"WASHINGTON — With a weeklong window of favorable weather opening in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is pressing BP to move quickly on two operations that could double the amount of oil captured from the gushing well.
An oil recovery ship known as the Helix Producer, capable of capturing up to 25,000 barrels a day, has been waiting near the crippled well for more than a week, unable to connect to the well because of high winds and waves from Hurricane Alex.
The weather has also delayed deployment of a new, tighter-fitting cap for the well that not only will be able to capture more of the spewing oil but could potentially shut down all oil releases from the well. Swapping the caps requires disconnecting the well from a recovery ship, the Discoverer Enterprise, potentially increasing the flow of oil by as much as 15,000 barrels a day for two to three days.
The two operations were to have begun a week ago and take place in sequence. The administration now wants BP to move forward with both at the same time to take advantage of a period of seven or eight days of predicted calm weather.
The administration sent BP a letter Thursday asking for details of how the company planned to proceed with attaching the Helix and replacing the cap while minimizing the unimpeded flow of oil during the changeover. The government wants to know how much of the oil BP can skim, burn or disperse during the swap."