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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Well Pressure and New Cap

I guess I really don't understand what's going on. Government scientists wanted pressure tests conducted to make sure the well wasn't leaking. The tests were suppose to last 24 to 48 hours. After 48 hours, they were extended another 24 hours, then extended again, and all the while the Helix Producer and the Q4000 are on hold, waiting for government approval to be allowed to continue siphoning off oil from the well. They're waiting for pressure to build to 8,000 or 9,000 psi, which will prove, somehow, that there's well integrity and no leak.

Meanwhile, the Helix Producer and the q4000 are on standby.

But why are we waiting for the well to build more and more pressure. Isn't pressure containment's evil twin? Won't the buildup of pressure increase risk of another leak in the well? What are we waiting to prove, that the well will build up enough pressure to eventually destroy integrity of the well bore?

The cap is holding. There are no apparent leaks. Why don't we start siphoning oil off to the tune of 80,000 barrels per day (as we were promised weeks ago) and let the cap do it's job? If we have to bug out of there for a hurricane, we can shut the well down completely or maybe even partially and come back. Wasn't that the point of this whole exercise?

There is no viable alternative to this plan other than the relief wells. And every barrel of oil collected is a barrel of oil not in the reservoir helping to contribute to a buildup of pressure. Why not take the oil out now and stop worrying about whether or not the containment cap will hold? All this wasted time in testing is wasting time that could be used collecting oil and reducing, however minimally, the chance for another blowout. Four days at 80,000 barrels per day is 320,000 barrels of oil, not to mention all the volatile gas that's flared out of the well.

Even if the well builds up to 10,000 psi of pressure, what's to stop it from burping up to 20,000 psi or even 50,000 psi two or three weeks from now? I'm not saying it can. I have no expertise in these matters. But I would like to hear from Admiral Allen and/or the government science board why it's so important to prove the cap can provide 100% containment.

I imagine the Q&A going something like this:

Q. Why is it so important to check the pressure?
A. We want t to make sure that if we have to leave the well in the event of a serious weather event, a hurricane for example, that the cap will hold.
Q. But even if the tests prove conclusive that the cap will hold is that a guarantee it will continue to hold for all time.
A. No. We can't be absolutely certain of that. There are always destructive forces at work in the well bore.
Q. And if the tests prove the opposite, what's the alternative?
A. We have other contingency plans.
Q. Like what?
A. Other plans, And we're ahead of schedule with the relief wells.
Q. But the cap seems to be holding. Isn't that more than we had hoped for from the start? If it holds at 6,700 psi, why not start recovering oil and flaring gas? Won't the oil and gas taken out of the well help reduce pressure?
A. We feel we need to be sure the cap will hold.
Q. But at no time when this cap plan was talked about did anyone think it would completely hold back the well. From the start we were told this cap would allow us to recover up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day? It can do that now. Why aren't we doing it? Seems to me the 100% containment criteria is something the government only came up with after the fact. Isn't 100% containment via the well head structure really just a bonus?
A. Next question.

I know some of you reporters and broadcasters down there are thinking the same things, so how about getting some answers on this.



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