Things keep getting curiouser and curiouser with the Well That Won’t Die. In his presser this morning, Adm. Allen announced that they are still trying to decide what to do about the relief well, the weak components on the old BOP, and how they’re going to approach the relief well, which is still just sitting there, a tantalizing 3 1/2 feet from the blowout wellbore. Dithering seems a strong word, but one I’ll now use. You’ll recall that right after BP started the surprise “well integrity test” back in July, they announced the surprise “static kill”, characterizing it as low pressure, low risk, and an effort to “stabilize” the well. They pumped that procedure on August 3rd, and, declaring the well “static”, then pumped 500 barrels of cement announcing that the entire job went right down the casing and out into the formation. That was 11 days ago.
Since, BP and Adm. Allen raised the ominous possibility that there was something mysterious going on in the annulus, the space between the production casing and the intermediate casing. Adm. Allen has gone on and on about 1,000 barrels of oil in the annulus, “near ambient” pressure testing, rising pressure, falling pressure, holding pressure, and bleeding pressure, to the bewilderment of everyone, including me. Kent Wells, the star of the BP “Technical” McBriefings, where no technical data is provided, and only few questions are taken (notice I didn’t say answered), has been AWOL since his last appearance six days ago. The purpose of the “new ambient” pressure test is still unclear, but, after being hounded for over a week by the DailyKos Gulf Watchers, the Admiral compelled BP to release the BOP pressure readings, but BP left out basic information like starting point, whether the well is shut in at the surface or seafloor, the fluid in the riser, etc., so the data is pretty much useless, like most other information that’s been disclosed.
Today, the Admiral admitted that there were three components in the the BOP stack that are of concern; we know which ones those are, since we’ve been talking about them for over a month. The weak components are the flex joint, right on top of the old stack, the riser adapter, and what they call the transition spool are all rated below the other components in the stack, between 5,000 psi to 6,000 psi maximum working pressure. In each of these procedures that BP has undertaken, the top kill, the well integrity test, the injectivity tests, and static kill, the pressures that BP announced actually exceeded the rated pressures of at least one of those components. After performing all of these machinations, they are now suddenly concerned about pressure on the BOP, and are actually talking about changing out the entire stack before completing the bottom kill. What?
All of this delay and dithering is confusing, at best. Pulling the stack at this point is even more concerning, especially with drill pipe and God know what all inside, including the casing hanger. Had they followed the original plan of set the capping stack, hooking up the risers that were supposed to be completed in mid-July, and producing the well to the surface while they were killing it from below, all of this new discussion would be moot. This static kill, where they really have no idea where the cement and mud went, has only complicated matters, created more uncertainty, and absolutely more delay. The Admiral is clearly weary with all of the questions, snapping at a reporter today who was asking for a timeline saying, “It will happen when I say it happens. Seems to me that he was a little late to the “going over the rated pressures” party, and is not happy about it.
In the meantime, we’re watching the tropical weather news every day.
This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.
Disaster on the Horizon, the first book published on the Gulf oil disaster, will be available in mid-October.