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Robert L. Cavnar Headshot

Top Kill Is BP's Next Step

Posted: Updated:

Top Kill Close Up.jpgAlthough detailed technical information emanating from BP has been woefully inadequate in the 28 days since the blowout of their Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well, they continue to improve the information flow through their own website and the joint command's response website.   While most of the information provided is about spill clean up, there is some technical information being presented describing some of their efforts to get the well under control. 

One technique to kill the well, short of a relief well that is still over a month away, is the top kill.  This is a two step process where first, plugging agents are pumped into the blowout preventer (BOP) to stop the flow.  If successful, it is immediately followed by either heavy mud or cement that increases the hydrostatic head on the well, stopping the flow of the well.  I believe this is a good step and could prevent further spillage of oil that has polluted 5,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico.

BP has provided some graphics that illustrate the top kill better than anything I've seen so far.  One graphic is a close up of the "junk shot" (shown here) where plugging agents are pumped into the BOP through the kill and choke valves.  Hopefully the plugging agents, made up of shredded rubber, rubber balls and other material, will hang up in the BOP bridging it over long enough to hold pressure while mud follows, bullheading it downhole to kill the well.

BP did say yesterday that they can now read pressures inside the BOP, though they didn't disclose what they are, only saying that they are lower than expected.  SInce this well has now been flowing uncontrolled for 28 days, it's likely that pressures are down considerably due to depletion and formation damage.  If they can just get enough mud in, they can turn the well around and kill it.

The plan is to try this kill later in the week, once the manifold and lines are connected.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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