We've all been intensely focused lately on the environmental disaster currently unfolding caused by the massive amounts of crude oil spewing from the
bottom of the Gulf of Mexico ... and with good cause as there seems to be no ready solution in sight by which to contain it.
However, I was just thinking about an other angle that so far seems to have gone unremarked and unconsidered.
Namely, how is the oil being 'captured' by BP's top hat system planning to be processed and/or disposed off ? We're talking potential mega-barrels
that will over the next 90 days (BP's estimate before the oil flow is stemmed by relief wells) be siphoned up to a surface container ship.
BP are giving us current estimates of approximately 10,000 barrels per day being recovered .
BP recovered 10,500 barrels on June 5 and 6,077 in the previous 24-hour period ending at midnight June 4. The oil is piped to a vessel at the surface
with capacity to handle 15,000 barrels a day.
Now, if this estimate of approximate 10,000 barrels is the maximum that can physically be siphoned off per day, then a quick calculation gives us a
total figure of 900,000 barrels (10,000 x 90) siphoned off in that 90 day period. This is a huge amount of oil that will need to be stored.
To put it into perspective, the smallest commercial oil tankers, the Panamax class, can hold a maximum of 500,000 barrels ... therefore 2 of these
tankers would be needed.
The next size up is the Aframax class of tankers that hold up to 750,000 barrels ... followed by the Suezmax class of tanker that can hold up to 1
So BP will end up storing tanker filling amounts of siphoned up oil.
Under normal oil pumping operations, the crude oil is relatively clean, pure and largely uncontaminated.
But the oil being captured and siphoned up for storage is nowhere near in pristine condition. Rather it's now a mixture of crude oil thats very badly
contaminated with sea water, dispersant chemicals and other contaminants.
We now get to my question:
Does anyone know how BP plan to process this degraded quality oil ? I assume that their normal refinery methods were not
designed to handle
incredible quantities of badly contaminated crude oil and would not be capable of processing it without major structural and operational
What alternative processing methods would be available to BP to cope with this unforeseen scenario of suddenly finding themselves with so much
contaminated oil ?