August 11, 2010

Storm Delays BP’s Relief Well

An impending storm has delayed the final efforts to kill the damaged BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico until sometime next week, said US spill chief Thad Allen on Tuesday.

The storm should not be a threat to reopening the plugged well, but Allan said he decided to suspend the drilling of the relief well as a precaution.

After drilling some 17,909 feet below sea level, the first relief well is about 30 feet from intercepting the damaged Macondo well, although the last part of drilling is by far the trickiest and most time-consuming part.

"We would have been in a position to probably do it on Thursday or Friday of this week," said Allen, adding it has now been pushed back two or three days. "That would take it possibly to (the) Sunday through Tuesday window next week."

The National Hurricane Center said there was a 70 percent likelihood of the weather system to develop off the west coast of Florida becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.

"We don't necessarily expect gale force winds but we expect the weather to be choppy enough out there," said Allen. "Terminating the drilling operations and holding still where they're at was the best thing to do until the front passed through."

BP executed a static kill operation last week that suppressed the gushing oil with mud and cemented in the main drill pipe. However, there is concern that the area between the pipe and the outer well bore could contain hydrocarbons. Once the relief well intercepts the Macondo well, scientists can check before sealing the bottom of the well bore once and for all with cement.

Experts were discussing whether to use the extra downtime due to the weather delay to conduct a pressure test that would provide more clues as to the condition of the well bore, or annulus.

"The more we know that to a virtual certainty before we drill into the well, the better off we are going to be in being able to adapt what we finally need to do to kill the well," explained Allen.


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