Wednesday, June 23, 2010

BP Ditches "Top Hat" - Deepwater Horizon Gushes Freely Again

For the past few days BP has been beaming at having succeeded in capturing up to 27,000 barrels a day in oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead. Most of that came from a device called a "top hat" that gathered escaping oil from the seabed and conveyed it, via a pipe, to a ship where it could be collected.

Today BP surprised everyone by removing the "top hat" and allowing the escaping oil to gush freely again. It seems methane gas was entering the ship via the pipeline creating a risk of explosion. The operation was pumping warm water into the top hat to prevent hydrate crystals from blocking the pipe. As the crystals melted (there's a reason they're called "methane calthrate"), highly explosive methane gas was released to flow up the pipe into the ship.

BP is currently suggesting it's all the result of a malfunction but that's anything but clear. If they have to melt the hydrate crystals to keep oil flowing, isn't methane release inevitable?

No comments: