Oil Spill: A Fouled Line Further Delays the Integrity Test

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A quick post before I head back out. Yesterday evening BP had begun closing down the valves on its new containment cap, in preparation to pressure test the integrity of the wellbore—and find out whether the well might be able to be fully capped. Overnight, though, they hit a snag—the kill line, one of three valves on the cap that the company needed to close to shut in the flow of oil, had a mechanical problem. While the other two vents were shut, oil has been flowing from the kill line all night, delaying the start of the integrity test.

At this morning’s briefing, BP Vice President Kent Wells told reporters that the company had tried a few times to fix the mechanism of the kill line, and that they now believed that it should be ready to work. As a result, BP says it should be able to close off the kill line some time this morning, and then finally—about two days later than expected—begin the wellbore integrity test. “We are using an overabundance of caution,” Wells said. (Oh, sure—NOW they are.)

It’s another reminder—in case we needed one—that operations done 5,000 ft. below sea level, in a situation the industry has never before faced, won’t be easy. And chances are this won’t be the last snag.