BP Abandons 'Top Hat'—For Now

BP's diagram of the riser insertion tube plan for containing the leaking oil.

After reevaluating its options to contain the oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon well, BP is abandoning—at least for now—plans to use to the “top hat” containment dome to curtail the spill. Instead, the company will insert a tube into the jagged end of the leaking drill pipe and channel the oil directly to a tanker on the surface before it can be released into the water. The plan is for this “riser insertion tube” to be operational within the next 24 hours, BP spokesman Mark Proegler told NEWSWEEK. BP had been considering both the top-hat and insertion-tube options since earlier this week but has decided to prioritize the insertion-tube approach over using the top hat, a smaller version of the shacklike containment dome engineers attempted to lower over the main leak point last weekend. The top hat has been parked on the sea floor for the last several days and will remain there to be used as a backup plan if the insertion tube fails. Although Proegler did not provide an explanation as to why the insertion tube would be used first, one benefit over the top hat is that it should allow oil to be contained before it comes in contact with water, thereby preventing the formation of methane hydrate, an icelike solid of methane and water that clogged up the first containment dome. Meanwhile, a “junk shot” is still being planned for next week, which, if successful, could plug up the malfunctioning blowout preventer and allow engineers to stop the oil flow once and for all.

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