BP’s Gulf Well May Not Be Permanently Killed Until September

Aug 17th, 2010 | By businessnews | Category: Business

August 16, 2010, 3:06 PM EDT

By Mark Chediak and Allison Bennett

Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) — BP Plc’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico may not be permanently killed until September as U.S. officials consider two options to allow a final plugging procedure from the bottom while controlling pressure at the top.

A team of federal scientists and BP engineers is looking at either attaching a pressure-control system to the top of the well or installing a new blowout preventer, an emergency device designed to stop the flow of oil and gas, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said today during a press conference.

The equipment is needed to control pressure that may be created when mud and cement are pumped from the bottom of the well for the final plug, Allen said. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is meeting today with the team to make a recommendation on how to proceed. Allen said he expects a decision “in the next day or two.”

“The top is the most important right now and how to manage pressure when we’re going to do the intercept and the kill,” Allen said.

Installing a new blowout preventer would take several days, while attaching a pressure-relief system may require about a week, he said. The system would have to be built by London-based BP for the current cap in place on top of the well, he said.

The new blowout preventer would be taken from a second relief well. Installation would need approval from the Interior Department and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management because a plug would be put down the second relief well and it would be deemed temporarily abandoned, Allen said.

Trapped Oil

BP determined that 1,000 barrels of oil remain trapped in the well and U.S. officials are concerned some could be released when a relief well starts injecting material from the bottom.

Pressure tests indicate no oil or gas is now flowing up the reservoir after cement was pumped from the top earlier this month in a “static-kill” procedure, Allen said.

“I think the results of the static kill were much more positive than they believed,” Allen said.

BP stopped the leak July 15 after the well gushed an estimated 4.9 million barrels, making it the world’s largest offshore accidental oil spill. The well was damaged when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caught fire and sank in April.

–With assistance from Katarzyna Klimasinska in Houston. Editors: Kim Jordan, Charles Siler.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.net; Allison Bennett in New York at abennett23@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net

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