Condition of the Macondo Well Before the Explosion

The condition of the Macondo well before the explosion continues to be a concern as the latest attempt to seal the well (Collar, Cap, and Collector) has not reached the desired PSI of 7,000. Rather the PSI has reached just 6,863 psi since it was capped on July 15 according to BP’s website.

Of note is a decision by the engineers to plug off the last 2,000 feet of the then 13,000 foot hole with cement and continue in a new direction. Does this old “2,000 foot” pose a problem? Will the relief well be able to account for this?

Here is the detail of what happened on March 8, 2010 from the WSJ:

[W]orkers discovered that gas was seeping into the well, according to drilling reports from the rig reviewed by the Journal. Workers lowered a measuring device to determine what was happening, but when they tried to pull it back up, it wouldn’t budge. Engineers eventually told them to plug the last 2,000 feet of the then-13,000-foot hole with cement and continue the well by drilling off in a different direction.

The episode took days to resolve, according to drilling reports, not counting time lost to backtracking and re-drilling. Each additional day cost BP $1 million in rig lease and contractor fees.

Another scary note from the article:

The rock was so brittle in places that drilling mud cracked it open and escaped. One person familiar with the matter estimates BP lost at least $15 million worth of the fluid.

As disclosed in the New York Times today, Lloyd’s Register Group, a maritime and risk-management organization, dispatched two investigators to inspect the rig March 12 through 16. On the rig they conducted focus group and one-on-one interviews with at least 40 Transocean workers.

Not surprisingly, Lloyd’s investigators reported:

“a high degree of focus and activity relating to well control issues,” adding that “specialists were aboard the rig to conduct subsea explosions to help alleviate these well control issues.”

The mechanical problems discovered by investigators found problems with the rig’s ballast system that they said could directly affect the stability of the ship. They also concluded that at least one of the rig’s mud pumps was in “bad condition.”

The report also cited the rig’s malfunctioning pressure gauge and leaking parts and faulted the decision by workers to use a type of sealant “proven to be a major cause of pump bearing failure.”

What happened on the rig in March? How much of an impact will the first well branch have on the relief wells likely success?

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