Admiral Allen announced today that BP’s fishing job being undertaken on their Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well has been called off due to total failure. You’ll recall that I disagreed with the procedure when it was announced on the 21st, believing it was unwise and risky. After now attempting to fish out the drill pipe (actually 3 pieces) for several days, they have called off the job after completely failing at achieving their goal. Previously, Adm. Allen had said that they wanted to get all the drill pipe out before pulling the BOP (which I also think is unwise), and replacing it with the BOP from the DDII before completing the relief well.
Now, after being treated to a remarkable demonstration of the capabilities of downhole cameras the last couple of nights, we at least know what’s inside the BOP, the general condition of the rams, and also that even brand new capping stack rams are subject to getting jammed by hydrates. Two nights ago, they couldn’t get the rams on the capping stack open and had to de-hydrate them with methanol and glycol before they would work. Not comforting. After multiple camera runs, pumping more methanol and glycol, and a few failed fishing tool runs, they’ve thrown in the towel. However, take heart. They’re going to pull the damn BOP anyway. That’s right, they’re going to pull the BOP anyway. What’s amazing is that they’re pulling it with an estimated 3,000 feet of drill pipe hanging in a set of rams, as well as two other smaller pieces in the stack and God knows what else. Admiral Allen said they’re setting an overpull limit of 80,000 pounds over stack weight to pull it free, worried that more would dislodge the casing hanger and packoff that are supposedly in the casing hanger. They couldn’t get the camera in that far down, but they still continue to assume that all that is somehow still in place after the well blowing out and flowing for 87 days, probably right through where they say the packoff is set. Not likely. Allen says they’re going to actually try to pull the drill pipe, still hung in the rams and then, while suspending the BOP above the casinghead, cut the drill pipe with ROVs and drop it back in the well.
Probability of success of getting that done? Almost zero. First, it will be a miracle if they can get the Cameron DWHC hydraulic wellhead connector at the bottom of the BOP unlatched after all it’s been through, even though it is designed to release without over pull. It’s just been there a long time under severe stress, and don’t forget the torque it suffered as the rig fell, dragging all that riser down with it. It’s unlikely it will just unlatch and lift off. Second, if the casing is collapsed at, or just below the casing hanger, then pulling the drill pipe enough to get an ROV under there to cut it will be tricky, if not impossible, and likelihood of it slipping out of the rams while doing that damn likely. All of this will be done with the well open to the world, and it’s very possible for them to get in a catch 22; can’t pick it up, can’t set it back down, can’t cut the drill pipe. If the pipe slips out, which is likely, then they could have 20 or 30 feet of damaged drill pipe waving around above the casinghead that will somehow have to be removed.
I know I keep saying it, but what the hell are they doing? I keep thinking these guys, whether it’s Chu or BP, have some really smart folks advising them, but so far, I’ve witnessed scant evidence of that. In the presser today Adm Allen said they’re using “an abundance of caution”. All I can say is that this is an abundance of something, but caution ain’t one of them.
We’ll be watching.
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This article was originally published on The Daily Hurricane.
Bob Cavnar’s book on the Gulf oil spill, Disaster on the Horizon, will be available in October.