Accident In Gulf Causes Oil Flow To Increase

Well, this is certainly bad news:

BP suffered another setback in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, when a discharge of liquid and gases forced the company to remove the containment cap that for three weeks had been able to capture a large portion of the oil gushing from its damaged well.

Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, at a mid-day briefing in Washington, said a remote-controlled submersible operating a mile beneath the surface had most likely bumped a vent and compromised the system. Live video from the seafloor showed oil and gas storming out of the well unrestricted.

This was yet another complication in BP’s two-month-old struggle to contain the tens of thousands of barrels of oil spewing into the gulf.

On Tuesday, BP said it had been able to capture 16,665 barrels of oil through its containment cap, two-thirds of the total recovery operation. Another system, connected to a Q4000 vessel, is still operating since it is connected through a separate pipe near the seabed, rather than directly atop the failed blowout preventer. This system siphons the oil and gas and then burns it on the ship.

But at 8:45 a.m. local time on Wednesday, workers noticed liquids escaping from a valve connected to the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship collecting the oil. Admiral Allen said that a vent sending warm water to prevent hydrates from forming had been damaged. “When they thought that that line might have been compromised, they elected to remove the cap,” Admiral Allen said.

BP was inspecting the pipe, and if workers observe that hydrates — ice-like crystals — have formed, they might have to adjust the line before putting the cap back on.

And there’s no word on when a fix will be ready.

Here’s the live video feed in all it’s depressing glory:

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FILED UNDER: Environment, Oil Spill, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook