Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gushing Oil Stopped

Man oh man, cross your fingers and hope this plug holds -- The LA TImes:
Engineers have stopped the flow of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico from a gushing BP well, the federal government's top oil-spill commander, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Thursday morning.

The "top kill" effort, launched Wednesday afternoon by industry and government engineers, had pumped enough drilling fluid to block oil and gas spewing from the well, Allen said. The pressure from the well was very low, he said, but persisting.

Once engineers had reduced the well pressure to zero, they were to begin pumping cement into the hole to entomb the well. To help in that effort, he said, engineers also were pumping some debris into the blowout preventer at the top of the well.

As of early Thursday morning, neither government nor BP officials had declared the effort a success yet, pending the completion of the cementing and sealing of the well.

Allen said one ship that was pumping fluid into the well had run out of the fluid, or "mud," and that a second ship was on the way. He said he was encouraged by the progress.

"We'll get this under control," he said.

Allen also said that, later Thursday, an interagency team would release a revised estimate of how much oil had flowed from the well into the gulf before the "top kill" effort began. The Coast Guard had estimated the flow at 5,000 barrels a day, but independent estimates suggested it was much higher, perhaps tens of thousands of barrels a day. 'Top kill' plugs gulf oil leak, official says


Anonymous Anonymous said...

HOUSTON — BP had to halt its ambitious effort to plug its stricken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday afternoon when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid they were injecting into the well was escaping along with the leaking crude oil.

A technician at the BP command center said that pumping of the fluid had to be stopped temporarily while engineers were revising their plans, and that the company hoped to resume pumping by midnight, if federal officials approved.

The technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said the problem was not seen as serious. “We’re still quite optimistic,” he said, but cautioned: “It is not assured and its not a done deal yet. All of this will require some time.”

Earlier in the day, officials had been encouraged that the heavy drilling fluid, known as mud, being pumped into the well appeared to be working. But the fluid had not yet overcome the upward pressure of the escaping oil and gas, according to Coast Guard commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen.

“They said this could take 24 to 36 hours, and they are in the process of monitoring it,” Admiral Allen said.

The news of yet another delay in capping the well came on a day of rapid-fire developments from Louisiana to Washington.

A report from government experts, who said that the flow of oil from the well, which has been gushing since an explosion and fire wrecked a drilling rig in late April, had been several times worse than the preliminary estimate by BP.

If these new estimates prove to be accurate, the spill would be far bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 and the worst in United States history.

Early indications on Thursday were positive for the well-plugging measure, known as a top kill. Crews were injecting heavy drilling fluid deep into the well in hopes of stemming the relentless flow of gas and oil, which has devastated commercial fishing in the Gulf for five weeks, fouled miles of coastline and put the company and federal regulators at the center of a political firestorm. Several previous attempts to stop the leak had failed.

BP warned when it began the top kill on Wednesday that success was not guaranteed and that it could still fail at any moment. BP was guarded in its official statements on Thursday morning, saying only that the top kill was proceeding and that there were “no significant events” to report.

Still, there were indications Thursday morning that the heavy fluid, called mud, was slowly building up within the well bore, as engineers hoped it would when they began pumping it from surface ships through pipes on the sea floor.

At first, most of the mud was carried away by the oil and gas streaming up through the well at high pressure, but with enough mud being pumped in at a fast enough rate, it started accumulating inside the well. The hope is that eventually enough mud will accumulate to overcome the upward pressure of oil.

The technician working on the measure said early on Thursday that the vast amount of data collected had been initially positive. Planning had already begun for cementing the well, the next step in sealing it after the flow of oil and gas is stopped by the drilling mud, but that step would not be undertaken until the injection of fluid had “completely killed the well,” and the oil flow had stopped. Then approval will be needed from the Coast Guard and federal agencies to move forward, the technician said.

May 27, 2010 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay! The house just passed the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell!

Watch Peter Sprigg try to stop it on MSNBC

May 27, 2010 10:13 PM  

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