After 85 days of hemorrhaging in the Gulf of Mexico, a long term solution may finally be in sight. A new cap was put in place on July 12 that is intended to slow and then eventually stop the flow of oil. The plan is fairly simple: the cap will be placed over the broken pipe and three open valves will be slowly turned off if “integrity testing” indicates that the cap is sealed tight enough and can handle the pressure. High pressure readings will demonstrate that the cap is effectively containing the oil while a low reading would indicate that the oil is leaking somewhere else. These tests are expected to take anywhere between six and 48 hours. While this is currently the best hope for stopping the flow of oil, none of this technology has been tested a mile under water and at freezing temperatures and is therefore not a guaranteed solution. Below, remotely controlled robots are used to install the new cap.
There are three possible outcomes from this new system. The best case scenario, obviously, is that the cap will stop the flow of oil into the gulf completely. However, it is likely that the new cap will only stanch the leak and ships on the surface will still be required to siphon the escaping oil. On the bright side, the new cap will allow four oil collection ships to attach to the well instead of the three allowed by the previous cap. Experts estimate that with the new cap in place 60,000-80,000 gallons of oil could be collected daily. In the worst case, testing could indicate that there is more damage to the well than thought previously and oil could begin flowing from multiple locations.
The ultimate plan is to have two relief wells up and running by mid-August. Work is continuing on these wells but the capping system is the best method to divert the flow of oil until they are completed.
BP reports that 46,000 personnel, 6400 vessels and dozens of aircraft involved in response effort while the bill has already coming to almost $3.5 billion. BP still assures the public that more resources are at its disposal and has deployed the Helix Producer to collect oil alongside the already active Q4000. Meanwhile, untold damages are being inflicted on local economies, biospheres and wildlife.