Allen presses BP on oil containment, citing ‘critical stage’ in response

The new systems could increase the oil capture ability to 80,000 barrels each day, enough to contain all of the oil, but switching containment caps would temporarily increase the amount flowing uncontrolled into the Gulf.

“We are entering a critical stage in the Deepwater Horizon response where key decisions will be made in executing plans for total collection of oil at the wellhead and for potentially securing the well completely,” Allen’s letter states. “Those decisions also overlap with predictions for an active storm and hurricane season in the region, already impacting response efforts.”

Senior federal officials will huddle with BP officials in Houston Friday to discuss the potential removal of the “top hat” and replacement with a “capping stack.” Allen’s letter gives the company 24 hours to respond to his questions.

The letter also asks for information about the possibility of killing the well completely using the capping stack.

“BP will provide me with a detailed plan with decision points for pressure testing the well and potential transitioning from full collection from the capping stack to shutting in the well using the capping stack,” the letter states.

The primary plan for completely ending the gusher is the “relief well” BP is drilling to intercept the blown-out well and plug it using heavy industrial muds and a cement cap.

Allen on Thursday said that operation is expected to be complete in mid-August, although Dudley told the Wall Street Journal this week that the relief well could end the leak in late July under the most optimistic scenario.