The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Insertion Tube Siphons Oil from Deepwater Horizon Well

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 17, 2010

BP succeeded yesterday in connecting a 4" pipe to the broken riser to siphon oil and gas from the leaking Macondo well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico's surface.

insertion riser.jpg

The oil and gas are moving up the pipe to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and to barges. This morning in an interview on NBC's Today Show, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles reported that the pipe was recovering about 1,000 barrels of oil/gas mixture per day, but could collect substantially more.

"We're looking to optimize this over the next couple of days to try to produce as much oil and gas as we can," Ken Wells, BP's senior vice president for exploration and production said at a news conference Sunday. (The Miami Herald)

The pipe, called an insertion tube, works like a straw. To keep it from plugging with methane gas hydrates, the icy water and gas composite that prevented the nearly 100-ton cofferdam from working, the interior of the riser is heated with hot water and/or methanol pumped to the seafloor.

On the surface, the oil, gas and water coming up the pipe are separated and processed. Some of gas is being burned in a flare system.

Although the insertion tube is working, it doesn't solve the overarching problem. "It's a positive move, but let's keep it in context," BP's Wells said. "We're not shutting off the flow of oil from well, and we will do that when we do the top kill procedure." (The Miami Herald)

The "top kill" action is expected to occur in the next seven-to-ten days. It involves forcing heavy-density drilling mud into the top of the well to counteract the underground pressure that is pushing the oil and gas upward into the Gulf. Along with the top kill, as we discussed in last week's blog post, BP also might use a "junk shot," which would force golf balls and shredded tires into the blowout preventer to stop the drilling mud from being shoved up through the wellbore.

Along the shoreline, the enormous response effort has grown to include more than 650 vessels, more than 19,000 people, 17 staging areas, hundreds of thousands of gallons of dispersant, and enough containment boom--1.25 million feet deployed so far--to stretch from Gulfport, Miss., to Panama City, Fla. More containment and sorbent boom as well as thousands of gallons of dispersant are available.

(Image Source: BP)