Guest Post: Initial Results from Well Integrity Test Are Inconclusive

Washington’s Blog

As Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen has explained, sustained pressure readings above 8,000 pounds per square inch (psi) would show that the wellbore is more or less intact, while pressures of 6,000 psi or less would mean there could be major problems:

We are looking for somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 PSI inside the capping stack, which would indicate to us that the hydrocarbons are being forced up and the wellbores are being able to withstand that pressure. And that is good news.

If we are down around in the 4,000 to 5,000, 6,000 range that could potentially tell us that the hydrocarbons are being diverted someplace else, and we would have to try and assess the implications of that. And as you might imagine, there are gradations as you go up from 4,000 or 5,000 PSI up to 8,000 or 9,000. …

We will at some point try to get to 8,000 or 9,000 and sustain that for some period of time, and these will be done basically, as I said — if we have a very low pressure reading, we will try and need (ph) at least six hours of those readings to try to ensure that that is the reading. If it’s a little higher, we want to go for 24 hours. And if it’s up at 8,000 or 9,000, we would like to go 48 hours just to make sure it can sustain those pressures for that amount of time.

The former director of Sandia National Laboratories says the pressure readings so far have been ambiguous.

As the Washington Post points out:

The initial pressure readings are in an ambiguous range, and officials will have to make a difficult judgment call on whether to keep the well shut in or reopen it, according to Tom Hunter, retired director of the Sandia National Laboratories and a member of the federal government’s scientific team overseeing the test.

“If it were a lot higher, it would be an easier decision to make,” Hunter said.


Hunter, who witnessed the test from BP’s war room in Houston, told The Washington Post that the pressure rose to about 6,700 psi and appeared likely to level out “closer to 7,000.” He said one possibility is that the reservoir has lost pressure as it has depleted itself the past three months.

“It’s just premature to tell. We just don’t know whether something is leaking or not,” Hunter said.

We will need to wait another 24 hours or so – and engineers will have to continue monitoring sonar and visual images (both help determine if any oil is leaking from the seafloor), and seismic data (to determine if there are any new leaks below the seafloor) – before engineers can determine how stable the well is.

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. Neil D

    If the well is finally capped, does that mean we can stop feeling guilty about driving our SUV’s and go back to drill baby, drill here, drill now etc?

    What? You say you never felt guilty? Neither did I, but maybe Barry Ritholz had a point…

    “We can be a bit hypocritical in the US of A. We have $50k earners who bought $750k houses, then complained about Goldman Sachs; Walmart shoppers who buy 12 packs of tighty whiteys for $2.99 — then complains about job losses. Or the non voters (the majority of us) who complain about Congress. We energy consumers ought to realize that it is our demand that led to drilling in the GoM.”

  2. Dwight Baker

    Who knows the purpose of the current BP exercise?
    What I have heard and seen does not make a bit of sense.
    By Dwight Baker
    7/15/2010 7:52 AM

    The casing integrity and the hole being in good condition was just a con and many good but un-knowing run with it like the truth. BP has all the logs on the well with the proof of all being done up to par, that same set of records our Federal Government employees have too. President Obama must insist his folks find them.

    The NEW CAP needing testing to see if the seal at the bottom on the NEW CAP and on top of the BOP could hold back the flowing gas and oil pressure.

    Why? Without stopping the flow oil gas and water in the blown out well the Relief wells would NOT be successful.
    The following letter was circulated and sent to our President that clearly proved that the relief wells were a farce and would not work as had been said.

    Now all the dialog that were supposed to have occurred by our Federal Employees and others of supposed re-known was either a bold face lie or never was said. It was just one more script written by BP and read and that was deemed to be the TRUTH.

    The only sure engineering oil and gas cure for the blown out well is the Tame Nature plan using an overshot. That was sent to BP back on May 13, 2010.

    I own the rights to Tame Nature Plan with overshot patent pending on the tool and process. Boots and Coots is BP blow out specialist and they have been on the job since the blow out occurred. Halliburton owns Boots and Coots so now it is all back in the family. Remember Halliburton told congress they could not tell ALL for BP was their customer? And that closed loop is as tight as a man hanging from a hangs man rope.
    So now if BP had good sense they would come to me and make a deal to end the fiasco they have played out way too long. WHY? Just imagine how big the cost is for them by refusing the only sure cure since May 13, 2010? Class action lawsuits could take them down if our Justice Department would lend a hand of support. And God forbid if they would not. And that would be the final blow to insure that President Obama would be the longest running Lame Duck President in our history.

    By Dwight Baker
    July 10, 2010

    Relief wells by BP another lie.
    WHY? Facts:
    1. The blown out well has a flowing pressure of over 13,000-PSI, the volume stated is 100,000 barrels per day. Gas being produced is estimated to be 10 Million cubic feet per day.
    2. Relief wells to drill into 9 5/8 –inch casing just above the 1300 foot of open hole where the flow of oil gas and some formation water is flowing.
    3. Using 5-inch drill pipe to pump down mud, cement etc, the maximum that can be pumped is 100 barrels per minute at 15,000 PSI
    4. In a 24-hour period 14,440 barrels can be pumped NO MORE.
    5. Two wells about 30,000 barrels
    6. So what we are all waiting around on is to hear from BP GOSH WE MADE ANOTHER MISTAKE.
    7. Or hear our poor misplaced Thad Allen try to defend BP in all their idiotic behavior.

    Sometimes simple math is all that is needed.

    Just in from NWO today videos that will rip out your heart. The truth being told at last by our friends in the Gulf affected.

  3. Ishmael

    These high pressure 20,000 ft wells usually have a short life of around a year. The formation where the well is fraced and production begins starts having sediment move into it which starts blocking the producton.

    Accordingly the comment that after 3 months the pressure in the well could have dropped over this period is not unreasonable.

  4. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    The cap appears to working – for now. We should be glad! But as anyone who has done a little plumbing knows, stopping one leak is no guarantee that the pressure won’t eventually migrate to the weakest pressure point in the pipe and “pop” it! I suspect this possibility is of some concern to BP and government officials – their hesitancy to claim “success”.

    The massive methane deposit/oil reservoir [Links from 07/15/10 NC] may continue to “vent” from the fractures/fissures in the sea floor reportedly caused by the initial explosion. One of these reported fractures/fissures is approx 7 kilometers from the well site, suggesting that the sea floor is like a cracked egg shell with pressure exerting upward/outward force on it. If the pressure can’t be relieved, the crack[s] will widen and weaken until the shell ruptures. But this also suggests that if the pressure drops too quickly, the sea floor may collapse in on itself. Either way, the methane/oil reservoir escapes into the Gulf of Mexico, making the oil/gas spill up to the present pale in comparison and significance. This is my take on what I read yesterday and is hopefully wrong! I defer to geologists/engineers more knowledgeable in this willing to weigh in on this.

    But from a legal standpoint, if the oil/gas continues to escape from these sea floor fissures AFTER THE WELL IS CAPPED/SEALED and it can be “proven” that this oil/gas is the same as that found at the well site, is BP still liable? Or can BP argue that its successful capping/sealing of the well is where its legal liability ends since “natural” venting of oil in the GOM is a well-known phenomenon? Wouldn’t the government have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the Deep Water Horizon well explosion caused the sea floor fractures/fissures? While a jury sitting in Baton Rouge may not have a problem convicting BP on this score, if it would even be BP and not Transocean [a legal case in itself], once either case makes its way into federal appellate court and onto the SCOTUS, given the complexion of the Court and the stakes involved, I wouldn’t bet on a ruling favoring the plaintiff – the federal government et al. That’s not a given.

    But by then the GOM would be dead and lifeless. Might as well drill there for the huge oil reserves it still holds, right? Then again, a floating refinery might be cheaper! Just wait for it to bubble up, recover it, refine it, SELL it, and save the expense of having to drill for it. The rationality of irrationality …

  5. Ishmael

    A while back we had Matt Simmons talking about using a nuke to stop this leak and I called BS on that and he also said oil was venting from a crack in the sea floor causing a second plume. I called BS on that also and indicated that at 5,000 feet in the ocean the water is very cold causing the oil to solidfy and move along the bottom for miles.

    The explosion happened at sea level not done in the well. It should be noted that this well hit a producing zone through 18,000 feet of rock. It would be practically impossible for a fissure to go to the surface from that far down. This is total tinfoil.

    It is also tinfoil to think that the ocean floor would collapse due to a decrease in pressure. Once again this well’s producing zone was through 18,000 feet of rock. There have been oil and gas wells just a few thousand feet down which have produced enormous amounts of oil and for over 30 years. I have never seen a place where the land has collapsed. Accordingly, this is also total BS.

    Now there is the risk that the casing has been ruptured and the oil and gas could move up the outside of the casing which if severe could blow the casing out of the hole. As I indicated before, I have seen 20,000 feet of drill string blown out of the well.

    It is just about time for the end of the worlders to drop this subject and move on to something else. The year 2012 is nearing and maybe they can start focusing on that. By the way the whole theory of various stars aligning up and exerting a gravitational pull on the earth in 2012 is also BS. Astrophysicist do not call gravity the Weak Force for no reason.

    1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio


      I’ll have to take your word on it – at least until someone refutes your argument. And yes, the “nuke” option was ridiculous. And no I’m not a doomer… or end of worlder.

      But if the casing is blown out of the hole then what?

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