Tropical Storm Bonnie moved away from the Bahamas and headed toward the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 Thursday. Most work was halted on oil spill cleanup and oil spill containment efforts. BP was waiting for official word from Thad Allen, the federal director of the spill response about whether drill rigs, oil containment ships and support vessels would have to evacuate. A final effort to kill the well will have to wait for better weather. But Allen said the feds are confident that an oil spill containment cap that has stanched the flow from the ruptured well will hold during the storm.
Tropical Storm Bonnie halts oil spill containment work
Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm system could become Tropical Storm Bonnie later Thursday and reach the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday. The Associated Press reports that work on plugging the well has stopped, just days before a relief well to permanently seal the ruptured well is scheduled to be completed. Crews had planned to spend Wednesday and Thursday reinforcing with cement the last few feet of the relief well that will be used to pump mud into the gusher and kill it once and for all. If Tropical Storm Bonnie forces work crews to evacuate, it could be two weeks before they can resume the effort to kill the well. BP’s timetable called for finishing the relief well by the end of July and plugging the blown-out well by early August.
Relief well must be complete before static kill attempt
Another option being considered to plug the BP oil leak called is called a “static kill.” The New York Times reports that a static kill involves pumping heavy drilling mud into the well through the blowout preventer to permanently stop the flow of oil and gas. A static kill would only begin after the final casing was installed in the relief well, to reduce the risk of damage to the relief well if something went wrong. If the static kill is successful, the only need for the relief well may be to confirm that the well is permanently sealed. If the results from the static kill are ambiguous, though, it would then take at least several days, and perhaps several weeks, to permanently shut the flow from the bad well by pumping mud down the relief well.
Oil spill cap holds up under pressure
As Tropical Storm Bonnie draws closer, the government said BP can leave the oil spill containment cap on. Bloomberg reports that Allen said he had “growing confidence” in the data from the well, ruling out a potential leak from keeping the cap on. Pressure inside the well has risen to 6,863 pounds per square inch since BP sealed it July 15, indicating oil and gas is not being forced out elsewhere in the well bore, according to BP’s website. A BP official said every additional day the pressure holds gives them more confidence.