The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Top Kill Underway

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 26, 2010

BP has received permission to launch the "top kill" procedure on the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. This means engineers can begin pumping heavy drilling fluids into the blowout preventer (BOP) and the wellbore in hopes of stopping the oil leaks.

When the top kill is deployed, major changes will be seen in the live video feed of the oil and natural gas flowing from the broken riser. As the drilling fluids are pumped through hoses into the BOP, some of the fluids--also called muds--are likely to come from the riser along with the oil and gas. If the fluids can be pumped fast enough into the BOP--at a rate of 40 or 50 barrels per minute--a large amount of fluid should be forced down into the wellbore, which could plug the well by counteracting the underground pressure that is forcing oil and gas upward into the water.

As Kent Wells, BP's executive vice president of exploration and production said in a conference call yesterday, the goal is to "outrun the well." (The Washington Post)

BP is doing its best to manage the nation's expectations for the top kill. It says this procedure has never been attempted in a well 5,000 feet below the water's surface, and it might not work. In a news release, the company says the process could take two days, and it's not clear how long it will take to determine whether the top kill is successful.

If the top kill doesn't fully stop the leak, the company will move forward with the LMRP cap containment system. This system is on site and could be deployed before the end of the month.

The live video feed is available here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.