BP’s latest effort to plug well expected in 3-5 days

By Anna Driver and Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (BestGrowthStock) – Ships dealing with BP Plc’s oil spill headed back to the site on Saturday as a Gulf of Mexico storm weakened, and the latest operation to plug the ruptured well may start in three to five days, the U.S. government’s point man on the crisis said.

Even though tropical Storm Bonnie weakened to a tropical depression, it delayed work by seven to nine days on a relief well being drilled by BP that is intended to permanently seal the blown-out well, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said at a news conference.

But the “static kill” operation — intended to plug the well by pumping heavy drilling mud and possibly cement into it — could begin in three to five days, Allen added, while saying this was a “rough estimate.”

“The ‘static kill’ could go very quickly,” Allen said.

BP placed a tight-fitting containment cap over the ruptured well that on July 15 stopped — at least temporarily — the flow of oil into the sea for the first time since the April accident. That cap is seen as a temporary fix.

The rig drilling the relief well and other vessels at the site of the well, located off the Louisiana coast, were moved out of the path of the storm on Friday.

The ship drilling the relief well is now back at the Macondo location, a spokesman for Transocean Ltd, the vessel’s owner, said by email.

It will take 24 to 48 hours to put all equipment back in place, Allen said.

BP’s well, situated a mile under the ocean surface, ruptured on April 20 in an explosion that killed 11 workers. The accident caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, with hundreds of miles of coastline soiled by oil while tourism and fishing businesses suffered.

INTERSECT AND SEAL

The British energy company has been drilling two relief wells as a permanent fix to the blown-out well, which leaked huge amounts of oil into the ocean. A relief well is intended to intersect and finally seal the damaged well, which extends 13,000 feet below the seabed.

The rig now has to reconnect to the relief well using 40-foot-long (12-meter) strings of riser pipe that were pulled up and stored on the rig, Allen said.

BP has said it expects to permanently plug the ruptured well using the relief well in mid-August.

“I think we’re probably roughly looking at least right now seven to nine days and that could grow,” Allen said of the delay in the work on the relief well.

Two ships, including the one that operates the undersea robots that provide a live video feed of the wellhead, were left at the site when the others departed due to the weather.

One of the undersea robots was able to operate throughout the time the other ships were leaving. The pressure under the well cap increased, and the cap continued to hold, Allen said.

BP has said the “static kill” operation would resemble BP’s failed “top kill” effort in May with one critical difference — this time, the well is capped.

Both involve pumping mud and cement into the well through a hose connected to a failed blowout preventer at the seabed. But mud shot out the top of the uncapped well during the top kill.

The cap on the wellhead should mean that mud would not escape, BP has said.

Stock Market News

(Editing by Will Dunham and Mohammad Zargham)

BP’s latest effort to plug well expected in 3-5 days