BP Plc said on Monday that its cap system at a seabed oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico captured 11,100 barrels of oil on Sunday, up slightly from the previous 24 hours, and the company planned to increase that amount to 20,000 barrels.
The new figure on captured oil is about 58 percent of the high end of an estimate by U.S. scientists who had said the leak was spewing 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. It was more than 40 percent of the highest government estimate of 25,000 barrels a day.
About 10,500 barrels of oil had been gathered from the well in the previous 24 hours.
BP said the company expects to increase oil collection "over the next few days."
U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said at a news conference in Washington that the cap effort was "going fairly well," although the ramp-up will establish how much oil the cap can contain and how much oil will keep leaking.
"I don't think we ever ought to be comfortable with the containment system," Allen said. "I think we need to be ruthless."
As BP ramps up the containment cap system, the company is moving to siphon more through other seabed equipment.
By late this week BP intends to start reusing a seabed setup that pumped heavy drilling fluid into a failed blowout preventer in BP's unsuccessful "top kill" attempt to plug the leak last month.
That system will pull oil and gas through the same equipment and channel it to the same service rig used for the top kill at the water's surface, BP said.
Both the containment cap and seabed systems are short-term efforts while BP prepares another system that will allow the drillship to disengage and move if a hurricane approaches.
That system will involve a pipe that extends from a containment cap to about 300 feet below the water's surface, rather than connecting directly with the ship. A hose will connect the pipe to the ship, and it can be disconnected to allow the ship to move out of a storm's path.
If that happens, the leak would spew unfettered until the ship returns.
"During that time, we're going to have oil coming to the surface again," Allen said.
Mobile drilling units routinely disconnect from undersea pipes and move out of the way when hurricanes loom. However, that routine includes shutting off wells with working equipment at the wellhead. That equipment failed at the leaking well, leaving nothing to corral the flow if containment efforts are interrupted.
Allen said government scientists are working to establish a more solid leak rate. He said BP hoped to bring in 20,000 barrels per day from the well -- a comment that indicated government estimates of a flow of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels daily were low.
The slow ramp-up in oil collection, which includes oil billowing from under the bottom of the cap as well as out the top through vents, is part of BP's effort to maintain warm temperatures and keep seawater out.
If cold seawater gets inside and mixes with natural gas escaping with the oil, the extreme temperatures and pressures can cause ice-like hydrates to form, which could block oil from traveling through a pipe to the drillship.
Hydrates foiled BP's attempt nearly a month ago to cover the leak with a box-shaped containment cover that filled with seawater.
ReutersLast Mod: 07 Haziran 2010, 22:51