BP is making progress on a delicate undersea operation to install a new containment cap on its blown-out Macondo well, and plans to activate a new oil-siphoning system later on Sunday, a company executive said.
BP on Saturday removed a cap over the well as part of a plan to install a bigger capping system that can capture up to 80,000 barrels per day (3.4 million gallons/12.7 million litres), up from about 25,000 bpd previously.
When fully operational, the new cap will capture virtually all of the oil spewing from the well, according to retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the top US oil spill official.
In the meantime, oil is spewing mostly unchecked from the well while BP completes the task. “We're pleased with our progress,” BP senior vice president Kent Wells told reporters on a conference call, reiterating that it will take four to seven days for undersea robots operating 1 mile (1,700 meters) below the sea surface to install the new containment system.
BP is also making final safety checks on a new containment ship, the Helix Producer, which will be able to siphon up to 25,000 bpd from the well, Wells said. BP expects the vessel to begin processing oil later on Sunday, he said.
BP's plan to ramp up oil collection capacity is expected to take two to three weeks.