Deepwater Horizon – Riser Insertion Tube

Good news from the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center:

Overnight the Riser Insertion Tube Tool was successfully tested and inserted into the leaking riser, capturing some amounts of oil and gas. The oil was stored on board the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship 5,000 feet above on the water’s surface, and natural gas was burned through a flare system on board the ship. 

The test was halted temporarily when the tube was dislodged.  While this is disappointing, it is not unexpected given the challenging operating environment.

Technicians have fully inspected the system and have re-inserted the tool.

The tool is fashioned from a 4-inch pipe and is inserted into the leaking riser, from which the majority of the flow is coming. While not collecting all of the leaking oil, this tool is an important step in reducing the amount of oil being released into Gulf waters.

The procedure – never attempted before at such depths – involves inserting a 5-foot length of the specifically-designed tool into the end of the existing, damaged riser from where the oil and gas is leaking. In a procedure approved by federal agencies and the Federal On Scene Coordinator, methanol will also be flowed into the riser to help prevent the formation of gas crystals, known as hydrates.  Gas and oil will then flow to the surface to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship.

The Enterprise has the capability to separate the oil, gas and water mixture safely and eventually store or offload the recovered oil onto another vessel.

More good news – the second relief well is set to spud today:

Transocean’s semi-submersible rig Development Driller II is on location and has been inspected by Coast Guard officials.

The US Minerals Management Service is reviewing the drilling permit for the second well and expects to approve the request by Saturday, MMS Gulf of Mexico boss Lars Herbst said at a press conference Friday.

The Development Driller II is expected to “race” the Transocean semi-submersible rig Development Driller III, which already spud the first relief probe, to reach the Macondo well bore on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in the US Gulf of Mexico.

Bad news – first relief well stalled for BOP testing:

Development Driller III has been stalled briefly while crews perform a battery of tests on the rig’s blowout preventer (BOP).

The tests follow new protocols developed by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and apparent failure of the BOP on that rig, Suttles said.

He said the relief well drilling stalled just above 9000 feet, as measured from the surface of the water, which means the well has drilled about 4000 feet into the ground.

Look like the hysteria about flow rates is misguided:

Macondo is dumping an estimated 5000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf after a blow-out on 20 April.

But that flow estimate has come under increasing scrutiny from academics, some of whom have estimated the flow to be as high as 100,000 barrels per day.

Analysts at Tudor, Pickering & Holt, however, said the new estimates, are highly improbable given the realites of deep-water wells in the Gulf.

In a report, the Houston investment bank pointed out that the best wells in the Gulf, including the BP-operated Thunder Horse development, only produce about 25,000 barrels per day.

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Here’s a great write up from our new friends at AL FIN:

The siphon tube was initially filled with pressurised nitrogen gas, which was slowly released from the upper end of the tube — allowing the oil to be pulled to the surface for storage in a tanker, and storage barges. This was necessary to keep cold seawater from entering th pipe and creating methane hydrate ice crystals — which would clog the pipe if allowed to enter.

As long as the recovery effort can continue removing most of the oil spill directly to the surface storage vessels, surface remediation should be somewhat easier in the long run. Even so, the next logical step might seem to be the double assault on the blowout preventer (BOP) — the (1) “junk shot” of rubber junk and matting into the pipe below the BOP, followed by a (2) “top kill” rapid injection of concrete into the top of the pipe above the BOP.

The problem with that approach is that if it goes wrong, it could create an even worse leak than BP and the Coast Guard were dealing with at the beginning.

So, there will be an extended observation period of about 2 weeks, perhaps, while officials at the scene determine whether the siphon tube is successful enough to forgo any other assaults on the leak until the relief wells come in — between 6 and 10 weeks from now.

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Meyer Real Estate in Gulf Shores changed their cancellation policy again (the previous change was probably too generous):

No Coastal Impact Now and None Expected
You will be happy to know that the beautiful beaches of our Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast remain untouched by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In the beginning of the oil spill situation there was a brief time of uncertainty when, based on official predictions, landfall on our coast seemed imminent. However, neither that landfall nor any impact near our coast ever materialized.

During this uncertain time we temporarily relaxed our cancellation policy until further notice when coastal impact would be evident. This change was in response to the initial oil spill reports to allow time to assess any impact on our coastline. Thankfully that impact never came and with new official projections continuing to show a pattern of a westward movement of the oil sheen, the oil spill should not impact our shores.

“Peace of Mind Promise” for Your Vacation
Although we are confident your vacation to our coast will be a wonderfully memorable experience, we realize you may still have some concerns. We are providing our Peace of Mind Promise, which means you can plan your vacation with confidence. In the unlikely event your vacation experience is impacted by a government agency closing the beach or issuing a swimming advisory related to the oil spill, and you choose to leave, we will refund the remaining portion of your unused rent.

Cancellation Policy Changes Due to No Coastal Impact
What happens now? The original cancellation policy of a 30-day minimum notice for condos and a 60-day minimum notice for houses will once again apply to existing and new reservations. We will, however, honor the temporary relaxed policy, which allowed a cancellation with a full refund of rent, until Friday, May 14, 2010 at 5 p.m. (CST).

We urge you to keep your reservation in place, since our coast is not affected by the oil spill and we have instituted the Peace of Mind Promise stated above.

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Ya know who I think could fix US energy policy?  Sarah Palin.  If she doesn’t run for President next time I hope that someone asks her to serve as Interior Secretary.  I think she could negotiate a better deal for oil and gas royalties, make effective and responsible changes to regulations, all while supporting the need to explore and exploit our natural resources. You betcha…

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