Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 114 BP Oil Spill: Well May Be Permanently Plugged

Aug 13: In the evening of August 12, BP reported that, operating with the guidance and approval of the National Incident Commander (NIC), it had completed the four-hour near ambient pressure test on the MC252 well in the Gulf of Mexico. The results were under review on August 13 between BP and the Federal science team and a recommendation on the path forward is expected to go to the NIC.
    Yesterday afternoon, at a press briefing National Incident Commander Thad Allen explained the importance of the pressure testing and indicated, in fact they may show that the well is already "killed" or permanently closed from the top and bottom. In response to a question, Allen said, "We may be the victims of our own success here in that once they looked at the results of the cementing from the static kill from the top they raised the question of whether or not the cement that entered the reservoir might have actually gone back up the annulus and sealed that. We think this is a low probability outcome. But we didn't want to pass by it and not actually consider it just in case that happened because if you start pumping mud into the annulus and there is a seal on the bottom there is no communication with the reservoir it would travel up the annulus to the point where it goes to the hangar at the top which is where the -- all of the casing and everything is suspended from and with enough pressure there is a way for that hangar to rise and the seal to open which would move it up into the blow out preventer and the capping stack. . ."

    So, in response to a question -- Based on the results of the pressure test in response to a question does that mean you don't have to intercept the well? -- Allen said, "We would have the option not to do that. The decision not to do that would have to be accompanied by the analysis of the risks and that would be based on the results of the pressure tests that are being run right now. I wouldn't rule out anything at this point. We think it's a low probability that we would not finish the relief well and cement but we need to run the test and analyze the data. . ."

    In response to a follow-up question -- "Basically you're saying you may not do the bottom kill because as everyone's always been saying that will be final kill. That may not be the case now?" -- Allen replied, "No, the bottom kill is the bottom kill. The question is did we somehow accomplish part of that through the top kill with the cement going back up the annulus. And then we have oil just trapped in the annulus that actually could be taken care of some other way as we plug and abandon the well. We just don't know and we're trying to use this pressure test as a way to understand that. This well would not be permanently killed unless it is sealed off completely in the casing and the annulus. The issue is somehow is there a chance we might have accomplished that through the static kill and to the point where if we try to do a kill from the relief well there would be enough pressure increase in there it would drive up through the seals and to the blow out preventer and the capping stack. . ." [Note: As of early afternoon the NIC had not reported on the final decision. A report should be forthcoming soon].

    Also, the White House announced that on Monday, August 16, at 2:00 PM EDT, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Jane Lubchenco will host a live chat to answer your questions about the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. A White House announcement indicates that, "The men and women of the Gulf who make their livelihood harvesting fish, shrimp, and oysters have been among those hardest hit by this spill. Enjoying some local seafood is one simple way Americans can support the people of the Gulf who have been battered by this spill." Questions may be submitted ahead of time via Facebook or a webform.

    Access a release from BP on the pressure test (click here). Access the transcript of the August 12 press briefing NIC (click here). Access an announcement and details on the White House live chat (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). Access the Unified Command website which contains additional information (click here).