Strengthening storm stalls relief well drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

By Phaedra Friend Troy

A low pressure system located west of Florida in the Southeastern Gulf of Mexico has a 60 percent chance of strengthening into a tropical depression within the next 48 hours. 

Look to PennEnergy and its daily Global Offshore Weather Report for up-to-date video coverage of offshore wind, waves and weather for the four busiest offshore regions worldwide, including the Gulf of Mexico.

The low pressure formation has associated showers and squalls, and according to the National Hurricane Center, upper-level winds are creating a more conducive environment for tropical cyclone development.

Formed in the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, the storm is traveling at a rate of 5 to 10 miles per hour to the west-northwest. Forecasted paths for the storm take it directly over the Macondo oil spill site.

Due to the potential for severe weather, BP has stopped relief well drilling operations at the Macondo well in Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in the deepwaters offshore Louisiana.

Although the daily press briefing has not yet occurred, BP reported via Twitter and Facebook that the Development Driller III has suspended drilling operations on the first relief well and set a storm packer in the well because of the oncoming weather. The well is currently at a measured depth of 17,909 feet.

Right now, plans keep the Development Driller III on location at the Macondo oil spill site.

The first relief well was scheduled to penetrate the runaway Macondo oil and natural gas well by August 15. This storm will obviously delay that deadline.

A static kill was effectively performed on the Macondo well last week, whereby cement was pumped into the wellbore from above. The relief well is aiming to perform a bottom kill procedure by intercepting the annulus of the Macondo well and pumping it with cement as a permanent and final plug.

“We believe that we have filled the casing with cement and have secured that part of the well,” said Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander at a press briefing on Aug. 9. “The job before us now is to finish the relief well, to enter the annulus from the bottom, assess its condition, and then seal the well with cement from the bottom up. That will, in our view, at that point, permanently kill the well.”

Additionally, another low pressure system in the Atlantic also has a 60 percent chance of strengthening into a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours. Moving to the north-northwest, ImpactWeather meteorologist Dave Gorham reported that the storm may enter the Gulf of Mexico by mid-week, where it will most likely strengthen.

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