What Are the Results of the Oil Well Integrity Test?
If you don't know what the results of BP's oil well integrity test
are, you're not alone.
As I pointed
BP suspended the "top kill"
operation for 16 hours -
because, according to numerous experts, it was creating more damage to the well bore - without
even telling the media, local officials or the public that it
had delayed the effort until long afterwards.
BP also admitted
- many days after it stopped
the top kill attempt - (1) that BP had to stop because mud was leaking
out below the seafloor, and (2) that capping the well from the top
could blow out the whole well.
Similarly, it took more than 5
hours for BP to publicly announce the delay of the "well integrity
test" after the decision to delay was made.
So BP doesn't have a
great track record of promptly informing us of what is happening.
so little information is being released, even oil industry experts like
Rob Cavner are resorting to watching the underwater video cams to try
to figure out what's happening.
And Cavner says that BP and the
government are making things up on the fly, so it is a very fluid
situation, and that long periods of silence mean that something is
It’s clearly been on the fly. There’s a
lot more discussion behind the scenes obviously with the government
and bp team than what they’re disclosing to the public. What I’ve
learned in this whole experience, if you get a long on period of
silence, something’s going on. I think that’s a lot of what happened
Cavner says that it looks like BP is doing a thorough job of monitoring
visual and sonar images for leaks.
For example, the Geco Topaz
is conducting seismic surveys over a range of many miles. Indeed, the Topaz has sailed perhaps 50
miles in and around the site of the oil gusher. See this
and this (the Topaz is
the ship indicated in light blue).
So What Do We Know?
Even independent oil industry experts are guessing at this point because
BP is keeping everything close to the vest (and that some allege
that the government is not publicly disclosing what it knows).
And the stakes are high. As president Obama said this morning,
there is a risk that - if the well is incorrectly capped - numerous
leaks could spring from the seafloor:
at around 30 seconds.)
So the question is what we do
at this point?
Putting aside Matt Simmons' (Simmons was an energy adviser to
President George W. Bush and was a prominent investment banker to the
oil industry. NOTE TO ZH READERS: IF YOU CAN FIND ANY CONFIRMATION OF SIMMONS' CLAIMS, I'LL EDIT THIS SENTENCE) claims that there is a conspiracy to cover up a larger
leak miles from the cap - for which there's been no independent
confirmation to date - here's everything that we know at this
- Well pressure is currently a
little above 6,700
psi, far short of the 8,000 psi which would prove that the well
integrity is more or less intact.
- If the well
pressure keeps rising, and stabilizes at 8,000 psi or higher, then the
well is fairly stable, and the below-seafloor
damage to the well is not significantly impacting well strength.
It would not be unexpected for the pressure to start lower and then to
rise, so at least another 24 hours is needed to get the final result.
BP says "The pressure has been a very steady build as predicted by
engineering anlysis we did. " BP also says that the seismic, sonar and
visual inspections so far indicate "no negative
- If well pressures rise
and then suddenly drop, then
the well integrity test itself has caused a new leak.
well pressure stabilizes far below 8,000, then there are major leaks.
Oil industry professionals posting at the Oil Drum hypothesize:
What this could indicate is that there is a
possibility of crossflow at the bottom of the well. What this
means that the oil and gas that are flowing out of the reservoir into
the bottom of the well, are, under the pressure in the well, now flowing
into a higher reservoir of rock, now that they can't get out of the
well. Depending on where that re-injection flow is, this may, or may
not, suggest that the casing has lost integrity. This is a topic that
has been covered in the comments at The Oil Drum, where fdoleza
- "a petroleum engineering consultant retired from a major
multi-national oil company" - has noted:
... I believe the flow will be coming out
of the bottom sand and going into the upper sand. It would not be a
leak, but it would tell them why their pressure data ain't a classical
surface buildup. And I sure hope they're modeling temperatures and so
on, because this is a very interesting case. They don't have downhole
gauges, so they'll have to take the way the oil cools down as it sits to
get a better idea of the way things are moving down below.
If there are questions whether there is still flow in the formation
or from the original formation into surrounding rock, then it is
possible that the relief well (RW) is close enough to the original well
(WW) that putting a set of very sensitive microphones down the RW might
allow some triangulation to estimate where such a flow might be
occurring. It might make it easier that the well hasn’t been finally
cased yet. But the test has 2 days to run, and will be evaluated every 6
hours. With time some of these questions may be answered as the test
continues. (If there is no flow anywhere, after a while all the
readings should become quite stable).
Updates as they develop ...