07/05/2010 11:18 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

BP Relief Well Inching Closer

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This morning, BP announced that their first relief well is at 17,725' and that they have completed their sixth ranging run.  They are well into the precision phase of the relief effort, using magnetic ranging to give direction to steer the drill bit towards the blowout well bore.  Reports are that they are within 15 feet laterally from the well with less than 600 feet to drill as they angle towards their target, towards the 9 7/8" liner shoe in the first well. 

As we've discussed before, I believe the well is blowing out around the 7" production casing, up the annulus of this 9 7/8" liner and up to the surface.  It is very likely that there is severe damage to the open hole below and possibly around the 9 7/78" shoe, meaning that the original 8 1/2" hole within which the 7" casing sits could be washed out to a huge area.  These deep offshore wells typically produce from sandstones that can wash out easily.  In normal production, these wells can produce a lot of sand, which is usually controlled through mechanical means or by carefully controlling the flow of the well.  Since this one is flowing uncontrolled, you can bet it is making a bunch of sand, contributing to casing and BOP (blowout preventer) damage through simple sandblasting.

As they ease into the blowout wellbore, it is possible, especially if it is severely washed out, that they will lose circulation (returns of mud to the surface of the relief well) as the bit drops into that washed out area.  If they cut into the wellbore through the 9 7/8" liner, they could avoid that possibility, hopefully getting in above it.  When they communicate with the blowout well, they will immediately begin pumping mud to fill any void space to get mud to go up the blowout wellbore.  Once that happens, hydrostatic pressure will begin to take over, and will slow, eventually stopping, the blowout.  Once that is certain, they'll pump cement to make sure it stays killed.

BP had announced up to 12 ranging runs to located the blowout well bore; now that they've completed 6, and are very close to their objective, I believe we stand a good chance that the week of July 12th, my original date, will be about the time they'll try for the kill.  It is obvious, with the whole world watching, that BP and Transocean are cutting no corners and getting in no hurry.  Would that have been true in the first case in MC Block 252, we very possibly would not even be having this conversation.

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