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Aug 27, 2010 9:31 PM by Alison Haynes

Feds to remove temporary cap from Gulf well

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The federal government said engineers will
start work Monday to remove the temporary cap that stopped oil from
gushing out of BP's blown-out Gulf well so that crews can raise a
key piece of equipment from the seabed.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man
for the spill response, told reporters Friday that engineers must
remove the cap so they can raise the failed blowout preventer. The
blowout preventer is considered a key piece of evidence in
determining what caused the April rig explosion that unleashed the
gushing oil.
The leak010 by The Associaed when engineers were able to place a
cap atop BP's well. Workers then pumped mud and cement in through
the top in a so-called "static kill" operation that significantly
reduced pressure inside the well. Officials don't expect oil to
leak into the sea again when the cap is removed, but Allen has
ordered BP to be ready to collect any leaking crude just in case.
The Department of Justice and other federal investigators are
overseeing the work to remove the blowout preventer, Allen said.
The 50-foot, 600,000-pound device - which was designed to prevent
such a catastrophe - will be taken out of the water with the well
pipe still inside to ensure the pipe doesn't break apart any more
than it already has.
Keeping the blowout preventer intact is important because it's
considered an essential piece of evidence in determining what
caused the blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon on April 20. After
the explosion, 206 million gallo385of oil spilled into the Gulf of
Mexico until the temporary cap stopped the flow. The explosion on
the rig - which was owned by Transocean Ltd. and being operated by
BP PLC - killed 11 workers.
Engineers are hoping the blowout preventer can be detached
easily, but they are prepared to exert 80,000 pounds of pressure if
needed, Allen said.
A new blowout preventer will be placed atop the well once the
one that failed is raised. After that, the goal is to drill the
final 50 feet of a relief well beginning Sept. 7, Allen said. From
there, it will take about four days for drilling crews to reach
their target.
The relief well has been called the ultimate solution to
plugging the well. Once the relief well is drilled, engineers will
be able to pump mud and cement in through the bottom of the well,
plugging the one that gushed oil once and for all.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government said Friday that it is reopening
more fed l waters in the Gulf of Mexico for commercial and
recreational fishing that had been closed because of the spill. The
government is reopening 4,281 square miles of waters off the coast
of western Louisiana.
Oil sheen has not been seen there since July 29, and scientists
found no oil or dispersants on samples of the area's shrimp and
finfish.
Twenty percent of federal waters in the Gulf remain closed.
"We're sort of nibbling at the edges if you will, areas that
have been free of oil for the longest time and were oiled the
least," Lubchenco said.
The news came as hearings continued in Houston before the joint
U.S. Coast Guard-Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation and
Enforcement investigative panel. On Friday, Mark Hafle - a BP
drilling engineer who was a key decision maker at the now-sunken
rig - exercised his constitutional right to refuse to testify.
The panel's goal is to determine what caused the explosion. The
panel also will make recommendations to prevent such a catastrophe
in the future.

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