BP integrity well test may be extended

By Eileen O’Grady

HOUSTON (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. government and BP Plc appeared at odds on Sunday about the need to stop a test that has halted the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico as a relief well moves closer to sealing the massive leak.

For now, the pressure test on the blown-out undersea well — described as a temporary measure to stop the oil long enough to allow engineers to determine if the well is intact and not leaking under the seabed — may be extended day by day.

BP said on Sunday it hoped the well, a mile below the water’s surface, could stay sealed until a relief well permanently stops the flow with heavy drilling mud and cement — a fix scheduled for mid-August.

But retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the top U.S. spill official, spoke on Saturday of a “temporary halt of oil” followed by the return to a complex process of siphoning the oil to an expanded number of vessels on the surface.

“When this test is eventually stopped, we will immediately return to containment,” he also said on Saturday.

On Sunday, Allen said there was no change to his position.

Allen will make the decision about whether to continue the pressure test that has halted the flow from the well that extends 2.5 miles under the seabed.

“We’re hopeful that if the encouraging signs continue, we’ll be able to continue the integrity tests all the way to the point that we get the well killed,” Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer told reporters on Sunday.

“Let’s not pre-judge where we get to but no one wants to see oil flowing back into the sea.”

Suttles said reopening the well would release oil into the Gulf of Mexico for up to three days even though capture vessels were standing by to begin processing oil within hours.

Allen said more work was needed to understand the pressure readings from the well that have been seen so far.

“It is important that all decisions are driven by the science,” he said in the statement on Sunday.

One source said the government likely wants to capture all of the leaking oil to establish the total amount escaping from the well.

Estimates have ranged widely from 5,000 barrels a day to 100,000 barrels a day since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank in late April.

“It would be advantageous for them (BP) to cooperate,” said Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of the professional geoscience programs at the University of Houston.

Ending the test would also reduce the current well pressure and any chance of creating a subsea oil leak, he said.

(Editing by John O’Callaghan)

BP integrity well test may be extended