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CURRENT ISSUE

DEEPWATER HORIZON SPILL
How long will the political fall out from the spill delay plans to expand U.S. offshore drilling

Hardly at all
For 1-2 years
For longer than 2 years

May 24, 2010

BP still preparing for "top kill"

As the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continued on multiple fronts, BP today announced that it will commit of up to $500 million to an open research program studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon incident, and its associated response, on the marine and shoreline environment of the Gulf of Mexico.

In an update Monday on response activity, BP said subsea efforts continue to focus on options to stop the flow of oil through interventions via the blow out preventer (BOP) and to collect the flow of oil from the leak points.

The so called "top kill" has yet to be attempted. It will see heavy drilling fluids injected into the well to stem the flow of oil and gas and ultimately kill the well. Successfully killing the well may be followed by cement to seal the well.

"Most of the equipment is on site and preparations continue for this operation, with a view to deployment in a few days," says BP.

"This is a complex operation requiring sophisticated diagnostic work and precise execution," BP says. "As a result, it involves significant uncertainties and it is not possible to assure its success or to put a definite timescale on its deployment."

Drilling of the first relief well, which began on May 2 continues as does drilling of a second relief well, begun on May 16. Each of these wells is estimated to take some three months to complete from the commencement of drilling.

Work goes on to optimise the oil and gas collected from the damaged riser through the riser insertion tube tool (RITT). The collection rate continues to vary, primarily due to the flow parameters and physical characteristics within the riser.

In the period from May 17 to May 23, the daily oil rate collected by the RITT has ranged from 1,360 barrels of oil per day (b/d) to 3,000 b/d, and the daily gas rate has ranged from 4 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) to 17 MMCFD.

In the same period, the average daily rate of oil and gas collected by the RITT containment system at the end of the leaking riser has been 2,010 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) and 10 MMCFD of gas. The oil is being stored and gas is being flared on the drillship Discoverer Enterprise, on the surface 5,000 feet above.

The RITT remains a new technology and both its continued operation and its effectiveness in capturing the oil and gas remain uncertain.

The U.S. Government has appointed a flow rate technical team (FRTT) to determine the well flow rate. The FRTT includes the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, MMS, Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey. BP says it will continue to promptly provide all information necessary to make as accurate an assessment as possible of the rate of flow.

Surface Spill Response and Containment

Work continues to collect and disperse oil that has reached the surface of the sea. Over 1,100 vessels are involved in the response effort, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels.

Intensive operations to skim oil from the surface of the water have now recovered, in total, some 243,000 barrels (10.2 million gallons) of oily liquid. The total length of boom deployed as part of efforts to prevent oil reaching the coast is now nearly 2.5 million feet, including over 730,000 feet of sorbent boom.

In total, over 22,000 personnel from BP, other companies and government agencies are currently involved in the response to this incident. So far 23,000 claims have been filed and 9,000 have already been paid.

The cost of the response to date amounts to about $760 million, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs. It is too early to quantify other potential costs and liabilities associated with the incident.

$500 million research program

Separately, BP today announced a commitment of up to $500 million to an open research program studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon incident, and its associated response, on the marine and shoreline environment of the Gulf of Mexico.

"BP has made a commitment to doing everything we can to lessen the impact of this tragic incident on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast. We must make every effort to understand that impact. This will be a key part of the process of restoration, and for improving the industry response capability for the future. There is an urgent need to ensure that the scientific community has access to the samples and the raw data it needs to begin this work," said Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive.

The key questions to be addressed by this 10-year research program reflect discussions with the US government and academic scientists in Washington D.C. last week.

BP already has ongoing marine research programs in the Gulf of Mexico. Building on these, BP will appoint an independent advisory panel to construct the long term research program. Where appropriate, the studies may be coordinated with the ongoing natural resources damages assessment. More immediately, a baseline of information for the long term research program is needed. A first grant to Louisiana State University will help kick start this work, says BP.

"LSU has a significant amount of experience in dealing with the oil and gas industry and deep knowledge pertaining to the Gulf of Mexico across numerous topical disciplines. The first part of the program is about obtaining and analyzing samples and assessing immediate impacts. Other areas of importance will emerge as researchers become engaged and the potential impacts from the spill are better understood," said Professor Christopher D'Eli

a, Dean of the LSU School of the Coast and Environment.
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