Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 91 BP Oil Spill: Cap Holds; Seep Detected; More Monitoring

Jul 19: As of about 10;30 AM EST, BP reported that the well integrity test is ongoing and active monitoring continues. Currently the well remains shut-in with no oil flowing into the Gulf and the pressure continues to slowly increase and is approximately 6800 psi. BP said the next update will be provided around the same time on July 20. According to BP, it continues to work cooperatively with the guidance and approval of the National Incident Commander, Thad Allen and the leadership and direction of Federal government including the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Federal Science Team, Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard and secretaries Ken Salazar and Steven Chu. At this time, the well integrity test on the MC252 exploratory well continues.

    During the test, the three ram capping stack has been closed, shutting in the well. All sub-sea containment systems (namely, the Q4000 and Helix Producer systems) have been temporarily suspended. The pressure inside the well recently has been measured at approximately 6,792 pounds per square inch and continues to rise slowly. As directed by the National Incident Commander, extensive monitoring activities are being carried out around the well site. Information gathered during the test is being reviewed with the government agencies, including the Federal Science Team, to determine next steps. Depending upon the results of the test and monitoring activities, these steps may include extending the well integrity test or returning to containment options.
    Yesterday, Thad Allen sent a letter to BP and today issued a statement on a new concern that has developed. Allen said, "Yesterday I sent BP a letter stating that there were a number of unanswered questions about the monitoring systems they committed to as a condition of the US government extending the well integrity test. Last night a conference call between the federal science team and BP representatives was convened to discuss some specific issues, including the detection of a seep near the well and the possible observation of methane over the well. During the conversation, the federal science team got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations.
Ongoing monitoring and full analysis of both the seepage and methane will continue in coordination with the science team. I authorized BP to continue the integrity test for another 24 hours and I restated our firm position that this test will only continue if they continue to meet their obligations to rigorously monitor for any signs that this test could worsen the overall situation. At any moment, we have the ability to return to the safe containment of the oil on the surface until the time the relief well is completed and the well is permanently killed."
    In his letter to BP, Allen states, "Now that source control has evolved into a period beyond the expected 48 hour interval of the Well Integrity Test, I am requiring that you provide me a written update within 24 hours of your intentions going forward. I remain concerned that all potential options to eliminate the discharge of oil be pursued with utmost speed until I can be assured that no additional oil will spill from the Macondo Well. . . Specifically, you must provide me your latest containment plan and schedule in the event that the Well Integrity Test is suspended, the status and completion timelines for all containment options currently under development, and details of any other viable source control options including hydraulic control that you are considering. . . As you develop the plans above, note that the primary method of securing the source is the relief well and this effort takes precedence. Therefore, I direct you to provide a detailed plan for the final stages of the relief well that specifically addresses the interaction of this schedule and any other activity that may potentially delay relief well completion."
    Should the test conclude, the Q4000 is expected to resume capturing and flaring oil and gas through the existing system. It has been capturing and flaring an average of 8,000 barrels a day (b/d) of oil in recent weeks. The Helix Producer also is expected to be available to resume capturing oil and flaring gas through the recently installed floating riser system. It has the capacity to capture approximately 20,000 – 25,000 b/d of oil. Plans continue for additional containment capacity and flexibility that are expected to ultimately increase recoverable oil volumes to 60,000-80,000 b/d. To date, the total volume of oil collected or flared by the containment systems is approximately 826,800 barrels.
    BP indicates that work on the first relief well, which started May 2, continues. The well reached a depth of 17,864 feet as of July 18 and the next scheduled operation is to carry out a ranging run. The first relief well has approached its last casing end point and, following the casing set, additional ranging runs will be used to guide the drill bit to a MC252 well intercept point. After interception, operations are expected to begin to kill the flow of oil and gas from the reservoir by pumping specialized heavy fluids down the relief well. The second relief well, which started May 16, is at a measured depth of 15,874 feet and has been temporarily halted so as not to interfere with the ranging runs being performed in the first relief well. Although uncertainty remains, the first half of August remains the current estimate of the most likely date by which the first relief well will be completed and kill operations performed.
    BP also reports that to date, almost 116,000 claims have been submitted and more than 67,500 payments have been made, totaling $207 million. The cost of the response to date amounts to approximately $3.95 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid, and Federal costs.   
    Access the latest update release from BP (click here). Access the statement from Allen (click here). Access the letter from Allen to BP (click here). Access a summary of the Administration's activities over the past 24 years (click here). Access the new RestoreTheGulf website for links to the latest Unified Command updates and more (click here). Access further updates from the BP website (click here).