BP prepares to start integrity test on Macondo well

(story was updated on July 15 with an equipment-related delay in test)

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, July 14 – BP PLC prepared to start shutting in the runaway Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico for a well integrity test late July 14 following a 24-hr delay in which federal officials, scientists, and industry experts reviewed plans for the testing procedure. BP reported an equipment problem caused a second delay in the start of the test.

Crews replaced a choke line and hub on a ram stack. Meanwhile, oil and gas collection efforts resumed pending repairs and a repeat of preparations and equipment positioning for the complicated integrity test. BP tentatively expected the test to start on July 15 following equipment repairs.

National Incident Commander and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen had authorized BP on July 14 to proceed with the test in which pressure is to be gradually increased using a sealing cap that includes a three-ram stack.

After the test starts, BP, scientists, and government officials planned consultations every 6 hr provided that pressure readings within the top of the well rise toward the anticipated goal of 8,000-9,000 psi, Allen said.

“If pressure readings stay low, then oil probably is going somewhere else,” Allen said, adding that the test would be stopped if this scenario were to develop.

Allen authorized the test following what he called “an overabundance of caution” during which time a scientific team, including industry experts and US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, requested more information from BP and studied the geology surrounding the well.

Kent Wells, BP senior vice-president of exploration and production, told reporters that cameras on six remotely operated vehicles would monitor the seabed around the well and also in the surrounding vicinity for any oil leaks.

The integrity test will involve a number of steps done in a certain sequence in which vents and valves are closed to shut in the well.

“We will do this in a precise manner and minimize the risk,” Wells said. On July 14, crews stopped the collection of oil to the Helix Q4000 and the Helix Producer in preparation for the test. Hours later, BP resumed collection efforts after a leak was found in a choke line, delaying the integrity test.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com

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