Well Integrity Test Has Now Started, But Oil Industry Experts Ask “What the Hell Are They Doing?”

Admiral Thad Allen just announced that the well integrity test has gotten a green light. For background on what this means, see this and this.

The test has already started. You can watch live here.

As I noted yesterday, BP suspended the “top kill” operation for 16 hours – because, according to numerous experts, it was creating more damage to the well bore – without even telling the media, local officials or the public that it had even delayed the effort until long afterwards.Similarly, it took more than 5 hours for BP to publicly announce the delay of the well integrity test after the decision to delay was made.

More importantly, oil industry expert Rob Cavner – who has been right about virtually everything so far, previously explaining that there is damage in the oil well beneath the seafloor, and that BP has to let the oil spill keep on gushing to avoid further damage to the well bore until the well can be killed with relief wells (subsequently confirmed by BP) – now says that he is worried that the well integrity test could further damage the well bore and could blow out the entire well:

Recently-retired Shell Oil President John Hofmeister made a similar point today:

I think the fundamental issue… is there are serious concerns about the integrity of the casing that is the well itself.

And that by putting the cap on and doing the stress tests… that the integrity of the steel is insufficient to hold the pressure of the well.

And if you lose the casing its game over.

It’s like having a volcano on the bottom of the sea.

If you lose the casing and oil starts coming up on the outside of the casing you cant stop it.

There’s nothing you can do that would stop it…other than implode the well.

There are many in the industry that feel the casing must have been damaged because of the power of that well, the pressure of that reservoir.

Hofmeister stresses:

Let’s not do the “stress tests” until we’re ready to go with the relief wells… Better have relief wells up and operating before [you run any integrity tests].

And as Cavner points out today, the government and BP are fooling around instead of killing off this monster once and for all with the relief wells:

What? Well integrity test? I’ve looked back through all of my notes, blog entries, and reviewed BP’s and the Unified Command’s communications. I’ve even done multiple internet searches, and found the first mention of a “well integrity test” related to BP on this past Sunday, July 11. Certainly I could have missed something, but I don’t recall even a single mention of what I consider to be probably the most significant (and risky) operation BP has conducted since the much hailed, and utterly failed, top kill procedure that kept the masses enthralled during the Memorial Day weekend.


This morning, we learned that, even thought the stack has now been set for 3 days, they actually haven’t hooked up the two new valves. He also announced that yesterday, they pulled all of the ships off site to run a seismic survey, and, alarmingly, have stopped drilling the relief well, which is now only 4 feet away laterally from the blowout well. Since Dudley’s letter to Adm. Allen last Friday laying out the relief well timeline, they have made little progress and have only 34 more feet to drill before they get to casing point for the last string of pipe. 34 feet, and they stopped. They’re just sitting there circulating on bottom at 17,840. Just sitting there. Wells claims that they are doing that for “safety reasons” during the well integrity test. The one they’re not going to run for at least another 24 hours. What?

I’m sorry, but I have to ask, What the hell are they doing? We now have an ability to capture all the oil and stop this massive pollution of the Gulf (as well as measure it). We have great weather to get the relief well completed. We already know, without the “well integrity test”, that they have severe damage to the BOP and other surface equipment and casing. If that weren’t true, the damn thing wouldn’t have blown out in the first place. We also know that between the “capping stack” and the old BOP that there is a non-wellhead rated piece of equipment, known as the flex joint, along with the riser adapter, that we’ve talked about before. This piece of equipment, that normally sits above the BOP, is not rated to nearly those pressures encountered by wellhead equipment. All of the other components in this BOP are rated to at least 10,000 psi (new, off the shelf, and undamaged); this piece is by far the weakest link in the chain, especially since it took severe stresses as the rig sank and 5,000 feet of riser torqued it as it sank. Yesterday, Adm. Allen announced they were going to take the stack, including this flex joint, to as high as 9,000 psi for up to 48 hours. I have been unable to learn the model and rating of the flex joint here, but Oil States advertises their LMRP flex joints to be rated 600-6,000 psi, far below the 9,000 to which Adm Allen said they would potentially go; even with the 2,200 psi of hydrostatic pressure on the outside of the competent caused by it being in 5,000 feet of water, it’s still at least 1,000 psi differential pressure over the rating of the component.

Surely, I’m missing something here, but all of this seems like reckless rope-a-dope in the tradition of Muhammad Ali in his best rope-a-doping days. Either that, or there are so many cooks in the kitchen that the pot is boiling over while the chefs all stand around arguing about spices. Boxing and cooking analogies aside, I don’t think anyone is actually in charge, and if anyone is, they are certainly not interested in giving any real information.