BP began burning oil siphoned from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday as part of its plans to more than triple the amount of crude it can stop from reaching the sea, the company said.
BP PLC said oil and gas siphoned from the well first reached a semi-submersible drilling rig on the ocean surface 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.
BP officials previously said they believed the burner system could incinerate anywhere from 210,000 gallons of oil to 420,000 gallons of oil daily once it's fully operational. The company did not say how much oil the new system has burned. It said work to optimize the new system was still ongoing.
Under pressure from the Coast Guard, the energy firm is attempting to expand its ability to trap leaking oil before it reaches the water. Already, oil and gas are being siphoned from a containment cap sitting over the well head and flowing to a drill ship sitting above it in the Gulf of Mexico.
Adding the burner is part of BP's plan to expand its containment system so it can capture as much as 2.2 million gallons of oil a day by late June, or nearly 90 percent of what a team of government scientists have estimated is the maximum flow out the well.
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