BP will have to continue work on the relief well that will put a permanent end to the out-of-control Macondo well, and that’s a day everyone on the Gulf Coast will be relieved to see.
National Incident Commander Thad Allen had speculated earlier this week that the procedure known as a “bottom kill” might not be necessary. BP had thought mud and cement that was pumped in from above the leak — the so-called static kill — might have put a permanent end to the runaway well. If so, that would have eliminated the need to continue drilling the relief well to pump in mud and cement from below the leak.
But testing of the cement seal now in place proved otherwise. If pressure had remained steady, that would have indicated the presence of cement in the space between the inner piping and outer casing. But during testing, the pressure rose. That signaled that a space remained that needs to be plugged.
Adm. Allen described the pressure test as “an overabundance of caution.” If so, that was the right approach to take. This disaster, which began when the Deepwater Horizon blew up on April 20, spewed 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico until it was capped in mid-July. The federal government should insist that BP take every precaution to make sure that it is sealed for good.
That’s the same thinking that prompted federal officials to require a second relief well — in case something went wrong with this one.
The decision to go ahead with bottom kill makes sense even if it’s “a nearly redundant safety measure,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
He’s right about that. But Bob Bea, a petroleum engineering professor with the University of California, Berkeley, sees it as necessary. “Everything we know at this time says we need to continue the work with the relief wells. We don’t know the details of how they plugged the well from the top. We don’t know the volume of material they put in the well bore, and without that we can’t tell how close to the bottom of the well they got.”
This is one monster than needs a wooden stake through its heart, and it’s good that the federal government is insisting on it.