BP Begins ‘Flaring’ Oil in the Gulf

BY Chris Amico  June 17, 2010 at 6:46 PM EST

BP has started flaring, or burning, some of the oil it siphons out of the ruptured Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico, the company reported this week.

Energy giant BP PLC said it had burned 52,500 gallons of oil by noon Wednesday using a specialized flare system. Oil and gas siphoned from the well first reached a semi-submersible drilling rig on the surface of the Gulf around 1 a.m.

Once that gas reaches the rig, it will be mixed with compressed air, shot down a specialized boom made by Schlumberger Ltd. and ignited at sea. It’s the first time this particular burner has been deployed in the Gulf of Mexico. (source: AP)

BP has been capturing oil on surface ships since June 3, when the company cut the bent riser pipe and lowered a containment dome over the ruptured well. Since then, it has managed to divert around 15,000 barrels of oil a day.

But 15,000 barrels is about as much as one ship can handle, said Toby Odone, a BP spokesman. On Wednesday, BP announced that oil and gas was flowing through a second containment system that transports oil, a ship known as the Q4000, which can burn off the material.

“We don’t have the processing capability so there’s no way to store [the oil],” he said. “You need to process it when it comes out of the sea.”

The oil must be separated from gas and water on the surface, and the gas flared. Odone admitted that burning the oil isn’t ideal. “We would prefer to be able to reuse that oil somehow,” he said, but offered that it’s better than letting the crude flow into the Gulf.

We’ve updated our Gulf Leak Meter to account for the oil flared, in addition to what is being siphoned. As BP captures, burns or otherwise diverts more oil from the well, you’ll see the ticker’s rate of increase slow.

As always, you can follow our latest coverage here.