June 14, 2010 / 4:03 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-BP says to capture up to 80,000 b/d by mid-July

* Systems to be in place in Gulf of Mexico by mid-July -BP

* New plan increases capacity faster, adds backup systems (Recasts, updates with detail)

By Kristen Hays

HOUSTON, June 14 (Reuters) - BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N) aims to nearly triple its oil-collecting capacity within a month to a maximum of 80,000 barrels a day in response to a U.S. demand that the company work faster to contain the gushing leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP’s revised plan also shows the company will increase current capacity to 50,000 barrels a day by the end of June, two weeks earlier than originally thought.

Then BP plans to add more systems to boost capacity to 80,000 barrels a day by mid-July.

“BP is now stepping up its efforts to contain the leaking oil,” Coast Guard Rear Admiral James Watson said in a statement on Monday.

On Friday, Watson told BP in a letter to submit a plan within 48 hours to increase capacity faster and add more backup systems. BP submitted its revised plan on Sunday.

On Thursday, U.S. government scientists announced their estimate that the well was leaking 20,000 to 40,000 barrels (840,000 gallons/3.18 million litres to 1.68 million gallons/6.36 million litres) of oil a day.

That was a sharp increase from the earlier estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels (504,000 gallons/1.9 million litres to 798,000 gallons/3.0 million liters) a day.

BP’s revised plan, in a letter dated June 13, said the company cannot assure compliance with Watson’s demand that all leaking oil be collected as the various systems are put in place.

Success depends on how well the new systems work, the letter said. And if ships and other vessels have to disconnect to avoid a coming hurricane, the leak will spew unfettered until they return, BP said.

BP’s original plan, submitted to the Coast Guard in a letter dated June 9, called for systems that could handle up to 50,000 barrels a day by mid-July. That amount of capacity was intended to suffice until drilling of two relief wells concludes in August to plug the leak.

BP CAPTURING 15,000 B/D NOW

As of Monday, BP was capturing more than 15,000 barrels a day from a containment cap that sits atop a failed blowout preventer system at the seabed, according to BP figures.

The cap funnels the oil through a pipe to a drillship a mile (1.6 km) above at the water’s surface. An undetermined amount of oil continues to gush out from under the cap and from three vents on top.

The drillship, Transocean Ltd’s (RIG.N) (RIGN.S) Discoverer Enterprise, can process up to 18,000 barrels a day, according to BP and the Coast Guard.

Starting Tuesday, BP plans to use part of the seabed system used in a failed May attempt to smother the leak to pull more oil from the well. One of two hoses connected to the blowout preventer is expected to siphon up to 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons/1.59 million litres) a day of oil from the well and channel it through a pipe to a service rig, the Q4000, BP said.

That oil will be burned off because the Q4000 has no processing or storage capacity, BP said.

BP spokesman Mark Proegler said on Monday that the company finished testing the the Q4000 system over the weekend.

The addition of the Q4000 will increase oil-handling capacity to 28,000 barrels a day, BP said.

Last week’s plan had called for bringing a second drillship, Transocean’s Discoverer Clear Leader, by the end of June to add an additional 10,000 barrels a day of oil-processing capacity.

Then by mid-July, BP would have switched out the entire system for a new one with up to 50,000 barrels a day of capacity that would allow vessels to quickly disconnect from the seabed systems and move if a hurricane approaches.

Under that system, a well testing vessel, the Toisa Pisces, and another rig, the Helix Producer — each with up to 25,000 barrels a day of capacity — would have taken over for the Enterprise and Q4000, the Coast Guard said. Each would also have a shuttle tanker to take collected oil and ship it to a port.

Under the revised plan, either the Toisa Pisces or the Helix Producer will join the Enterprise and the Q4000 by the end of June to get capacity up to 50,000 barrels a day faster than originally planned.

The new vessel would have a pipe-and-hose system connected to the blowout preventer that allows quick disconnection for a storm, while the Enterprise and Q4000 maintain less hurricane-ready systems, BP said.

The revised plan said further that by mid-July, whichever of the Toisa Pisces and Helix Producer that did not start up by the end of June would also be hooked up via pipe-and-hose to the blowout preventer.

Last week’s plan also called for replacing the current containment cap with a larger cap and seal designed to prevent oil from escaping. That switch will still occur by the end of June.

The new cap will be connected via drillpipe to the Enterprise and Clear Leader by mid-July. The two drillships will be available to increase oil-processing capacity to 80,000 barrels a day if necessary, or to step in if the Toisa Pisces or Helix Producer experiences problems, BP said. (Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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