08/03/2010 01:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Top Kill Procedure Starting -- Even With BOP Leaks

Adm. Allen just finished his morning briefing by telling everyone that, even though the BOP is leaking, BP is going ahead with the "injectivity test" prior to pumping the top kill.  I guess in BPworld, pumping on a damaged and leaking wellhead, likely exceeding rated pressures for some of the components in that wellhead, somehow lowers risk.  I have now been listening to both BP and government representatives for two weeks explaining the static kill, and have yet to hear an intelligent, cogent argument for why they're doing this.  In the meantime, the relief well, which could have easily been finished by now, sits on standby, circulating mud hour on hour, day after day, only needing to drill another 100 feet vertically.  They are right there, waiting for the next tropical storm to head their way, I guess.

So, let me be sure I understand... BP is getting ready to pump heavy mud below a precariously mounted "capping stack," on top of a damaged riser connector and flex joint, through a badly damaged blowout preventer that has partially closed rams, two lengths of 5 1/2" drill pipe, a damaged 9 7/8" liner hanger and packoff all stuck in it.  They're then going to pump down the the inside of the damaged 16" intermediate pipe, down the outside of the 9/7/8 x 7" long string 13,000 feet to open hole of unknown size, then through 600 feet of known loss circulation zones.  During all of this procedure, somehow, BP's engineers will be able to discern whether they are going down the outside or inside of the casing by monitoring pressure, rates, and "sonic" waves as I understand the Admiral to say.  Now, to be clear, in order for them to get down the inside of the long string casing that the Admiral talked about today, they will have to pump past through the damaged hanger and packoff, past 3,000 feet of partially crushed drill pipe as well as past another piece of unknown length, all of which is stuck in the partially closed blowout preventer, down 13,000 of pipe, then through cement on top of two wiper plugs, through a closed float collar, then down 134 feet of cement filled shoe track, through a guide shoe, and out of the pipe, back up through whatever cement is on the outside of the pipe into the formation, which is above the shoe, killing the well.  Got it.  No risk there.

Was this Kabuki play all designed to keep from flowing the well and measuring the volume?  It certainly seems so.  Even keeping the well shut in, which I think contains enough risk in itself, is far less risky than this procedure carries.  Clearly, something else is going on in BPworld.  What's really frustrating is that the press has gotten so cozy during these daily seances that reporters are now asking no more difficult questions than clarifying timelines or asking why the oil is "disappearing" from the water rather than asking exactly what the hell it is they are doing and why.  One really good question to ask is, "Of the 40 successful relief wells that John Wright (who is supervising the relief well here) has drilled, how many times did he need to do a "static kill" first?"  I would really like to know the answer to that one.

Hopefully, this procedure, whatever it is, will work.  I'm not sure if we'll even know what success is, short of some big leak we can see on the ROV feeds.  The risk here, looking in from the outside, seems excessive.  Especially since the relief well, the only real solution, even acknowledged by the Admiral today, is so close, yet so far.

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