Reuters is reporting that the high waves expected to come as Tropical Storm Alex passes through the Gulf of Mexico will delay BP Plc’s plan to increase oil-capture capacity to up to 53,000 barrels a day. This is according to a company executive.
Kent Wells, senior vice president of exploration and production shared with reporters in a briefing earlier today that the storm was not expected to interrupt the drilling of a pair of relief wells intended to stop the leak by August, or interfere with current oil-capture systems. He said those operations are scheduled to continue, “…unless unfortunately a storm heads directly our way.”
The storm is slowly intensifying, and by tomorrow, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, will strengthen into the first hurricane of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. The storm will likely make landfall near the Texas-Mexico border early Thursday.
Wells said that a week-long delay in hooking up a third oil-capture system could be caused by waves of up to twelve feet. “While we are on track for the end of June, it will be roughly a week after that, the 6th or 7th of July,” he said.
The amount of oil continuing to flow into the sea from under the rig’s cap and through vents on top is not certain, but U.S. science teams are estimating that it adds up to about 60,000 barrels a day. The current capture system involves a drill ship and a service rig that can handle a maximum of 28,000 barrels of oil every day. It will take an additional rig to increase capacity to 53,000 barrels a day, according to BP.
Wells said that a plan to increase capacity to 80,000 barrels a day by the middle of July is still on track. Yesterday, BP said, the existing capture systems either collected or burnded off 24,450 barrels of oil.