The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

D-Day for Macondo

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted August 2, 2010

Today could be D-Day for the Macondo well. According to reports, BP is conducting a test to determine the likely success of killing the well from the top, while getting in position to assault the well from the bottom.

This two-pronged attack is expected to begin tonight or tomorrow with a static kill in which heavy drilling muds are pumped into the Macondo's cap and down into the well.

If the static kill works, the pressure inside the well will fall from 6,980 psi (pounds per square inch) to zero as the mud forces the rising oil and gas back down into the earth. Then engineers hope to force cement through the top of the well to permanently plug it from the top.

To further ensure Macondo's death, the relief well will intercept the wellbore and pump in heavy mud and cement, forcing the oil and gas down 13,000 feet into the rock formation where it originated. This process could take several days or a few weeks, depending on the complexity of the job.

The Washington Post reports today that the relief well is about four feet laterally from Macondo and is angling toward the wellbore with about 100 feet to go before interception.

While engineers plan for the well's extinction, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are taking action on spill-related legislation. The Senate is expected to vote on its energy bill this week, following the House passage of a bill Friday night that would remove the liability cap on oil-spill damages, place a $2 per barrel tax on energy producers, set new standards for blowout preventers and prohibit companies with poor safety and environmental records from drilling in the Gulf.

API President and CEO Jack Gerard called the measure "anti-job, anti-consumer and anti-energy:

"Instead of addressing the risks of offshore development by improving safety and establishing a robust system for covering the costs of possible future accidents, this bill effectively bans development and sends thousands of workers in offshore communities to the unemployment lines."

Meanwhile, the drilling moratorium in the Gulf continues. As this government Web site shows, only two new offshore wells have been approved in recent months.

The deepwater ban and permitting delays are bad news for energy workers in the beleaguered Gulf Coast states and for U.S. consumers as well. Each day that offshore drilling is stopped or slowed, the United States is failing to replace depleting domestic resources and is likely to become more reliant on oil from unstable regions in the future.

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.