A New Drilling Rig at the Macondo Site?
- BK Lim
31 Oct 2010
In a press statement released on 19 Sept 2010, BP confirmed that “the well kill operations on the MC252 well in the Gulf of Mexico are now complete with both the casing and annulus of the well sealed by cement”.
This was BP’s 19 Sept Press statement
BP will now proceed to complete the abandonment of the MC252 well, which includes removing portions of the casing and setting cement plugs. A similar plugging and abandonment of both relief wells will occur as well.
BP will also now begin the process of dismantling and recovering containment equipment and decontaminating vessels that were in position at the wellsite.
~~~~~~~~~~end of quote~~~~~~
After that press statement, one would have thought the activities at the Macondo site would have started to wind down and the expensive drilling rigs demobilized from site as soon as possible.
This was again confirmed by BP’s 1 Oct Press statement
Since the Macondo well was finally confirmed sealed on September 19, BP has been completing the process of plugging and abandoning the well. This includes removing portions of the casing and setting cement plugs.
BP has also started the process of dismantling and recovering containment equipment and decontaminating the vessels that were in position at the wellsite. The cost of the response to September 29 amounts to approximately $11.2 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, static kill and cementing, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs.
~~~~~~~~~~end of quote~~~~~~
Contrary to BP’s press statements, the site activities did not die down. The number of vessels working in the area seems to have increased in recent times. Now forty-seven (47) days after the rogue well was supposedly “bottom killed permanently at 18000ft bml on 15 Sept 2010”, a new drilling rig (West Sirius) arrived at the Macondo site. Figure 130-1 shows the location of West Sirius at the Macondo Site. Figure 130-2 gives the location details of West Sirius which had been at location since 27 Oct 2010. If the West Sirius was meant to replace either one of the two earlier rigs, why are DD2 and DD3 still on site?
Both DD2 and DD3, commissioned to drill relief wells C and D respectively had been at location since May this year. With each drilling rig costing between 0.5 to 1 Million USD per day, why would BP want to have 3 rigs at site? It does not add up especially when there has been no official news of drilling new wells at the Macondo site. Would you need 3 expensive rigs just to drill a new well?
Both DD2 and DD3 should have demobilized from site weeks ago since they were not needed after abandoning the relief wells. DD2 reportedly did better than anticipated; reaching within tens of feet of its intercept target weeks ahead of schedule. But just when victory was finally within arm’s length, the”Bottom Kill from relief well C stalled”. It seems like eternity when Thad Allen announced in early Sept that the Final Kill had to be postponed again to mid October. No reasons were given. Just when the audience had given up hope and left the “theatre”, BP suddenly announced the well was permanently killed and cemented on 15 Sept 2010.
What gives? Why the sudden flip-flops when it is common knowledge every well operation had to be carefully planned weeks ahead? Sudden reversals are bad signs. Evidence of BP carrying out massive pressure grouting of the seafloor added more mystery to the story. Why would BP spend millions of dollars grouting the seabed if the Relief Well Kill from the bottom was going to be a “certain success”? Why had the activities increased instead of winding down after the permanent kill on 15 Sept?
There seems to be more questions than answers. What is DD3 doing so close to the foothills of the Whiting Dome, approx 5 n.miles 320º of Well A where DD2 is currently sitting? DD3 had been there since Sept together with Hos Explorer, Discovery Enterprise, Jean Pierre Lab and other vessels. And why is DD2 still sitting at Well A with Hos Iron Horse and Kobe Chouest? Well A had been capped since 15 July and “top cemented” since August. No drilling activities had been reported. So why waste money on expensive rigs hanging around?
Come to think of it very little was reported of DD3 at Relief Well D location. Located at the mid slope of the escarpment DD3 would have encountered similar problems as Well A and Well B. It would not be surprising for DD3’s inclined trajectory towards S20BC to be stopped dead before or around 13,000ft. This was the depth Well B had a previous out-of-well-control situation and was forced to abandon well. The “plug and abandon” permission was approved by MMS; as clearly recorded in the emails submitted for the congressional enquiry. That is why there was not much news on DD3 relief well effort. The less said the better.
So if Well A was abandoned around 13 Feb after the drill-string was jammed at 5000ft bml and Well B abandoned around 14 March after drilling 13,100ft bml, where could they have drilled the 3rd well? They definitely cannot go back to redrill well A for the third time. Thus they had to drill from a third seabed local which is 720 ft NW of Well A (S20BC). Simple as that and the shoes fit perfectly.
Relief well C was located on the flat valley, 0.12 miles south of the foot hill of the escarpment. This means DD2 would not have the same problems with the pesky shallow E-W fault. But it would have encountered the major NE-SW fault at a much deeper depth. If the rogue well (S20BC) had intersected this NE-SW fault just before entering the reservoir (as I had suspected much earlier) then DD2 would have even more trouble when the RW C trajectory closed in to S20BC. That is why DD2 waited from mid August till mid Sept. Actually BP had no solution in sight when they announced the postponement of the bottom kill till at least mid Oct.
But with the mid-term election fast approaching, BP was forced to hastily declare Premature Victory. The world was still hypnotized with the magic spell cast on capping the wrong well (Well A). Well A was leaking oil and gas coming from the EW fault which intersects the main NE-SW fault and Well B which had pierced the same gas reservoir as Texaco’s Rigel well. So even before Well A was capped, gas was already pluming at the foothills of the escarpment (see reported gas plumes 25 May, 31 July, 22 Apr and others). The top cap at well A only made it worse. With all these dynamics in play, no wonder the well pressure at well A never behaved and reached the pressure curves predicted for a Sealed Well.
So the plan was to grout and hold the ground (so to speak) until after the mid-term election is over. However, Mother Nature probably refused to play ball. Recent Rov videos (in late October) showed the grouted seafloor cracking up again. See Mother-Natures-Sos-Distress-Signals and Gas Oil Plume next to Well A. They probably could not postpone the mobilization of West Sirius any further. This could only mean very serious and urgent trouble.
But why not use DD2 and DD3 which are already at site? Why do they need three drilling rigs? I do not have the firm answers yet. Hopefully I do by the next posting. By my analyses, the present West Sirius location is a very hazardous location to drill from. If the intended trajectory is heading towards S20BC, the open well bore would be intercepting the NE-SW fault at a very low angle at the downthrown side of the fault. It would also have to bear the full brunt of the formation collapse forced in by the high pressured gas and oil. They would have the additional geotechnical problems of sealing the well to seabed level. Due to high permeability (from open fractures) and the presence of hazardous Gas-saturated Weak Sub-formation (GWSF) zone, the well annulus can never be effectively cemented and sealed. It will be another disaster in waiting. S20BC never had a chance with the gas influx from the hazardous GWSF zone above the 6000 ft bml. level. After months of sub-seabed erosion and cavitations, it will be worse than before.