August 19, 2010

BP Well Kill Delayed Until September

A U.S. Official said Thursday that BP is hoping to permanently seal the ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well in the second week of September, as pressure concerns keep delaying the final "bottom kill" operations.

"We should be looking somewhere in the week after Labor Day," US spill chief Thad Allen told CNN television.

The oil well was capped on July 15, and earlier this month BP engineers performed a "static kill" operation by plugging it with heavy drilling fluid and sealing it with cement.

However, there is an area behind the well and the outer well bore known as the annulus that still needs to be sealed off from the reservoir miles below the sea surface.

A relief well has been drilled and is expected to intercept the well, but experts are concerned that drilling into the annulus could lead to pressure problems towards the top of the well.

Allen told CNN after days of tests that they agreed the best option is to replace the blowout prevent valve with a new one.

He said BP would start by "flushing out the current blowout prevent."

"Then (we will) actually move to put a new blowout preventer on, and then do the 'bottom kill.' This will ensure that we can withstand any pressures that may be generated," Allen told CNN.

Allen and BP originally pointed to mid-August as the target date for shutting down the ruptured Macondo well once and for all.

Two storms in the Gulf delayed the drilling of the relief well by several days.

Allen vowed to finish the job, telling MSNBC television:  "We're making sure that we put a stake in the heart of this monster."

"We've been working a week and a half with BP on a way forward and I have been equivocating on the timeline for a good reason, because we needed to take concrete steps to kill this well."

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and leaving 4.1 million barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf.


Image Caption: Relief well riser pipe in the "moonpool" of the Transocean Development Driller III (DD III), while on standby from relief well drilling operations at the MC-252 incident site in the Gulf of Mexico, on Tuesday, 17 August 2010. (Image © BP p.l.c.)


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