May 7, 2010 4:22 PM by Melissa Canone
HOUSTON (AP) - The oil that BP is hoping to funnel through a
giant 100-ton box on top of a ruptured well will be shipped to a
Texas refinery and likely end up in people's gas tanks if the
deep-sea operation is successful.
The oil spewing from the blown-out well contains large amounts
of natural gas and water. Crews will burn off the natural gas and
decant the water before shipping it to the BP facility in Texas
Experts said such separation efforts are routine.
"It would be more routine if the world wasn't watching," said
David Burnett, director of technology at Texas A&M University's
Department of Petroleum Engineering. "You've got a big mix of oily
water. It's probably not difficult to separate."
The reality is most wells produce oil and some gas and water
known as "associated water" that can be far more salty than the
water in the gulf.
"They have lots of equipment to separate oil and water on a
drill rig," said Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum
geoscience programs at the University of Houston. "They have do it
all the time.
"In this case, if it's just sea water, that should come out
pretty quickly. You never want to have a lot of water, but it's
something we deal with all the time in the oil business."
Oil giant BP PLC has said the collected oil will be taken by
tankers for processing at its Texas City refinery southeast of
"So that's just something that's kind of routine," Van
Nieuwenhuise said. "But certainly they can separate the oil out
and refine it. That's something they do for every oil well. They'll
refine it and crack it and everything and by the time it gets in
your gas tank, you'll never even know it was in the water."
Burnett also said whatever oil is recovered, its eventual sale
may help offset some of the costs of the cleanup.
The oil's planned destination, the Texas City refinery, has its
own checkered history. An explosion there in 2005 killed 15 people
and injured 170. Regulators last October hit BP with a record $87
million fine for failing to correct safety hazards at the plant. BP
has formally contested the fine.