

But it's only a temporary solution to the catastrophe unleashed by a drilling rig explosion nearly 12 weeks ago. It won't plug the well, the leak will get worse before it gets better -- and it remains uncertain that it will succeed. When the cap is removed, oil will flow mostly unabated into the water for about 48 hours -- long enough for as much as 19 million liters to gush out -- until the new cap is installed.

The well would still be leaking as much oil as before -- but all of it would be funneled to the surface and away from the sea. The hope for a permanent solution remains with two relief wells intended to plug it completely far beneath the sea floor.

Crews using remote-controlled submarines plan to take advantage of a window of good weather following weeks of delays caused by choppy seas.

The cap now in use was installed on June 4, but because it had to be fitted over a jagged cut in the well pipe, it allows some crude to escape. The new cap -- dubbed "Top Hat No. 10" -- follows 80 days of failures to plug the leak.

BP first tried a huge containment box also referred to as a top hat, but icelike crystals quickly clogged the contraption in the cold depths. The oil giant then tried to shoot heavy drilling mud into the hole to hold down the flow so it could insert a cement plug.

After the "top kill," engineers tried a "junk shot" -- using the undersea robots to try to stuff golf balls and other debris to plug the leak. That also failed.

Meanwhile, on Friday, BP worked to hook up another containment ship to a different part of the leaking well. The ship, which will be capable of sucking up more than 3.8 million liters a day when it is fully operating, should be working by today, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said.

The US says 5.7-9.5 million liters of oil a day are spewing from the well, and the existing cap is collecting about 3.8 million liters of that.

Source: ShanghaiDaily.com

(Editor:黄蓓蓓)

  • Do you have anything to say?

双语词典
dictionary

  
Special Coverage
  • Premier Wen Jiabao visits Hungary, Britain, Germany
  • From drought to floods
Major headlines
Editor's Pick
  • On Sept. 28, tourists travel around the Mingshashan Scenic Area in Dunhuang, Gansu province by camel. With the National Day vacation right around the corner, more and more tourists from home and abroad are going to Dunhuang. Riding on a camel, they travel in the desert to enjoy the cities rare form of natural scenery. (Xinhua/Zhang Weixian)
  • Chinese forest armed forces work together with forest firefighters on Sept. 28. (Xinhua/Chai Liren)
  • Photo taken on Sept. 29, 2011 shows strong wind blows trees in Sanya, south China's Hainan Province. Typhoon Nesat heads towards south China and is moving at an average wind speed of 20 km per hour toward the west coast of China's Guangdong Province. (Xinhua/Hou Jiansen)
  • A fallen tree is seen on a road in Qionghai, south China's Hainan Province, Sept. 29, 2011. Typhoon Nesat was predicted to land in Hainan later Thursday, bringing heavy rainfalls to the island. (Xinhua/Meng Zhongde)
  • Arash Kamalvand (L) of Iran spikes the ball during the semifinal against South Korea at the 16th Asian Men's Volleyball Championship in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 28, 2011. Iran won 3-1 to advance to the final. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)
  • A man visits "Thy Word Is Truth, the Bible Ministry Exhibition of the Protestant Church in China", during its opening at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington DC, capital of the United States, Sept. 28, 2011. Through the Bible's various Chinese versions, ancient or modern, as well as pictures, paintings, calligraphy, art works and historical documents, the exhibition was expected to give an overall understanding of how Bible was brought into China, how it was translated, published, distributed and loved. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)
Hot Forum Discussion