THE BLOG
08/09/2010 08:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Questions BP Needs to Answer

We all know that BP and the US government have been doing everything they can to get the blowout well off of the television news.  We've been talking for weeks how it was also to BP's advantage to not measure the flow from the well before killing it so they can argue lower fines.  Since Adm. Allen ordered BP to set the "capping stack" on July 8, they have gone through one machination to another to avoid actually producing the well to the surface so the volume could be measured.  Here are some of those actions that BP has (or has not) taken to avoid measuring the flow since May.  I'll note that all actions were taken with the blessings of the US government.
  • Massive containment structure: Set 600 feet from wellhead over only one leak from wrecked riser.  Result: Complete failure due to hydrates.
  • Riser insertion tool to capture flow from wrecked riser.  Result: Mostly a failure, capturing less than 8,000 barrels per day.
  • Top kill with wrecked riser still attached.  Result:  Complete failure after going radio silent for 16 hours and Adm. Allen mistakenly saying that kill was being successful.
  • Tight top cap after removing riser.  Result:  Compete failure -- rather than removing riser flange, attempt to cut riser with wire saw fails.  Finally cut riser with hydraulic shear.
  • Top hat to capture flow without removing riser flange.  Result: Partial failure, recovering less than 50% of flow from well.
  • Limited application of dispersants:  Result: Massive application of a million and a half gallons of dispersant (banned in the UK), over half at the wellhead, which had never been tested. Result: Gigantic plumes of dispersed oil deep in the water column.  Extent of damage unknown.
  • Capping stack:  Stack completed late June.  Sat on the dock until Adm. Allen ordered it installed on July 9.  Finally set on July 12, with plan to connect containment ships.
  • Well integrity test: Sudden announcement on July 11 that BP would perform a 6-to-48 hour "well integrity test".  Result:  Unknown due to lack of meaningful data.  Integrity test continued for weeks past deadline at pressure below which BP had announced integrity existed.  BP moved the integrity goalpost from 8,000 psi to existing pressure.
  • Static kill: Announced suddenly when containment vessels were scheduled to be ready to receive production from well.  No rational, cogent explanation.  Result:  Unknown.  BP announced well "static" on August 4th, without disclosing pressures or volumes.  Pumped cement two days later, pressures undisclosed.  Announced that kill went down the casing with no evidence, no disclosure of treating pressures.
  • ROV feeds:  Consistent early on after demanded by Markey.  During static kill, critical feeds removed. Feeds restored only after Daily Kos Gulf Watchers asked Adm. Allen publicly why the feeds had been removed. After "static kill," most feeds removed again, other feeds blurred to point of being uninformative.
  • Four risers with containment vessels to capture the flow:  Deadline: second week of July.  Result: Never completed.
Since announcing success (sort of) of the static kill, MSM attention has dropped to virtually zero, though the well is obviously far from static, judging from the huge clouds in the water around the wellhead and as well as numerous ROVs surrounding the wellhead, providing no feeds to the public. The media has paid virtually no attention to these feeds and has asked no questions of Adm. Allen or BP.  BP has stopped briefing the public daily.
Last week, a joint report from NOAA and the USGS surprisingly concluded that most all of the five million barrels of oil have disappeared, even as waves of tar balls and oil continue to roll ashore across Louisiana.  Anxious to put this catastrophe behind them, the Obama administration rushed out the report, supported by the president, his press secretary, Adm. Allen, and the rest of the bureaucracy, trying to make it all go away in advance of the mid-term elections.  The problem is that there are lots of questions that remain unanswered.  Here's what I want to know:
  • Is the well dead?
  • What is the pressure on the well?  Now?
  • If the well is open to the surface, what is that pressure?
  • What was the pressure during the "static kill"?  Did it change at any time?  What was total volume pumped?
  • What was the pressure during the bullhead cement job?  Did you do the "hesitation squeeze" that Kent Wells mentioned in passing? What was displacement volume?
  • How do you know all the cement went down the casing?
  • What was the pressure on the well after the job?
  • Why is the flex joint flange leaking?
  • Why are the ROV feeds no longer provided in a decipherable resolution?
  • Why are some ROV feeds not being provided?
  • Has the well kicked since the bullhead cement job?
  • What pressure did the bullhead cement job test to?
  • Have you had to pump mud into the well since the bullhead cement job? How much?
  • Why are clouds of debris continuing to obscure the view several days after the well was supposedly "static"?
  • Were the rams of the old BOP opened for the static kill or bullhead cement job?
  • If so, could you tell if the drill pipe fish stuck in the BOP dropped into the well?
  • Can you close the blind shear rams now?
  • What is the damage to the rams in the old BOP?
Until these questions are answered by BP, we have no real information to tell us that the well is dead, or even safe.  As long as they continue to stonewall critical data, I'll only continue to believe that the well is not "static" or safe.