BP is reporting success in its latest effort to stem the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Yesterday, a riser insertion tube tool was put in place to capture some the leaking oil and natural gas and send it to the sea surface, where it is being stored aboard the drillship Discoverer Enterprise. Just how effective the tool will be in mitigating the spill remains unknown at this time.
â€œThis remains a new technology and both its continued operation and its effectiveness in capturing the oil and gas remains uncertain,â€ according to BP.
A BP factsheet describes the riser insertion tube tool as a four-inch diameter tube. The tube has been inserted into a 21-inch diameter pipe that has been leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico for close to a month now.
The company has yet to report how much oil and natural gas has been contained using the tool. However, it has been quick to dispute claims that oil is spilling at much higher rate than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels per day. Steven Wereley, an associate professor at Purdue University, has placed the number at around 70,000 barrels per day, according to NPR. The Discoverer Enterprise can only process 15,000 barrels of oil per day.
The successful deployment of the riser insertion tube tool is a positive development in the fight to stop the oil leak. However, it is important to emphasize that the tool is not designed to contain all of the oil and natural gas from the leak.
BP needs to get a handle on the size of the spill if it wants to design effective containment strategies. If the leak is as big as Wereley's calculations indicate, processing 15,000 barrels of spilled oil per day aboard the Discoverer Enterprise is just a drop in the bucket. Clearly, much more needs to be done to stop the leak.
Picture of the riser insertion tube tool technique that is being deployed to help contain the BP oil leak. Source: BP. Riser Insertion Tube Tool factsheet. 2010