Macondo well plugged with memorial cap

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Nov. 10 -- Eleven stars adorn a cap used in the plugging-and-abandonment process on BP PLC’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico where an Apr. 20 blowout trigged an explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible that killed 11 workers.

US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul D. Zukunft, federal onscene coordinator, said each star represents one of the 11 lives lost in the explosion.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement installed the cap on Nov. 8 and has finished testing and certifying nine plugs that sealed Macondo. Zukunft said the plugging-and-abandonment process was completed.

The Development Driller II and Development Driller III semis remain in the vicinity of Mississippi Canyon Block 252 where they are going through decontamination along with the Discoverer Enterprise drillship, he said. Transocean owns all three vessels. The semis were used to drilled a relief well and a backup relief well.

During the spill, the Discoverer Enterprise received Macondo oil and gas diverted by collection systems from leaking into the gulf. The drillship then flared that oil and gas.

Speaking during a weekly conference call on Nov. 10, Zukunft said the drillship and semis are being cleaned before they are moved back to shore. He emphasized offshore decontamination efforts involve skimming any oil that comes off the equipment. Meanwhile, workers continue retrieving spill response equipment from the seabed. About 12 vessels remain in the area, he said.

Zukunft said 587 miles of gulf beaches and marsh shows some degree of oiling with the majority of those miles showing only traces to lightly oiling. Some Mississippi and Louisiana wetlands and barrier islands show heavy oiling and are receiving the most concentrated response efforts, he said.

Some of the heaviest oiling of Louisiana marsh involves Bay Jimmy in Barataria Bay. Crews also continue working on recreational beaches in Florida and Alabama in efforts to get them completely clean before the 2011 spring break holiday for students, he said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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