What is Plan B? Containing the oil spill

Turning the blowout preventer off has not worked so far (see my previous post).

So, now what? Plan B is a go.

As early as tomorrow, BP is going to try to put a lid over over the largest leak source. The containment chamber is designed to collect the oil so that it can be pumped to a tanker at the surface.

The system is made up of a 125-ton, 14’ x 24’ x 40’ containment chamber that will be set on top of the largest leak source which is about 600 feet from the wellhead. A 5,000 foot riser will convey the hydrocarbons to the surface ship, the Deepwater Enterprise, which has the ability to separate the oil from the water and gas. The oil can then be offloaded later at a terminal onshore.

Sounds easy, right?  Wrong.
This is the first time this system will be used at this water depth. BP says at best this system could divert only 85% of oil rising from the seafloor.  After Katrina, these type of structures were lowered over damaged wellheads to allow divers to repair wellheads, but at much shallower depths. There also may be a danger of pressure building in the containment structure as the oil gushes in. 

Fingers are crossed.

Update on May 13, 2010

Failed, at least so far. However, they released a cool video of the effort today.