BP Plc’s plan to increase oil-capture capacity this week at the Gulf of Mexico leak to up to 53,000 barrels a day will be delayed by high waves expected to be generated by Tropical Storm Alex, a company executive said Monday.
But Kent Wells, senior vice president of exploration and production, told reporters in a briefing that as of Monday the storm was not expected to interrupt current oil-capture systems or the drilling of a pair of relief wells intended to plug the leak by August.
He said BP expects to continue those operations “unless unfortunately a storm heads directly our way.”
Tropical Storm Alex is slowly intensifying and will likely strengthen into the first hurricane of the Atlantic season Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The NHC expects Alex to come ashore near the Texas-Mexico border early Thursday.
Wells said waves of up to 12 feet could cause a delay of up to a week in hooking up a third oil-capture system. “While we are on track for the end of June, it will be roughly a week after that, the 6th or 7th of July,” he said.
An undetermined amount of oil continues to billow out from under the rig’s cap and through vents on top into the sea. A team of U.S. scientists estimate that the leak is gushing up to 60,000 barrels a day overall.
The current system involves a drillship and a service rig that can handle up to 28,000 barrels a day of oil. The next step is adding another rig to the mix to increase that capacity to 53,000 barrels a day, according to BP.
A plan to increase capacity up to 80,000 barrels a day by mid-July remains on track, Wells said.
BP said earlier Monday that the current oil-capture systems collected or burned off 24,450 barrels of oil Sunday.
(Reporting by Kristen Hays, editing by Vicki Allen)
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