The first steel and concrete oil containment dome was finished yesterday and will be shipped off today to the site of the massive Deepwater Horizon oil leak. The hope is that the cap can be installed over the largest of the leaks, and the oil will then move through a 5,000 ft riser up to the surface into the holding tank of a ship. If all goes as planned, this containment cap will be able to collect about 85% of the oil gushing up from the sea floor.
Photo credit: Superior Energy
It’s not really quite what we had envisioned the containment dome would look like. Domes are more round and spherical, but this is more like a cap. BP has been working with Wild Well Controls Inc. to build this system, modeled on other structures used to control leaks after Hurricane Katrina — however this is the first time a system like this has been tried at this depth. The containment cap is composed of 125 tons of steel and concrete (14’ x 24’ x 40) and will be lowered onto the site of the largest leak, which is about 600 feet from the wellhead. Assuming the cap is sound and that the seabed below is not too soft, it should create a tight seal, containing the oil inside.
From there, a 5,000 ft riser attached to the cap will transport the leaking oil up to a storage ship. The storage ship, called the Deepwater Enterprise, can separate the oil from water and gas, and temporarily store it before it is offloaded and shipped to a designated oil terminal onshore. Around 139,000 barrels can be stored on the ship and about 15,000 barrels of oil can be processed a day. A support barge capable of holding 137,000 barrels will also be deployed to help the effort. Installation of the cap is expected within the next three to six days. Two more caps were expected to be built in order to trap the leak and keep more oil from spreading into the ocean, but one valve was shut off in the last day, leaving just two leaks now.