Guest Post: Is the Well Integrity Test Failing?

Washington’s Blog

[Videos embedded in my blog]

Read this first, for background.

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 delayed the effort until long afterwards.

BP also admittedmany days after it stopped the top kill attempt – (1) that BP had to stop because mud was leaking out below the seafloor, and (2) that capping the well from the top could blow out the whole well.

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.

So BP doesn’t have a great track record of promptly informing us of what is happening.

But now that the well integrity test (background here and here) is underway, can we somehow tell if it’s working or not?

The government previously announced that the test would succeed if pressure in the well of 8,000-9,000 psi were observed for a sustained period. As Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen said:

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.

Images from BP’s Oly Rov1 camera show the gauge for the input on the blowout preventer has been 2,000 psi for quite some time:

And the Hos ROV1 camera shows pressure of less than 1,000 bpi on another gauge:

However, as BP’s Kent Wells explained earlier today:

People still looking at pressure gauges and talking about that. The pressure sensing devices are what we call pressure transducers and they send a signal to the surface which are then are converted to their actual pressure readings. So we will not have ROV cameras on pressure gauges that will show what the pressures are during the tests. The pressure gauges you see are for our hydraulic equipment or (accumulators) et cetera like that.

So the gauges don’t necessarily mean anything.

Also, there was an apparent explosion of oil coming out of the cap.  As Bloomberg noted tonight:

BP Plc said it will begin a pressure test of its gushing Gulf of Mexico well after fixing a leak that erupted while it was shutting off oil flow with a new containment cap. The leak was detected in a “choke line” leading from the stack of valves ….

Hypothetically, BP will fix the choke leak, and then re-start the test.

The Times-Picayune has a good video explaining the process and at least some of what we’re looking at:

Oil spill update: Times-Picayune reporter video July 14, 2010

But given BP’s track record, we may not find out until hours, days or even weeks after the results are in whether the test is a success or failure.

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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. dh

    So, GW, any thoughts on this pressure reading of 8,000 or 9,000? I’m not sure what this is about?

    Thus, I have gone to the well and found these tidbits of random stuff from Rockman @

    “Before they ran the csg BP sent a pressure gauge (called the MDT tool) down the hole on the end of a cable. It’s an accurate tool. It measured about 11,900 psi in the producing reservoir which equates to a 12.6 #/gallon mud weight. That fits with what we know about the mud weight used to drill the reservoir: 14 ppg. You normally drill a little over balanced like that.”

    “From the log data they estimate the OBG (overburden gradient) to be around 16 – 16.3 ppg. They probably used the wire line density log to come up with a site specific OBG. You’ll also notice the frac gradient is in the upper 15’s. I suspect the low FG is why they’re setting csg just above the intersect: cut down the possibility of lost circulation.”

    ==>Somewhat related: “You change the base of the food web, it’s going to ripple through the entire food web,” said marine scientist Rob Condon, who found oil-loving bacteria off the Alabama coastline, more than 90 miles from BP’s collapsed Deepwater Horizon drill rig. “Ultimately it’s going to impact fishing and introduce a lot of contaminants into the food web.”

    Gulf Oil Spill Altering Food Web Scientists Say, Long-Term Impact Unknown

  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
    7/14/2010 10:49 PM

    One thing that all can count on in engineering oil and gas circles of influence is that a purposeful plan that is laid out will be done in a systematic order with effort.
    NOW that is where the BP BS buck stops Right Here in the head office.

    1. BP current work has had no synergy from day to day.
    2. BP has not stated a purposeful plan.
    3. BP is still grabbing for straws while our Gulf is dying.
    4. The current hardware hanging from multiple ships has no longevity.
    5. The current hardware will be removed when another storm threatens.
    6. The original stated plan to decrease the excess of oil and gas escaping into the Gulf now has been changed in the middle of the stream.
    7. I am suspect that BP discovered the pressure was too great to control with the cap in place so to turn folks attention that have not a clue what BP is doing —- this current plan working on now was devised to confuse and defuse the set out agenda.
    8. Now the stated plan is to close one valve then another in some type of rhythm to make sure the well casing will hold the pressure —- may make sense to CNN and others but to me it is moronic.
    9. Doing so has no purpose.
    10. The only real sure cure for the out of control blown out well is to use a Tame Nature overshot to set over the BOP and pump down a heavy laden load of drilling mud and loss circulation material in such a violent initial blast from above that the flowing oil and gas will be turned around and pushed back down into the formation.
    11. Then continue pumping until a rise in pump pressure is seen from the Mother Ship then change to pumping cement to fill up at least 3,000 feet of the initial casing string.
    12. When finished the well is plugged.
    NEXT :
    A. Get our men and women out of the oil and dispersants before more get sick and in the end die.
    B. Genuine clean up efforts can commence with a clear purpose
    C. Then the greater need will be to create equipment to diffuse the oil in the flumes so that skimmer ships can pick up and cart off.

    Contact for a copy of the Tame Nature Plan using an overshot complete with illustrations on how to do it.

  3. 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.

  4. Ronald

    American attitude towards oil drilling and the availability of cheap oil to support our lifestyle seems unchanged by this event no matter how grim the photo’s and stories coming from the Gulf. Barry over at the Big Picture has a great post regarding this issue accompanied by a recent poll, all pointing towards an overwhelming desire for the energy status quo and a clear message to the political class that main street doesn’t want any lifestyle changes except more credit and higher wages. A bit from the poll:

    “Most Americans oppose President Barack Obama’s ban on deepwater oil drilling in response to BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico spill, even as they hold the company primarily responsible for the incident.

    Almost three-fourths, or 73 percent, say a ban is unnecessary, calling the worst oil spill in U.S. history a “freak accident,” according to a Bloomberg National Poll. Barely more than a third say they support drilling less than they did a few months ago. The BP rig sank in April. The administration issued a new moratorium this week after a court rejected a six-month one imposed in May . . .

    “Asked who was most to blame for the spill, 44 percent say BP, and 19 percent say lax federal regulations and oversight. One in five say no one is to blame.”

  5. John L


    Your “ram heavy mud down the well to kill it” “solution” would be guaranteed to rupture any damaged section via a hammer effect and ruin the entire well. That’s why the relief wells will work; they’ll pump mud in from the bottom of the well and isolate any damaged sections from the oil reservoir. Once that is done they’ll set a cement plug and seal the well. Your “solution” is nothing more than a violent attempt at top killing the well, which they now know isn’t going to work.

    As for shutting the valves, if the pressure doesn’t rise like they expect, they’ll open them up again and send the oil up to the ships via flexible connections. If the pressure rises and holds, then they will just keep it shut until the relief wells seal the well for good.

  6. Jardinero1

    I wish you wouldn’t run excerpts from Washington’s Blog. It is entertaining but has all the veracity of an X-Files episode. The author is proudly paranoid but refuses to own up to his ignorance.

    Upstreamonline has frequent authoritative posts on the repair and recovery efforts. BP has no intention of shutting the well from above when they can now recover 80 to 100k barrels a day with the new cap. I suspect that they will delay the relief well efforts by some weeks or months, because of “technical issues”, so as to recover every possible drop from the well before they are ordered by the feds to stop farting around and seal the well from below.

  7. Ladd

    I just ran through Dwight’s simple math and something’s not adding up. I don’t know how accurate the figures truly are, but assuming that there are 100,000 barrels per day flowing from the well, and a relief well can pump 100 barrels per minute. 100 bpm x 60 minutes is 6,000 bph. 6000 bph x 24 hours = 144,400 barrels per day that a single relief well could pump. You lost a decimal point somewhere.

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