HOUSTON-- BP’s Crisis Center is nestled inside Building Four of the Westlake Park complex in West Houston.
Normally, the center is used for workers who are evacuated from the Gulf of Mexico during hurricanes. Right now, the center is the central location for BP’s underwater operations for the Gulf oil disaster.
Bill Kirton is an engineer from Tomball. He knows the whole world is watching what they’re doing.
“It is a stressful situation, but for the most part I’ve seen nothing but support,” says Kirton.
The teams of engineers at the crisis center work in what’s called the subsea containment room. They have had their fair share of failures and finally, some success.
“The Q-4000 was the rig we used in Top Kill attempt,” says Kirton. “So, now we are turning that entire system around instead of pumping into the well, we’re actually flowing back to that same rig.”
The entire underwater operation is directed from Houston and it’s a job that requires a boat load of workers. Five hundred people work at the center and its operational 24/7. There are 300 people here during the day and 200 overnight.
BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells takes us on a 30-minute tour of the center. He says it’s similar to air traffic control, but in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Remember, many of these vessels have 2 ROV’s (remotely operational vehicles) connected to them. So, it’s not just moving a ship on the surface,” Wells said.
The 10,000 pound ROV’s do all the underwater work and a group of experts in Houston speak directly to each operator. The room is completely wired for sound so visitors can’t do any talking.
“Think of this as mission control,” Wells said.
Our tour gives us just a glimpse of what BP is doing in Southeast Texas and Kirton admits, his wife always wants to know too.
“Oh sure, we talk about it every night when we go home,” Kirton said.
As the world watches, one eye might be on the Gulf of Mexico but the other is on West Houston.