BP told to submit blowout preventer removal plan

HOUSTON Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:24pm EDT

1 of 2. Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen rides on a crew boat in the Gulf of Mexico on a trip to view 'vessels of opportunity', private boats that are helping to clean up spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, in this July 8, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jeff Mason/Files

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - BP Plc will remove a failed blowout preventer from its ruptured Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico under watchful eyes of investigators probing the deadly April 20 explosion, the top U.S. official overseeing the oil spill response said.

Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told BP to submit a removal plan in a directive issued late Friday and made public on Saturday after a 48-hour pressure test indicated the giant stack of pipes and valves could be removed and replaced with another with little likelihood of an oil leak.

The plan must say how BP will contain a leak if necessary, Allen said.

The blowout preventer is key evidence subpoenaed by federal investigators seeking the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and unleashed the world's worst offshore oil spill.

More than 4 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf, contaminating wetlands, fishing grounds and beaches from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

No oil has leaked since July 15, when BP sealed shut a provisional cap over the wellhead.

Allen said BP's plan will ensure investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice and a joint team of the Coast Guard and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have "unfettered access to observe and record the entire removal and recovery process" and retrieve the equipment once it is brought ashore.

That will include continuous live camera feeds of the removal by underwater robots with enough backups to ensure no interruptions, Allen said.

In the interim, BP on Saturday said it began working to fish out a drillpipe scientists believe is hanging inside the blowout preventer. BP said that process could take several days.

Once another blowout preventer is installed on the well, BP said it will be able to resume drilling on a relief well to intersect the Macondo well to inject mud and cement and kill the leak for good. Allen said the intersect is expected sometime after the U.S. Labor Day holiday on September 6.

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Comments (6)
Alkan wrote:
Alkan here:

Was glad to see they will remove the present failed BOP, but hope the relief well never has to test its own BOP trying to re-kill this well.

With the BOP removed and the drill pipe recovered from the casing, plugging the well without the relief well is very simple.

In the last news conference that I watched Allen have, he stated that the oil he was worried about was above the cement in the lower annulus that U tubed upward from the downward pressure of the huge volume of cement that was pumped out the bottom of the lower pipe and then U tubed up into the annulus. It was pushed out the bottom of the casing pipe with a U turn upward into the space between the pipe and rock (the annulus) pushing 1000 bbl of oil ahead of it upward into the annulus far above this new cement into the annulus space.

The purpose of the relief well is to re-cement this annular space already proven to be sealed (by pressure tests — according to Allen).

If that were true, then the nearly 5000 feet of hard cement inside the lower pipe above the Monster Zone is solid and — also — the huge amount of cement that U tubed and turned up the lower annulus due to the pumping pressure (higher than annulus pressure) — is just as hard as that cement in the lower pipe.

I have seen a few inches of formation hold back a gusher before cable tooling it with one single stroke of the bit (in open hole) to break those inches and release the huge pressure below rushing up the open hole.

A mile of cement is better and thicker than a little “cap rock” — to cap the well.

So what are they worried about?

They worry that the relief well will somehow rupture something and push the 1000 bbl of oil out the top — and the upward flow would ruin their weak link of the “spooling nipple” the new cap sits on. This link is designed to be held by a Hydraulic ring.

However Allan says that this weak link connection was (stupidly) not designed for anything over 7500 psi and is only good for less than that (smart design instead of simply bolting it shut).

Before they installed the new cap (with the 7500 psi max rating) remember, they predicted the pressure containment needed greatly — over — 8000 psi with some estimates going to 11000 psi.

Already small bubbles and material has come out of the stack –especially when the pumping pressure was > 7000 psi pumping the mud that leaked a little (notice the black mud stuff on the stack during the mud pumping — I once watched a robot use a high pressure hose to wash it off LOL).

All such leaks were slow because their regions are bolted together — an not a worry like the weak link of the Hydraulic ring design — of the new cap that could blow off the stack — due to bad design.

They seem to fear that this oil is close somewhere near the top of the well and that it will come gushing out either from the annulus, or the pipe, or worry a rupture somewhere in the giant stack of stuff just above the sea bed casing pipe.

Their solution to this, as reported, is to now move a BOP from another well over to this one — because their design for the Macondo Well “cap” was only designed for less pressure that they expected the well to have — very smart people.

If this upper well 1000 bbl of oil (by some unreported leak not revealed in their talks)is thus open to the BOP, then why not connect some 18 inch casing to the top of the cap, lower a Reda Pump on tubing (and after opening the cap) pump the oil out to a surface ship… NOW? Then not remove the ship connection until after the relief well finishes its mischievous and dangerous business.

I suppose the last pressure test showed they could simply remove the entire giant stack of bad stuff from the wellhead.

Otherwise, if the relief well ruptured something with the old stack in place, the surface ship will sit there and just collect the O and G leaking up its casing to the top cap from the blowout — to sell or burn.

With the top cap open to the ship, then the pressure from any rupture can never exceed its stupid low pressure design.

I am glad they will remove the old stuff, as then they can remove the drill pipe and easily plug the well through tubing with a lower packer.

The whole mess is this.

The well is now very well sealed from the Monster Zone as mentioned above due to a (too good) cement job — which was followed by a Halliburton “squeeze job” during static kill to make it even better.

The relief well is being used, “Because we, or I, said WE will USE IT.”

If it ruptures something or creates another blow out of the present well, or has a BOP failure of its own, and creates a new Gulf Gusher, or if it drills into the zone and has a “lost circulation” problem — and then blows out — and all this unnecessary mess creates another disaster, “I said we would use it.”

Then (in that event) I suggest we send the Government a “hand mirror” with the words in “blood red” lipstick on its face saying, “Look who restarted this NEW Gulf Disaster.”

They could just abandon using this relief well and follow standard plugging rules for the Macondo Well — and I would breathe easier.

They will use the relief well.

“I said with one ’stake already driven through its heart’, I will now use the relief well to try and drive ‘a second stake through its heart’. It will not be dead or killed (twice over) until the relief well is used. Only then will my final and official word from the Government say — it has NOW been killed (twice).” Who is this spokesman admiral listening to in order to make senseless decisions?

Really, really smart thinking… at the expense and risk of the peoples of the Gulf Region.

Maybe he is smart and just not telling us he will abandon the relief well.

Sad sad thinking but hopefully not as bad as the thinking that lead to the First Blowout.

That is because a Second Unnecessary Blowout will have the stamp of approval of “our” Government on it.

Sad but true.

Allen’s last remarks said they might pull out the drilling pipe after removing the stack of stuff at the sea bed.

Immediately when they do that, things will start to get embarrassing for him.

With nothing inside the casing except for water and close to a mile of hard cement at the very bottom — Suddenly there is absolutely no need to use the relief well that they promise to use (hell or high water).

Most likely, they will either made the wrong or right Chess Move for those who like or dislike this relief well usage.

The mile of cement inside the pipe at the bottom of the hole — will never never move. They know this. The World knows this.

The only true need for a relief well is to cement the annulus — just outside the lower pipe (down near the rock hard mile of cement inside it).

In the O & G business you have a sealed well — and if you worry about the lower annulus seal, what do you do?

Everybody knows you perforate the lower part and squeeze cement into the outside part (the annulus). This is exactly what the relief well is there to do — when suddenly it becomes unnecessary to use it.

At the very point in time when the drill pipe is removed, there are two things you can do to fix the only remaining annulus worry.

One is cement using the dangerous relief well.

The other is to perforate the lower pipe through a packer (set on tubing) near the bottom and squeeze cement this worrisome annulus.

Ask any Oilman at all — which is safer to do.

Obviously the perforation into the lower annulus with a packer set on tubing prevents the pressure from coming up if it finds any way to. That would happen in the very unlikely event that the annulus is still open to the Monster Zone.

Allen says that the Monster Zone is isolated now by the static kill cement and therefore that could not happen.

I would still use the packer on tubing despite what he says. The packer is just good insurance in case Allen is wrong.

Then use Haliburton to “squeeze cement” the lower annulus through the tubing — where they worry is the ONLY weak link possibly still needing fixed — before calling the well DEAD.

They would do this with the relief well but it is too dangerous compared to the method above and totally unnecessary — other than the, “I told you I would use it” — pitifully stupid argument.

Just plug it by perforating the casing above the present 5000 foot cement plug, after removing the drill pipe — using a packer on tubing for protection and insurance.

They will have absolutely no excuse — at all then — to play around and blow up something with the relief well — and standard plugging procedure will plug the well anyway.

The cement annulus squeeze through a packer into the lower casing perforations — totally avoids any possible reason for using the relief well — other than the stupid “I said we would use it argument”

They played this Chess Game and the Common Sense of the World will now tell them “CHECKMATE” after they have removed the drill pipe.

It tells them — now forget the dangerous relief well.

Also it avoids us sending them the hand mirror.

Aug 21, 2010 5:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
libertadormg wrote:
The smoking gun will tell the tale.

Aug 21, 2010 6:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
neilc23 wrote:
“Fire, Aim, Ready” was Obama’s mantra for the first few months after the spill. “Keep a boot on BP’s throat”. And “Guilty intil proven innocent”, cried the Washington Vigilantes.

Now, after a preponderance of evidence that BP was perhaps the least responsible for the spill, and that the federal government was responsible delaying European expertise for over two months . . . now the federal investigators want to find out what actually CAUSED THE SPILL.

It’s easy to say, “Better late than never”. But the conduct of our federal government shows just how fragile our so-called representative democracy really is.

Aug 21, 2010 8:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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