Feds Delay Relief Wells Until Mid September As They Admit BP Gulf Oil Spill Well Collapse Maybe Stopping Oil Flow



As I previously reported when BP filled the leaking well with cement it was a disaster in the making.

The well was still leaking above and below the sea floor which certainly would prevent the cement from curing correctly.

Shortly afterward oil and methane began leaking from the sea floor surrounding the well. See this and this.

BP and the government then declared mission accomplished but in reality BP was filtering the video feeds to hide the leaks coming from the sea floor.

Shortly afterward drilling experts came forward and revealed that the static kill operation was a massive failure which backfired making the well even harder to seal and ultimately left BP without a game plan and having no idea what to do next.

Yesterday I reported that BP lowered a tool to the BP Gulf Oil Spill well to flush it from any hydrocarbons and fill it with seawater so work on finally killing the well could continue.

BP is currently lowering a new device to the BP Gulf Oil Spill Well.

With the lack of technical information coming out of BP and the media currently we can only speculate what is going on here.

It is theorized that this maybe what is known as a Collet Connector that will be put on top of the capping stack.

The substance coming out of the collect appears to be dye and mud and methanol to flush the pipe before it connects.

The capping stack will be opened and the device will be used flush any remaining hydrocarbons (oil and gas) from the well.

After the well is flushed it is unclear whether BP will continue with the relief well or if the existing blowout preventor will be replaced with a new one.

From Thad Allen’s briefing earlier.

We continue to assess the condition of the well. The science team continues to meet with the BP engineers. There are a couple of things we are doing to reduce the timeline for what will occur after decisions are made. One is the direction I provided, to take the blowout preventer from Development Driller II, the second relief well, and make preparations to bring that to the scene. Whether we put a new blowout preventer before or after the bottom kill will be needed, so this is an effort that will have to be expended anyway.

In addition to that, we are bringing the Discoverer Enterprise in over the well. And over the next day, we will use the Q4000 and the Discoverer Enterprise to actually circulate any extraneous materials and liquids that are in the blowout preventer, the area of the well above the cement plug, and the capping stack to purge that system completely. And when we are done, we will fill it with seawater, and then we will do an ambient pressure test with the same type of liquid that’s inside the blowout preventer that is outside the blowout preventer to ascertain if there are any issues regarding well integrity with the annulus and any types of leakage.

As you know, we’ve dropped the pressure in the capping stack down significantly. We see slight pressure drops throughout the day. We attribute that to gas that is coming up from residual product that’s in the well and escaping through those leaks that are in the flanges, the blowout preventer and the capping stack. Our intent is to flush that entire system, fill it with seawater, equalize the type of material that’s inside and outside, and do an ambient pressure test.

This will be one of the final vital signs that we will need in order to make a determination on how to go forward and whether or not to proceed with the bottom kill through the annulus with some kind of a pressure control on the existing capping stack and blowout preventer or actually bring in a blowout preventer from the DDII and put that on before we do the bottom kill.

As I learn more I will provide updates here.

BP’s press release also gave us a little more information on what the flush tool would accomplish.

BP Begins Flushing MC252 Subsea Equipment In Advance of Ambient Pressure Testing
Release date: 18 August 2010

HOUSTON – Under the guidance and approval of the Unified Area Command, BP has been authorized to begin flushing drilling mud and hydrocarbons from the MC252 well sealing cap and the original Deepwater Horizon Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) and Blow Out Preventer (BOP). The flushing is in advance of a pressure test procedure that will study the well’s BOP stack and sealing cap under ambient conditions.

The work began Wednesday afternoon and the flushing procedure will involve the following steps:

  • The Discoverer Enterprise will attach a drill string to the top of the existing sealing cap.
  • The middle blind shears of the sealing cap will be opened.
  • The Q-4000 will pump an ‘anti-freeze’ mixture down through the existing manifold and into the BOP’s choke and kill lines. The liquid used in the flushing will be completely contained and carried to the surface through the Enterprise drill string.
  • Following the flushing, the sealing cap’s blind shear ram will be closed.

Following successful flushing of the subsea equipment, BP will conduct an ambient pressure test to reassure that the well is secure. The test will be conducted over a 48-hour period, which mimics twice the time estimated to remove the original BOP and replace it with the Transocean Development Driller II (DDII) BOP.

In anticipation of a successful test, and as directed by the National Incident Commander, the DDII is preparing its BOP for further use on the MC252 well. In doing so, a storm packer will be set in the DDII well prior to moving off the second relief well site.

In yesterday’s press briefing Thad Allen admitted that government did not have a plan or a time line in place and basically said that they are playing everything by ear but reiterated it would take BP the four days complete the relief well if the flush tests were successful.

Harry Weber: Admiral Allen, Harry Weber with the Associated Press. Thanks for taking this call. Am I wrong about this? It sounds, as we’re talking here today, that you don’t really at this point still have a firm idea about when you’re going to be able to give the order to continue drilling and move towards the interception and bottom kill.

And can you provide a little bit more detail around why we’re not at the point yet where you all have the ability to do that, that you don’t have a decision yet on the best course forward on relieving the pressure? And I would have thought that that was something the engineers all along would have been able to predict, and I’m curious why there wasn’t a plan in place earlier on, with regard to relieving that pressure build-up that you’ve been talking about the last few days.

Thad Allen: OK, number one, there wasn’t a plan in place because this has never been done before. And, number two, I have never given you a timeline. I’ve always said this will be conditions-based. We’re concerned about the vital signs of this well. We continue to be concerned about the vital signs.

Our first goal is to do no harm. We are doing extensive consultation between our engineering team and the BP engineers. We are moving to prepare the well, the BOP, and a new blowout preventer for either course of action, whether it is putting a blowout preventer before or after we do the bottom kill. We will know when we have satisfied ourselves that we know the vital signs and we’ve removed every piece – any shadow of a doubt of any information we could develop from top side before we go forward, and it’s nothing more than an overabundance of caution in being responsible and doing our jobs.

Next question?

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Kristen Hays with Reuters.

Kristen Hays: Yes, hello, Admiral. I’ve got two questions. The flush out and all that, are you looking to bring the pressure to the same place where it is just outside the BOP, indeed, the amount of pressure there is just from the water? And, second of all, I’m wondering, are scientists considering possibly just turning that drill bit parallel to the Macondo well and just drilling straight into the reservoir to pump mud and cement there, rather than intersecting the well at all?

Thad Allen: We’re trying to do two things while the evaluation of alternatives is going on. We have the opportunity to develop more vital signs for the well, one of them being to remove all foreign objects – all foreign liquids from the current well, flush it, and fill it with seawater, so we have exactly the same density of material inside and outside the BOP that will allow us to do an ambient pressure test to see if there’s any kind of pressure, a rise or fall related to something other than what we believe now to be the gas bubbles that are escaping and causing the drop in pressure.

If we go to the ambient pressure test and there’s no significant change in pressure, we’ll have removed another variable in what’s causing the – even the minor pressure fluctuations we’ve been encountering. That will tell us more about the condition of the well and the condition of the annulus as we move towards making the decision between moving the blowout preventer before or after the relief well.

Kasie Klimansinska: Hi, thank you for taking my question. Admiral, could you please provide like a timeline of what exactly will happen around the Macondo well perhaps over the next five days, by the end of this week?

Thad Allen: I will give you a sequence of events. If I give you a timeline and it changes, we will have a credibility problem, so I will give you a sequence of events.

Kasie Klimansinska: OK.

Thad Allen: We are in the process right now of evaluating alternatives on how to intercept the annulus and finish the relief well. Our scientists, working with the BP engineers, have determined that we need to understand the annulus, area outside the well casing, and between that and the wellbore, how that will react to the pressure of the mud that enters that area when we intercept the well.

We are concerned that a pressure going up the annulus could push through a seal at the top, enter the blowout preventer in the capping stack, and might cause a problem to the existing combination of the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer and the capping stack that’s been installed and the connecting spool that joins them together.

So we have asked for two detailed courses of action. One is how we would relieve pressure should it build up in the current stack configuration, so there would not be any kind of a threat to the integrity of the annulus or the blowout preventer itself, or, number two, to go ahead and remove the current blowout preventer and the capping stack, replace it with a blowout preventer from the Development Driller II, which is drilling the second relief well. We’ve actually ordered that to be moved because it’s going to be needed in any account, that will be the new blowout preventer that goes on the well.

When we decide which course of action will be taken, we will then make those preparations, whether it is putting the pressure, risk mitigation device on the current stack, or moving a new blowout preventer in. Once either one of those is in place and we’re assured we’ve minimized the risk as much as we can from a pressure problem in the annulus, we will then direct the relief well to go forward.

So that will all be conditions-based, and I can’t tell you how many days it will take to do that. We will do it when we’re comfortable moving ahead.

In the meantime, we are going to do an ambient pressure test. We’re going to flush everything out of the blowout preventer and the capping stack, fill it full of seawater, and continue to look for any pressure anomalies or deviations.

Once we give the go-ahead to complete the relief well, it will take approximately four days to drill the final remaining amount and intercept the annulus. And it’ll take several days after that to finish cementing and conduct the pressure test.

However overnight in the middle of a 48 hour flush test the the tool came off the well and was once again re-lowered to the well this morning indicating that something unexpected occurred.

Updating us with the “official version” of the the story this morning Thad Allen told CNN today that the Feds have now delayed the relief wells until mid September but gave no mention of how or why the flush tool was removed or the status of the tests that had been ran overnight.

Rush Transcript Summary

Flushing out current BOP, looking for material that might pose a problem.

Move to put a new BOP on.

Then do the bottom kill.

If everything lines up we should be looking at the week after labor day… hopefully… hopefully.

The bad news here is the federal government is finally admitting that a collapse in the sea floor may be blocking the flow of oil into the well and not the cement that BP has pumped into the well.

Transcript Summary

At 1:30 in: Collapse of formation surrounding wellbore may be blocking bottom of annulus, not cement. …

At 3:15 in: We don’t know what is blocking annulus… Might not take much to move whatever is blocking bottom, therefore risking direct communication between reservoir and surface.


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