Gulf of Mexico – BP announced on Tuesday that it has not only delayed pressure tests on a new cap designed to stop the gushing of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or at least create a means to capture a larger percentage of the oil, but it has also stopped the drilling of a critical relief well designed to completely block the well from underground.
BBC News reported that both BP and the U.S. Coast Guard would not specify the exact details involved, they would only say that more analysis was required before proceeding. This decision was reached by a joint group from BP as well as various government agencies, and was discussed with the Secretary of Energy, Physicist Dr. Stephen Chu. BP has stated that the decision was reached by the government.
BP vice president Kent Wells stated that the well’s “exact integrity” was not known, adding, according to MSNBC News, “It’s a good precaution for us to take at this time. We need to understand exactly what’s going on.” Furthermore, according to Reuters, he stated, “This test is so important that the decision was taken to give them another 24 hours to make sure that this was the best possible test procedure we could execute.”
There has been speculation that the well itself has had its integrity compromised and could blow out should the cap be closed. In addition, such a test may also compromise a relief well being created to plug the uncontrolled well under the surface of the sea floor.
In addition to the oil escaping from the well, there is an unusually large amount of methane which is being released.
According to CNN, when testing does proceed, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen stated that success will be determined according to how high the pressure is within the well cap. “In this exercise, high pressure is good. We are looking for somewhere between 8- and 9,000 psi inside the capping stack, which would indicate to us that the hydrocarbons are being forced up and the well bore’s being able to withstand that pressure.”
When finally initiated, the pressure testing will take anywhere from 6 to 48 hours.
Allen continued to size up his belief on the chance of success by stating, “I think we are very confident we can take control of this hydrocarbon stream and then slowly close all these valves and stop the emission of hydrocarbons. What we can’t tell is the current condition of the well bore below the sea floor and the implication of the pressure readings. That is, in fact, why we’re doing a well integrity test.”
However, despite BP’s false assurances prior to the catastrophe that disasters such as this were impossible, BP has since remained cautious, remarking in a statement, “The sealing cap system never before has been deployed at these depths or under these conditions.”