BP says Macondo wellbore detected by first relief well

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, June 25 -- BP PLC reported its first relief well being drilled to stop the Macondo well oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reached 16,275 ft on June 23, and drillstring was removed for a ranging run using wireline to locate the runaway well.

During the ranging run, BP detected the Macondo well. More ranging runs will be needed to precisely locate the well. Drilling and ranging operations will continue during the next few weeks toward the target intercept depth of about 18,000 ft, BP said.

BP plans for the relief well to intersect the existing wellbore just above the producing horizon, and pump heavy kill mud into the Macondo wellbore. This process is intended to kill the flow of oil and gas at the bottom of Macondo, which will be sealed with cement.

National Incident Commander (NIC) and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said the next phase will be slower paced than earlier relief well drilling efforts while the Development Driller III rig nears and intercepts the Macondo well.

A second relief well, which started May 16, has reached 10,500 ft. BP executives still anticipate that it will be mid-August before at least one of the relief wells is finished. The second relief well is being drilled as a backup to the first.

BP said it has spent $2.35 billion on the spill, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the gulf states, claims paid, and federal costs.

Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilled the Macondo well for BP and partners. On Apr. 20, a blowout caused an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 crew members. On Apr. 22, the semi sank.

Judge upholds ruling
In related news, a federal judge in New Orleans on June 24 stood by his June 22 temporary injunction, which overturned a 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed after the Deepwater Horizon accident and resulting oil spill.

The US Department of Justice had asked US District Judge Martin Feldman to delay his temporary injunction until the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans could review it. Feldman rejected that request.

Feldman has cleared the way so new offshore drilling legally can resume in the gulf, although oil companies are unlikely to resume drilling projects pending a ruling by an appeals court, analysts say.

US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar has said the 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed on May 27 was justified (OGJ Online, June 23, 2010). Salazar also said he plans to issue a new order “in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities.”

Surface spill efforts
Some 37,000 people are involved in efforts to collect and disperse oil on the gulf’s surface, to protect the shoreline, and to clean up oil that has reached shore. Spill response efforts include more than 4,500 vessels and some 100 aircraft, BP said June 25.

NIC on June 24 reported 179 miles of shoreline was currently oiled: 34 miles in Louisiana, 42 in Mississippi, 42 in Alabama, and 61 in Florida. These numbers change daily.

Skimming operations recovered a total of 610,000 bbl of oily liquid. In addition, 275 controlled burns have removed an estimated 239,000 bbl of oil from the sea's surface.

Some 530 miles of containment boom was deployed to prevent oil from reaching the coast.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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