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Jul. 13 2010 - 11:18 am | 224 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

BP well is capped – but not plugged

BP well. July 13, 2010 (Photo by BP)

A communication breakdown last evening left many people believing that the BP well that has been gushing oil out of control for 83 days had been plugged.

It hadn’t.

The image above, taken this morning from a video streaming from one of many remotely operated vehicles (ROV) at the site shows oil continuing to flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

The confusion appears to have begun with a remark made earlier Monday by National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen.

“Significant progress has been made on the capping stack installation,” said Allen, referring to the new cap with a tighter seal that, officials hope, will allow BP to contain most if not all of the oil coming from the well.

Later, there were unofficial reports that the cap had been “successfully installed.” The word “success” coupled with the fact that for a period of time only one of the many ROV cameras showed the oil spewing, and indistinctly at first, led to the belief that the flow of oil had at last been stopped.

BP’s new cap in place. It appears all the oil in being contained,” read one overly-optimistic, but typical, tweet.

A civilian employee of the Coast Guard, reached by phone at the government’s Joint Information Center, told me that the Skandi 2 ROV camera “appears to show oil is leaking.” (She did not want to be identified because she is not an official spokesperson for the JIC.)

Later, BP issued a press release stating that the new “capping stack” had been installed at 7 PM CDT.

The statement from BP indicates that until testing is completed nothing conclusive can be said about whether or not the stack will actually work. The tests, however, are not designed to examine the stack itself. BP is attempting to determine the condition of the well casement below the sea floor. Serious damage there could make full containment above the wellhead impossible, reinforcing the importance of the twin relief wells that are still being drilled.

The communication problems that have plagued the operation since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in April, continue to add to the general confusion and mistrust of the oil giant. While there was nothing wrong with Allen’s statement, in its late Monday press release, BP once again muddied the waters (so to speak).

The test, BP stated early in the release, “will be be a minimum of 6 hours and could extend up to 48 hours…”

If you interpreted that statement to mean that the test will take between 6 and 48 hours, you have not been paying enough attention to BP’s use of the English language.

Nearly a hundred words later, the press release explains that, depending on circumstances, BP may decide to extend “the test duration beyond 48 hours.”

Forty-eight hours is the lower end of the upper end of the test duration, which has no upper upper end.

Clear? As drilling mud.


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  1. collapse expand

    Following the money, BP’s objective here ought to be making certain that no-one can contradict their low-ball estimates of how much oil has already flowed into the gulf, because that number determines their financial liability. So their best outcome would be that this scheme stops the oil flowing into the gulf through the blown-out well-head, and that the other well they are drilling blocks the source lower down so it can be diverted and collected for processing and sale. That may be their objective, but we’ll see how it plays out.

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