* BP says cap system collected 7,850 barrels so far June 8
* More surface capacity needed as rate increases (Updates with oil collected so far Tuesday)
HOUSTON, June 8 (Reuters) - BP Plc’s seabed containment cap collected 7,850 barrels of oil through noon CDT (1 p.m. EDT/1700 GMT) on Tuesday which, if sustained, would reach the company’s highest daylong collection rate yet.
The system collected collected 14,800 barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, the highest capture rate since the system was installed last week.
If Tuesday’s rate is sustained, the total would reach 15,700 barrels for the 24-hour period.
“They continue to optimize production,” U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said on Tuesday at a briefing in Washington. BP said the total amount of oil collected in four days, plus half of Tuesday, is about 51,000 barrels.
U.S scientists have estimated the leak spews 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil per day, with one estimate as high as 25,000 barrels.
The seven-week-old leak was discovered shortly after Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank in April, killing 11 workers. The rig was finishing work on an exploratory well in BP’s Macondo oil field.
Allen said the Flow Rate Technical Group that made the government’s leak flow estimates, a team of federal scientists and independent and academic experts, is revisiting its findings to come up with a more precise rate.
BP’s current storage capacity at the water’s surface is running out as the oil capture rate increases.
A drill ship now collecting the captured oil has a processing capacity of 15,000 barrels a day, and storage capacity of 130,000 barrels, BP spokesman David Nicholas said.
Allen said a nearby service rig is being prepared to add 5,000 barrels a day or more of processing capacity.
“That should cover the rate we have now,” Allen said. BP aims to add more capacity as well, he said.
Nicholas said as the drill ship’s storage facility begins to fill, BP expects to start offloading oil to barges or other ships and transport it to shore.
The service rig is part of an overall system BP aims to deploy by mid-June to collect oil and gas directly from a failed blowout preventer on the seabed. That system was used last month for BP’s failed “top kill” effort to plug the well by pumping in heavy drilling fluid and solid materials to try to smother the leak.
That system is being reconfigured to pull oil and gas through hoses hooked to the blowout preventer and channel it to the service rig at the surface.
BP also is planning another longer-term system to be deployed by late June or early July that is designed to allow the drill ship to disconnect and move if a hurricane approaches. Such setups are common for drill ships and mobile drilling units in the hurricane-prone Gulf.
BP’s system will involve replacing the current containment cap with a larger cap that has a tighter seal. That cap will be connected by hose to seabed equipment that will route oil and gas to another hose hooked to a floating pipe.
The pipe will stretch nearly a mile (1.6 km) to 300 feet (90 metres) below the water’s surface, where it will be connected to another hose to transport oil and gas to the ship.
If a storm approaches, the ship can disconnect the hose and move out of the way.
Nicholas said the hurricane-ready system could include a vessel with much more storage capacity, like a floating production, storage and offloading ship, or FPSO, combined with a shuttle tanker to take oil back to shore.
BP’s Loch Rannoch shuttle tanker from the Schiehallion oilfield in the North Sea is traveling to the leak site for possible use in that system, Nicholas said. BP has yet to identify an FPSO to be part of it. (Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Doina Chiacu)
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