Below is the statement by Allen and an early Monday update by BP written which included the statement that a relief well might be available the first half of August:
Statement by National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen:
"Yesterday I sent BP a letter stating that there were a number of unanswered questions about the monitoring systems they committed to as a condition of the US government extending the well integrity test. Last night a conference call between the federal science team and BP representatives was convened to discuss some specific issues, including the detection of a seep near the well and the possible observation of methane over the well. During the conversation, the federal science team got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations.
Ongoing monitoring and full analysis of both the seepage and methane will continue in coordination with the science team.
I authorized BP to continue the integrity test for another 24 hours and I restated our firm position that this test will only continue if they continue to meet their obligations to rigorously monitor for any signs that this test could worsen the overall situation. At any moment, we have the ability to return to the safe containment of the oil on the surface until the time the relief well is completed and the well is permanently killed."
BP continues to work cooperatively with the guidance and approval of the National Incident Commander and the leadership and direction of federal government including the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Federal Science Team, Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard and secretaries Ken Salazar and Steven Chu. At this time, the well integrity test on the MC252 exploratory well continues.
During the test, the three ram capping stack has been closed, shutting in the well. All sub-sea containment systems (namely, the Q4000 and Helix Producer systems) have been temporarily suspended.
The pressure inside the well recently has been measured at approximately 6,792 pounds per square inch and continues to rise slowly. As directed by the National Incident Commander, extensive monitoring activities are being carried out around the well site. Information gathered during the test is being reviewed with the government agencies, including the Federal Science Team, to determine next steps. Depending upon the results of the test and monitoring activities, these steps may include extending the well integrity test or returning to containment options.
Should the test conclude, the Q4000 is expected to resume capturing and flaring oil and gas through the existing system. It has been capturing and flaring an average of 8,000 barrels a day (b/d) of oil in recent weeks. The Helix Producer also is expected to be available to resume capturing oil and flaring gas through the recently installed floating riser system. It has the capacity to capture approximately 20,000 – 25,000 b/d of oil.
Plans continue for additional containment capacity and flexibility that are expected to ultimately increase recoverable oil volumes to 60,000-80,000 b/d.
The sealing cap system and many of the other containment systems have never before been deployed at these depths or under these conditions, and their efficiency and ability to contain or flare the oil and gas cannot be assured.
To date, the total volume of oil collected or flared by the containment systems is approximately 826,800 barrels. Information on the subsea operational status is updated daily on BP’s website, www.bp.com.
Work on the first relief well, which started May 2, continues. The well reached a depth of 17,864 feet as of July 18th and the next scheduled operation is to carry out a ranging run. The first relief well has approached its last casing end point and, following the casing set, additional ranging runs will be used to guide the drill bit to a MC252 well intercept point. After interception, operations are expected to begin to kill the flow of oil and gas from the reservoir by pumping specialized heavy fluids down the relief well.
The second relief well, which started May 16, is at a measured depth of 15,874 feet and has been temporarily halted so as not to interfere with the ranging runs being performed in the first relief well.
Although uncertainty remains, the first half of August remains the current estimate of the most likely date by which the first relief well will be completed and kill operations performed.
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