Relief well likely to intercept Macondo well within 24 hr

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Sept. 15 -- Crews drilling a relief well to intercept the deepwater Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico have started the last drilling leg, and the relief well is expected to intercept Macondo within 24 hr, National Incident Commander and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Sept. 15.

“Four days from now it could be all done,” Allen told reporters in Kenner, La. “We’re within a 96-hr window of killing the well” from the bottom. Allen said actions to be taken by the relief well crew will depend upon the conditions found when the relief well penetrates the Macondo well annulus.

An Apr. 20 blowout of the Macondo well resulted in an explosion and fire on Tranocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in 5,000 ft of water. BP PLC is the operator.

The Deepwater Horizon drilled the Macondo well to a final depth of 18,360 ft, BP has said. No oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico since July 15. Scientists estimate 4.9 million bbl leaked, and BP said it captured 800,000 bbl of that. The relief well is being drilled by Transocean’s Development Driller III.

Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said federal scientists and others continue monitoring the gulf for subsurface oil. More than 30,000 samples of gulf water have been tested so far.

“There continues to be some oil in the subsurface,” Lubchenco said, adding it’s “very, very dilute.” She said tiny droplets of oil are being biodegraded naturally. “We are getting a better handle at how fast it is happening.”

On Aug. 4, the federal government issued an oil budget report in which it estimated 74% of the oil had broken down or been cleaned up by various methods.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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