Top Hats May Be Operational Friday

BP expects to deploy two "top hat" devices with different functions at the site of the leaking Macondo well by Friday, the company's chief operating officer said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

 A riser insertion tube, which Doug Suttles described as a second top hat, will be placed inside the end of the leaking riser to contain crude oil. He pointed out that the second top hat, which at press time was en route to the incident site, also could help to prevent gas hydrate formation.

The other top hat, a smaller version of the containment dome that became clogged with gas hydrates over the weekend, is on the seabed and will be positioned above the leak from the damaged riser. The smaller dome is designed to limit the amount of seawater that can be trapped underneath, thus preventing hydrates from forming. In addition, the small size is expected to facilitate heating and methanol insertion -- again, to limit hydrates.

When asked which top hat will be positioned first, Suttles said that BP is conducting a final assessment and should make that decision within 24 hours. Using radiography and other techniques, the company is examining the condition and position of the blowout preventer (BOP). In addition, it is evaluating the kink in the damaged riser from which oil is leaking; Suttles explained the company needs to determine whether the kink is restricting the flow of crude oil.

Suttles also reported that BP is making progress in preparing for the top kill to plug up the BOP. The manifold required for the "junk shot," which entails inserting debris into the BOP, was deployed Tuesday night. The company expects to begin applying the technique by the end of next week.