BP has announced that a critical test on the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico will proceed as planned after a hydraulic leak that had delayed the tests was fixed on Thursday.
Tests of the integrity of the well were said to be vital to establishing a total mop-up mechanism until the permanent solution — relief wells — are put in place. These tests were initially scheduled for July 13 following the installation of the latest cap — called a “capping stack” — on the Deepwater Horizon well. Yet they were postponed because of the leak and also due to the need for further checks on the testing procedure.
In particular, Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander in charge of the spill response, said in a briefing on July 14 that the test was rescheduled to start after a day’s delay during which time the procedure had been reviewed by a team of scientists from BP, other companies and the government.
“We sat long and hard about delaying this test,” he said, adding that it was in the interest of the American people, the safety of the environment and of the project to take a 24-hour break “to make sure we were getting this absolutely right.”
Reports quoted Kent Wells, Senior Vice President of BP as saying that overnight, engineers using remotely operated submersibles replaced equipment on the tight-sealing cap at the top of well, 5,000 feet under water. The reports added that with the repair made Mr. Wells said, “We’re looking to start this test as soon as we possibly can.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the temporarily elevated rate of flow of oil into the Gulf, Admiral Allen said, “As you know our current flow rate projections are 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day. We had intended by about this time to have 53,000 barrel a day capacity by bringing the Helix Producer online.”
“Robust containment strategy”
The Admiral added that he did not want to lose track of the fact that his team was following “a very robust containment strategy that was actually started in early June where we directed BP to come up with alternatives to increase redundancy and capacity related to the new flow rate numbers”.
He also said he would put in writing to BP the revised steps within the testing procedure, as decided through the multi-party consultations. He added, “Two of the very positive aspects that can come out of this… are an assessment of whether or not we can just cap the well at this point and the pressures can be maintained without damaging the wellbore or the casings.”