The Associated Press is reporting that a problem with the ventilating system on the leaking oil pipe at the bottom of the Deepwater Horizon drilling site has caused BP engineers to have to remove its cap on the leak. As a result, tens of thousands of gallons of oil that had been drawn to the surface are now gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The containment cap, which was placed on the leaking well in early June, had been credited with collecting about 700,000 gallons of oil each 24 hours.
The cap was the most successful of BPs many failed efforts to contain the oil leak, which has been spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico since the deepwater drilling platform, the Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean and leased and operated by BP, exploded on April 20 and sank two days later. The cap still didn’t solve the problem, as it was unable to contain or redirect all the oil. BP engineers are frantically drilling a relief well to fully contain the leak, but that process is not expected to be complete until late July, at the earliest.
According to the AP report, “worst-case estimates” of the oil leak say the broken pipe is releasing 2.5 million gallons of oil per day. It is believed that between 67 million and 127 million gallons of oil already have been dumped into the Gulf since the rig explosion. Reports indicate an undersea robot bumped the ventilation system around the pipe and cap, which was preventing the development of ice-like crystals.
The AP reports that BP scientists cannot say how long it might be before they can replace the cap.