12 July 2010

New Sealing Cap Being Lowered, Prepared for Crucial Pressure Test

Update #2 13July2010: BP is conducting a series of well-integrity pressure tests, to determine whether the wellhead can withstand a total shutdown of oil flow by the new sealant cap / blowout preventer stack. During this time, oil collection to the Q4000 and the Helix Producer are suspended.

If the well and wellhead can hold the pressure coming up the Macondo bore, BP may decide to use the hydraulic ram stack incorporated into the new cap, to shut down the flow. Presumably, if they have any doubt whatsoever about the ability of the well and wellhead to hold high pressure over the next weeks or months -- while the relief wells are attempting a "bottom kill" -- BP will decide to resume full-scale oil containment and collections through the new cap and through the old blowout preventer on the seafloor. More...

Update 18:30 CDT: After a painstakingly slow approach, BP was successful at placing the new sealing cap atop the transition spool (which is bolted atop the blowout preventer). At this point all oil and gas appears to be passing through the new cap and transiting the upper vents. Now BP will conduct a 48 hour test to determine the integrity of the well, and whether they can capture all the oil that is escaping.

If the tests are a success, BP should be able to contain all of the leaking oil for the next few weeks -- until the relief wells can finally kill the well from below (bottom kill)....

Original posting:
BP crews were about 300 feet away from placing a new sealing cap on top of the runaway Maconodo well in the Gulf of Mexico this morning, the company's Chief Executive Officer Doug Suttles said.

The cap, which is essentially a small blow out preventer with a cap on top, has the potential to completely shut in the flow of oil from the well. It will be lowered into place sometime today, Suttles said. _NOLA

BP is in the final stages of lowering the new sealing cap on top of the transition spool (seen above) which had been affixed onto the Macondo blowout preventer (BOP) earlier. Operations are proceeding ahead of schedule. As soon as the sealing cap is in place and prepared, BP can go ahead with a 48 hour pressure test to determine whether they can fully "shut in" oil containment.
Doug Suttles: Yes, Anne. So once we get the cap in place and fully hooked up we will then – the first thing we’ll do is close in production containment activities on the Q4000 and the helix producer. Once we’ve done that we’ll then close in – if you recall off the top of this ceiling cap is perforated pipe which will allow the flow to come out. We’ll then close that in. Working with government scientists in particular the DOE. We have a protocol for examining the integrity of the well based on the pressure response. That test could last – the initial phases could last about 48 hours. But depending on the response it may have to be extended. So at this point we’ll have to monitor the test and determine whether we can either leave the – leave the well closed in or whether it will be necessary to open it back up again. But I think we should expect that will take at least 48 hours before we know the results.
Anne Thompson: Does that mean there will be no oil flowing out at that point?
Doug Suttles: During the integrity test that’s correct, Anne. Unless of course we discover something during the test that requires us to reopen the flow, but during that 48 hour period there would be no flow. _BP PDF Transcript 12July2010

Once the cap is installed, the company will perform a series of pressure tests to ascertain the wellbore's integrity, Mr. Suttles said.

High pressure would be positive news indicating that the integrity of the well is good and the cap is collecting all of the oil, Mr. Suttles said. Low pressure would indicate oil is escaping and the leak is not fully contained, he said. In that case, the company would have to rely on its containment ships.

The pressure testing could take a minimum of 48 hours, Mr. Suttles said. The entire operation should be finished within four to seven days of its start, which was Saturday.

"There are challenges with each of these steps we have to understand that some of these operations could take longer than forecasted," Mr. Suttles said.

Mr. Suttles stressed that no matter how things work out with the cap, the company is still placing its faith in the ability of a relief well to permanently kill the overflowing well. The relief well could be finished by the end of the month, he said. _WSJ_via_EnergyTribune

Another technical update is scheduled from BP at 14:30 CDT

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