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BP CEO Tony Hayward  (Source: CBS News, AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  (Source: CBS News, AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

  (Source: Fast Company)
But BP has a new plan

Saturday marked yet another failed attempt to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. BP's top kill procedure used more than 1.2 million gallons of mud to suppress oil into the well 5,000 feet below surface in hopes of sealing the well permanently with cement, but most of the mud ended up escaping out of the damaged riser. 

"This scares everybody, the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven't succeeded so far," said BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Dough Suttles. "Many of the things we're trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet."

Since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and the oil leak began six weeks ago, BP has tried and failed with several attempts such as robot submarines to close valves on the blowout preventer, large and small-sized domes to contain the leak, a one mile long siphon that only collected 900,000 gallons of oil and now, a failed top kill procedure. According to government figures, between 18 million and 40 million gallons of oil has been spilled into the Gulf. 

Despite these failures, BP already has a new plan in motion. The next step is to use robot submarines to cut the riser where the oil is leaking and try to cap it with a containment valve while using a new pipe to siphon oil up to containment ships on the surface. 

Suttles says that "cutting off the damaged riser isn't expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly," though experts have mentioned that the bend in the riser was likely restricting the flow of oil and cutting it and adding a new containment valve could be a risk.

"We're confident the job will work but obviously we can' guarantee success," said Suttles. 

The new plan will take between four and seven days to work before BP can report whether it's a success or failure. According to Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama, if BP "can't get that valve on, things will get much worse" and that the new plan is "a scary proposition."

In addition to this new effort, a relief well is in the works which should be completed in August of this year. A major concern for BP is that hurricane seasons begins Tuesday, and they're hoping the weather cooperates while they work on the Gulf.

"What we are trying to do is create an engineered solution so that we can remain on station essentially through, not perhaps the heart of a hurricane, but through the very rough weather associated with a hurricane somewhere in the Gulf," said BP CEO Tony Hayward.

Even as BP readies for the next plan of action, Louisiana residents remain disappointed and are as angry as ever. Hundreds of protestors gathered in New Orleans to speak out against BP's continuing failures.

"I'm a little upset that the perpetrators of a crime that killed 11 people are still in charge of the crime site," said local musician Dr. John, an impromptu speaker. 


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By heiwashin on 5/31/2010 6:44:52 PM , Rating: 0
Where are you getting the idea that they underestimated the leak and overestimated their success? The media? The fact of the matter is that they probably know for a fact that they aren't likely to be able to stop this leak until they finish drilling the relief well. That doesn't mean they can sit idly and wait for that time to come though, so instead they are spending good sums of money on these failed attempts which we will pay for at the pump anyway. It's not that they are incompetent. They know what they're dealing with much better than anyone else. It's that there is, quite literally, no perfect solution.

By Alexstarfire on 5/31/2010 7:39:47 PM , Rating: 1
You need to redefine your definition of incompetence. I think that not having a plan in place and ignoring warning signs are definite signs of incompetence in any job. Just because a government doesn't require certain safety features also doesn't mean that they aren't a good idea to have anyway.

By heiwashin on 5/31/2010 11:34:00 PM , Rating: 2
My definition is fine. Once again a statement that has no merit. Of course they have plans in place. Everything they have been trying has been done before. In fact, this exact same thing happened about 30 years ago. A massive uncontrollable gushing underwater in the gulf that they used the same procedures to attempt to fix. So stop claiming that they have no plans, it's just an unavoidable fact that the only plan that will truly work is to drill a relief well. Everything else tried while doing that is a hope that it just might work, and for them dissuades public opinion that they're sitting on their ass. As for this preperation for every accident nonsense, there's a reason every product is made in other countries now as it is. Those simple safety features can add up to cost many millions upon millions and yes, even enough of a difference to make an accident every now and then more cost effective.

By clovell on 6/1/2010 11:19:06 AM , Rating: 2
Then your definition is broke. Because they're drilling two relief wells right now - have been working on it for 4 weeks. And, now - by your logic - they're throwing money at kitchen-sink plans to try to fix it sooner.

They're executing the best plan AND covering their ass - what more can they do that will satisfy your evaluation of their competence?

By Solandri on 6/1/2010 2:32:55 AM , Rating: 5
To be fair, what I've read from the inquiry hearings so far makes it sound like the people operating the rig weren't ignoring the warning signs and brought up their concerns to the managers. It's just that their recommendations were dismissed by the BP executive in charge. This is starting to look like another Challenger disaster, where the people who knew the ins and outs of how these machines work had their safety concerns overridden by clueless managers more concerned about meeting a schedule and saving some money.

I'm an engineer by training, and you put failsafes (the BOP) in place. But you never deliberately put yourself in a position where you're forced to rely on the failsafes unless you have no other option. Usually it's managers and politicians who make the boneheaded decision to violate that principle. They get lucky and get away with it a few times, become overconfident, and decide it's ok to live dangerously all the time. It's why I believe promotions should be based not just on accomplishments, but equally on what the person's peers and underlings think of his/her operating style.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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