Obama visits Gulf Coast; BP awaits 'top kill' results

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, May 28 -- US President Barack Obama visited Louisiana May 28 in his second trip to the Gulf Coast to inspect oil spill response efforts while BP PLC executives said it could take another 48 hr to determine if the “top kill” worked.

“We’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” Obama said during a May 27 news conference from Washington, DC, regarding the oil spill. “It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.”

If BP stems the flow of oil and natural gas through the runaway deepwater well using heavy drilling fluid, then crews will inject cement into the well. The top kill involves phases in which mud is pumped into the well, and then crews stop pumping and wait to see if the flow has been stopped.

“It is estimated that the full top kill procedure could extend for another 24 to 48 hr,” BP said in a May 28 news release.

Transocean Ltd.’s semisubmersible rig Deepwater Horizon drilled the Macondo well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 for BP and partners. The Deepwater Horizon exploded Apr. 20, leaving 11 crew members missing and presumed dead. On Apr. 22, the Deepwater Horizon sank (OGJ, May 3, 2010, p. 31).

BP holds 65% interest. Partners are Anadarko Petroleum Corp. 25% and Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. Ltd. 10%. On May 28, BP said it has spent $930 million on spill response efforts.

BP ready with other options
In parallel with the top kill operation, BP also has a lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system sitting on the seabed if needed (OGJ Online, May 25, 2010).

Its deployment would first involve removing the damaged riser from the top of the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer, leaving a flat-cut pipe at the top of the BOP’s LMRP.

If BP decides to use the LMRP cap, executives estimate it would take 3-4 days to deploy it. In addition to these options, a second BOP might be put on top of the Deepwater Horizon BOP.

Drilling of two relief wells began on May 2 and May 16. Each well is expected to take 3 months to complete.

The second relief well is being drilled by Transocean’s Development Driller II, and the semi temporarily was moved while top kill operations are under way, Transocean Chief Executive Officer Steve Newman said in a May 28 call with analysts.

The Development Driller II stands ready to be moved back into place when BP calls for it to be returned, Newman said.

Louisiana to build dunes
As of May 27, the US Coast Guard reported oil on about 100 miles of Louisiana shoreline of which 30 miles needed to be cleaned.

National Incident Commander and Adm. Thad Allen approved implementation of part of Louisiana’s proposal to build temporary barrier islands to stop oil from coming ashore. The state’s original proposal called for dredging more than 92 million cu yards of material over 6-9 months to build temporary barrier islands.

“We are relentlessly working to secure the spill at source and attack the oil being released using every safe and reasonable technique available,” said Allen. “We will not be satisfied until the spill is stopped, the oil is removed, the communities are safe, and their way of life restored.”

Separately, Swift Energy Co. said it’s monitoring for any spill-related events given “isolated reports of oil sheens along the Louisiana coast, in close proximity” to Swift’s Lake Washington operations.

Lake Washington field is in Barataria Bay 5 miles north of the Louisiana coast. Swift Energy workers have not observed anything that would require cessation of drilling, completion, or production activity at Lake Washington field, which is in Plaquemines Parish, La., the company said.

Swift Energy has one drilling rig and one completion rig operating in Lake Washington field.

Contact Paula Dittrick at pauld@ogjonline.com.

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