Development Driller II has placed a new BOP on the well head which is being flushed with fluids and BP is replacing the riser pipe. Allen said the new riser pipe would create "the complete functionality of the riser pipe connect to the BOP to this well as if it were a functioning well itself with the BOP on top. At that point, in fact, where we are at now with the new BOP on the well is we basically have secured this well as we would any well that was under production and then being closed out with a kill. There is cement in the well casing itself. There's a Blow Out Preventer that has been pressure tested on top. And we have essentially eliminated the threat of discharge from the well at this point."
Allen said there are a series of events that will be taking place throughout the next several days that actually create a transition from controlling the source of the spill to "plugging an abandonment" which is a regulatory term used by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in supervising how a well is put into a reserve status.
He said once the control of the source and the final steps to plug and abandon the well are achieved the operation will shift to the oversight of the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. And when there is no further threat of discharge in the well and it has been killed it will no longer be under the purview of Allen as a National Incident Commander -- it will shift to the Department of Energy at that point.
Allen explained that following some diagnostics to further understand the condition of the well the science team in conjunction with the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management will make a decision on the next couple of steps. Work will begin again on the relief well and bottom kill operations this week.
On September 7, the Unified Command announced that all of the "hard (containment) boom" deployed as part of the Federal-led response in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle has now been recovered. The Incident Command Post (ICP) at Mobile announced that more than 1.6 million feet of hard boom has been removed from those state waters. Crews are currently in the process of removing the remaining fragments of storm-damaged hard boom from areas where it was stranded. ICP said the boom now posed potentially more risk than it offered protection for shorelines. During the oil spill response, a total of more than 3.7 million feet of hard boom was placed at critical points to protect wildlife refuges, estuaries, beaches, marshes and other environmentally sensitive and economically significant lands throughout the Gulf Coast.
On August 27, NOAA reopened 4,281 square miles of Gulf waters off western Louisiana to commercial and recreational fishing; and then again on September 3, the Agency reopened another 3,114 square miles of Gulf waters offshore of the western Florida panhandle. The closed area now covers 39,885 square miles, or about 17 percent of the Federal waters in the Gulf, which was 37 percent at its height on June 2. On September 7, NOAA and other agencies released a report finding decreased, but stabilized levels of dissolved oxygen in Gulf areas with subsurface oil. They said there were no "dead zones" observed or expected as part of the BJP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (See related article in this report).
On September 7, BP announced that The Deepwater Horizon accident investigation report prepared by BP's internal investigation team on the causes of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, is expected to be published tomorrow at 7:00 AM EDT. When published, the full report will be available on the BP website (see below). BP also announced it is providing $10 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under its Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) to support a study of potential public health issues relating to the Gulf oil spill and other spill-related health research. The GRI is a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by BP to better understand and mitigate the environmental and potential health effects of the Gulf spill.
Access the transcript of the September 4 briefing (click here). Access the latest NOAA fishing area report (click here). Access a release from NOAA on the dissolved oxygen report (click here). Access more information on BP activities from the BP response website (click here). Access the Restore the Gulf website for more information (click here).