BP using shears to cut pipe in oil containment plan

By Kristen Hays

HOUSTON (BestGrowthStock) – Underwater robots are slated to use giant shears to cut off a pipe at the seabed site of a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico in BP Plc’s latest risky effort to contain it, the top U.S. official overseeing the cleanup said on Thursday.

BP’s attempt on Wednesday to use a diamond-tipped saw to slice through a pipe to make way for a containment cap and seal were fruitless, so BP is turning to the shears, said Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, speaking on U.S. television networks.

Allen was slated to discuss the effort during a news conference at 10:15 a.m. EDT (1515 GMT)

The aim is to slice the pipe from a lower marine riser package, or LMRP, and lower a containment cap with a seal on the opening to corral the oil and gas and channel it to a drillship at the water’s surface.

The LMRP sits atop a blowout preventer that failed when the well ruptured on April 20. Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank, killing 11 workers.

The six-week-old leak a mile beneath the water’s surface is spewing up to 19,000 barrels a day of oil into the Gulf as BP has tried in vain to plug or corral it.

The diamond saw was intended to slice through the pipe and create a smooth surface for the containment cap and seal. It got stuck in the pipe Wednesday and was unable to serve its purpose even though it was later freed.

Allen told NBC’s “Today” show that the seal on the containment cap is intended to match up with jagged pipe remnants, “so it’s going to be a matter of how gently they can lower it down and how well they can make the seal around it.”

He said the operation runs the risk of failing to get a good seal, so oil seeps out, although BP has consistently said a fifth of the leaking oil was expected to escape.

“It’s more a matter of precision,” Allen said. “They can put something over the top of it, but they want to get it as tight as they can.”

Allen said the Coast Guard and BP should know sometime Thursday whether the shearing and placement of the containment cap and seal works.

The leak is the first in such deep U.S. waters, where pressures and temperatures are too extreme for divers. BP is relying on underwater robots to manipulate the tools and get the work done.

“One of the most maddening things about all this is we’re dealing with a source of a spill that has no human access,” Allen said.

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BP using shears to cut pipe in oil containment plan