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ROV detects leaks in Deepwater Horizon well cap

Monday, July 19, 2010

As many as four leaks have been detected in the Deepwater Horizon well cap in the Gulf of Mexico, according to live footage shot by one of BP's ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles). The leaks were detected early this morning, just after 4:00 (EDT).

The HOS SUPER H ROV 1 made the discovery while performing an "integrity survey" of the well and well cap. It recorded what appears to be a thin metal pipe lining the outside of the oil cap. Four small leaks of what appear to oil bubbles were detected during this survey. The first appears just after the elbow connecting the pipe to the two green pipes. The second can be seen through the hole of the large metal ring. The third is seen just to the right of the metal ring.

Hydrocarbon builds up as oil and gas leaks from a pipe.
Image: BP.

It is not yet known what the pipe carries or what it connects to. It is also not yet clear if all leaks are from the pipe, or leaking from the well. BP confirmed the leaks and told Wikinews in a phone call to their Houston, Texas press office, there is a "small leak" releasing hydrates consisting of gases and oil. They are "studying the issue" and are prepared to fix the pipe if it becomes an issue. Live camera feeds show hydrocarbons building up as the oil and gas leak from the pipe.

On July 18, ROV cameras showed bubbles coming from the base of well. BP said it would test the bubbles to determine what they are and as of Sunday, COO of BP Doug Suttles says the bubbles are not methane, but further tests are being conducted. "If you can imagine, it is not an easy operation to collect those bubbles so that they can be tested to see what their make-up is."

Yesterday an unnamed United States official told the Associated Press that there was "seepage" coming from the area at the bottom of the Deepwater well head. The official said the seepage and methane gas were discovered near the Deepwater well head, but did not specify an exact location. Admiral Thad Allen, a former US Coast Guard admiral who is overseeing the spill efforts for the US government said yesterday in a letter to BP that ROVs "detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head." So far there is no word what those substances are, but BP says the bubbles detected on July 18 are not of a hydrocarbon nature.

"When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours," said Allen in his letter to BP. During a press conference today, Allen confirmed seepage about 3km from the well point. He could not specify whether the seep was related to the capping of the well or if it is naturally occurring.

On June 13 the Viking Poseidon ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) 1 recorded oil and methane seeping from the seafloor at around 2:48 a.m.. The ROV monitors the seep for a minute and even gets covered in a plume of oil and sand before it moved on to the next spot. Smaller eruptions were seen as the ROV traveled. After an investigation, Wikinews determined that the seepage was located just over 50 feet from the Deepwater leak point. BP has denied that any oil or methane gas is leaking from the sea floor. On July 16, Kent Wells, the senior vice president of the company, said on their official Twitter page that "4 ROVs using sonar scanning [are] looking for anomalies in seabed floor. No indications any oil or gas escaping."

BP issued a press release earlier this morning, but did not state information regarding any leaks or seepage from the well. BP did say that the well cap "measured at approximately 6,792 pounds per square inch and continues to rise slowly."

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill started on April 20 after an explosion on the rig. Efforts to put out the fire failed and the rig subsequently sank to the bottom of the Gulf. On April 22, an oil slick appeared on the surface of the Gulf. BP capped the leaking well on July 13 which effectively stopped oil from leaking into the Gulf. The company has been running a pressure integrity test on the 150,000 pound cap since it stopped the flow of oil. BP hopes for the well's pressure to rise to or above 7,500 PSI. As of Saturday morning the well's pressure was just above 6,700 PSI. BP fears anything lower than the expected PSI could mean a leak in the cap or elsewhere, such as oil or methane seeping up from the seafloor.


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