BP Continues Attempts to Contain Gulf Oil Spill

May 14, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Oil spill workers connect sections of oil booms to protect marshlands in the Gulf of Mexico on May 13, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Oil spill workers connect sections of oil booms to protect marshlands in the Gulf of Mexico on May 13, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. (John Moore/Getty Images)
As speculations over the actual size of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill continue to buzz, BP continues developing its new “top hat” and “top kill” approaches.

With the failure of a large containment dome, BP is now getting ready to lower a smaller containment dome, widely known as the “top hat” into the water. To prevent the formation of hydrates in the smaller dome, methane is being pumped into the cup-like structure of the dome. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the methane injection.

The small top hat is a five-foot-high, round, upside down, cup-like mechanism, which has three tubes extending from its top. As the dome is lowered into the water, two of the tubes pump methane into the cup-like structure, preventing the buildup of hydrates in the dome. Once the dome is placed over the rupture, the other tube sucks up the leaking oil.

Despite the newly added methane-injection feature of the smaller containment dome that was absent in the large one, BP expressed that there is a great amount of uncertainty about how effective the method will be. “All of the techniques being attempted or evaluated to contain the flow of oil on the seabed involve significant uncertainties,” because they have never been employed in such conditions, a BP release stated.

In addition to the “top hat” method, BP also announced that it has been able to gather enough information, using remotely operated vehicles, to continue planning for a “top kill” method. The top kill approach will inject, “junk-shot” material of various sizes and consistencies into the blowout preventer in order to seal it. Once sealed, the well can be pumped with specialized fluids to stop the oil flow up the well.

As of Thursday May 13, 1.2 million feet of boom, more than 13,000 BP personnel, 16,000 volunteers from all across the states, and $450 million dollars have been deployed as part of BP’s efforts to stop the oil leak.

While the oil spill continues to leak much more than the 5,000 barrels a day estimated earlier, BP claims to have recovered 97,000 barrels of “oily liquid” from the water.

According to a BBC report earlier Friday, the oil spill researchers who have analyzed the underwater footage of the oil leak put the actual figure at 70,000 barrels per day, with a margin of error of plus or minus 20 percent.