BP Well Test Continues -- Data Sparse, But One Bit of Good News

07/16/2010 09:36 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Kent Wells just completed his morning McBriefing, lasting a whopping 8 minutes, including questions (limit one per customer, follow ups not allowed, no coupons accepted).  He said that the test is continuing, and that pressure continues to build, currently at 6,700 psi.  Even though Wells said that pressure is continuing to rise, the 6,700 happens to be the same pressure reported by the Washington Post last night, a few hours after the well was shut in.  Tom Hunter, a retired Sandia Laboratories director and member of the government scientific team,  said the pressure rose to 6,700, and appeared likely to level out "closer to 7,000."  Since the pressure is still at 6,700 psi, it looks like it's been level for about 12 hours.  In my experience, it would be unusual with a well of this pressure and permeability to rise much more after that number of hours. We could more tell if BP would disclose the actual feed rather than one data point that is completely uninformative.

The reported pressure is at the lower end of the ambiguity range that Adm Allen talked about a couple of days ago.  Recall that he said that 8,000 to 9,000 would show strong integrity, 6,000 to 8,000 would be ambiguous, and below 6,000 would indicate a leak.  With the pressure now virtually level at 6,700, it's at the lower end of the ambiguity range, so it seems there is a good chance there is leak-off.  That makes a lot of sense to me since there is 1,200 feet of open hole from the bottom of the 9 /7/8" liner to TD at about 18,300 feet.  That's not to mention possible casing damage up hole.  Think of it like a garden hose with a nozzle on the end.  As long as the nozzle is open, the hose looks fine.  As soon as you close the nozzle, the hose will leak through any pinholes or around the faucet as pressure builds inside.  In his statement late yesterday, Adm Allen indicated they were probably going to go back to containment, which means they'll be flowing the well to the various ships they have on station.

Wells did say they were going to run seismic again to see if they can see fluid movement below the surface.  Seismic puts sound into the sea floor, and measures the time it takes for those sound waves to return.  Different kinds of rocks reflect sound waves at certain velocities, or speeds.  By measuring the time it takes for the sound to return from a certain depth of rock, geo-scientists can draw maps of the subsurface.  Often you can get an idea of the fluid within the pore space of rocks by the way it returns sound waves.  They ran a baseline survey a couple of days ago, and will compare that data to the data that they'll get today to see if anything has changed around the well to indicate fluid movement.  But, as one of my geologist friends of mine likes to say, reading seismic for precise conclusions is often like trying to observe airplanes flying overhead while lying on the bottom of a swimming pool.  It's difficult to draw definite conclusions, even using high frequency seismic, but it will be another data point.

Oh, the good news?  They restarted operations on the relief well.  That's the only way to actually kill this well, and at least they are back to work.  They have 34 feet to the last casing point, then about another 120 feet to the intercept.  Fingers crossed on that.

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