BP prepares to resume relief well operations on Macondo

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, July 26 -- BP PLC, operator of the Macondo blowout well in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, said the semisubmersible drilling the first relief well returned to Mississippi Canyon Block 252 and was taking steps to reconnect with the relief well and resume drilling.

“These steps are expected to take a number of days,” BP said July 26. Transocean Ltd.’s Development Driller III semi was back at the Macondo site on July 24 after Tropical Storm Bonnie was downgraded to a tropical depression as it crossed the gulf (OGJ Online, July 24, 2010).

Most of the oil spill response vessels were evacuated last week as a precaution in anticipation of potential gale-force winds associated with Bonnie. Macondo was left shut in with a sealing cap on it. At least one remotely operated vehicle remained at the site where an Apr. 20 blowout resulted in an explosion and fire that killed 11 people on the Deepwater Horizon semi, which drilled the Macondo well.

National Incident Commander and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said pressure readings taken inside the sealing cap continue to indicate well integrity. A seismic survey vessel, the Gecko Topaz, completed a seismic run on July 25 and detected no anomalies.

“The stack pressure has gone above 6,900 psi and currently stands at 6,904 psi,” Allen told reporters during a July 25 briefing.

The semi drilling the second relief well, Development Driller II, was moving back into position, and will take reconnect with a second relief well. “However, work on the second relief well has been suspended so as not to interfere with the first,” BP said.

Allen said the Helix Q4000 multiservice vessel also had returned to MC252 and was being prepared for the “static kill,” which will involve pumping heavy drilling fluid into the top of the Macondo well.

The static kill is expected sometime in early August once the first relief well lays its casing. BP had said the static kill will kill the flow of oil and gas at the top of the well. Then, the relief well will pump mud into the bottom of the well to stop the flow of oil and gas at that level. Eventually, BP will place a cement plug to permanently seal the well in 5,000 ft of water.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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