OGJ Senior Staff Writer
HOUSTON, Aug. 9 – BP PLC, operator of the deepwater Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, said the first relief well was at 17,909 ft measured depth on Aug. 9. Crews on Transocean Ltd.’s Development Driller III semisubmersible drilling rig are alternating drilling with ranging runs.
The Macondo well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 has been shut in since July 15, and there has been no oil flowing into the gulf since then.
“Following the completion of cementing operations on the MC252 well on Aug. 5, pressure testing was performed which indicated there is an effective cement plug in the casing. BP believes the static kill and cementing procedures have been successful,” the company said.
During the static kill on Aug. 4-5, BP stopped the flow of oil and gas from the top of the well by pumping heavy drilling fluid and then cement into the well using the choke lines on the failed blowout preventer of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig.
An Apr. 20 blowout of the Macondo well caused an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 people.
On Aug. 9, National Incident Commander and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told reporters that the relief well was within 30-40 ft of the Macondo wellbore. The ranging runs confirm the relief well’s proximity to the target.
Depending upon weather, Aug. 15 is the estimated date by which the relief well will intercept the MC252 well annulus, BP said. After the intercept, it could take days or weeks to kill the well from the bottom, said Kent Wells, BP vice-president of exploration and production.
A second relief well, being drilled by the Development Driller II, was suspended at 15,874 ft MD so as not to interfere with completion of the first relief well. The second relief well is intended as a backup.
Surface response continues
Work continues to identify and collect oil on the surface of the sea and to collect and clean up oil that has reached shore. Allen said skimming operations recovered more than 826,000 bbl of oily liquid total, and 411 controlled burns have been done on the water’s surface.
Some 30,800 people, more than 5,050 vessels, and dozens of aircraft are engaged in the response effort, Allen said.
BP continues to make claim payments to individuals and businesses. As of Aug. 7, 145,000 claims were submitted, and more than 103,900 payments worth a total of $319 million had been made.
The cost of the response to date amounts to $6.1 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, static kill and cementing, grants to the gulf states, claims paid, and federal costs.
Previously, BP created a $20 billion escrow account to satisfy certain obligations arising from the oil and gas spill.
On Aug. 6, BP appointed Mike Utsler as BP’s lead representative on the Unified Area Command and as chief operating officer for the BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. Utsler is a vice-president for BP. His new appointment was effective immediately.
Utsler had served as BP’s commander in its incident command post in Houma, La., since April. Previously, Doug Suttles worked as BP’s representative to the overall response to the spill. Suttles returned to his role in Houston as chief operating officer for BP Exploration & Production.
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