Facts on BP test on Gulf oil well

2010-07-15 08:59

BP was poised yesterday to begin a crucial test that could allow it

to seal the leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well once and for all.

Admiral Thad Allen, who is leading the US response to the disaster,

laid out the gradual steps to be taken by BP engineers in the complex and high

stakes effort to cap the gushing oil:

» Before the integrity test

gets under way, engineers will stop oil from being funnelled to the waiting

containment ships on the surface by closing valves on the massive 75-ton cap

recently installed atop the leaking well;

» As the valves are slowly

closed, engineers will start to take the all-important pressure readings to test

the integrity of the well bore, which cuts miles down into the sea-bed;

» The last of the valves (the

remaining parts where oil can escape from the well) will be closed extremely

slowly as pressure is measured at the same time;

» If the pressure readings are

low, it means oil is escaping somewhere other than the leaking well, either from

far below in the well bore, or somewhere else on the well casing;

» If the pressure readings

remain low for three hours, the test will be stopped, and flow of oil from the

well to containment ships will be resumed;

» If the pressure rises,

engineers will monitor the movement;

» Every six hours, BP and

government scientists will consult the readings, assess the sea floor with

seismic readings and sonar monitoring, and agree on whether to continue the


» The test will last for at

most 48 hours. After this time, experts will assess information gathered about

the pressure and integrity of the well bore;

» If the pressure readings are

acceptable and engineers are confident shutting in the well would not damage the

well bore or outer casing, a decision may be made to close up the well for


» If there is damage and

closing the well is not possible, BP will link the well back up to four

production platforms on the surface. This will bring the amount of oil contained

to 60 000 to 80 000 barrels a day, which is in excess of the amount of oil

leaking from the well.

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