BP's relief well drilling remains ahead of schedule

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, July 7 -- The first of two relief wells being drilled by BP PLC to kill its runaway Macondo well in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico is running days ahead of schedule, although spill response officials still anticipate an August completion date.

National Incident Commander and retired Adm. Thad Allen is in Houston this week meeting with BP executives to discuss the relief well and also the timing and logistics of possibly replacing the lower marine riser cap with a more permanent sealing cap.

Allen said the relief well has entered the slowest part of the drilling process in which crews need to precisely position the relief well in line with the blowout well using ranging runs.

“They have about 264 ft left to go before they can get to a point where they can potentially intercept the well,” Allen told reporters in a July 6 conference call. Crews drilling the first relief well are using the Development Driller III. A second relief well is being drilled as a backup to the first.

Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilled the Macondo well in 5,000 ft of water for BP and partners on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 when a blowout caused an explosion and fire that killed 11 people on Apr. 20 and resulted in an ongoing oil spill. Macondo was drilled to 18,000 ft.

Allen said a collection system involving the Helix Producer floating production unit and a floating riser was partially installed but weather and rough seas were delaying completion of that installation. Spill response crews were closely watching the weather, he said.

Once installed, the Producer can ride out 12 ft seas without having to decouple from the collection system, but crews need fairly calm seas to finish installing the collection system, which will bring total collection capacity to 53,000 b/d, he said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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