BP's Macondo well to be permanently 'killed' by Saturday; relief well connected
Saturday, September 18, 2010; 1:48 AM
BP's once-gushing Macondo well should be finally and firmly "killed" by Saturday, company officials said Friday morning.
Both company and federal officials said that a "relief well," which had been drilled down nearly 18,000 feet beneath the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, appears to have broken through into the Macondo well's shaft at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. That was necessary in order to pump cement into the well from below, completing the long-awaited "bottom kill" that will guarantee the well is sealed.
This "intercept" of the Macondo well was a touchy job, in which a long drill shaft had to intersect a target just a few inches wide. But retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, the federal government's point man on the spill, said that several clues indicated it had been done successfully.
Allen said that the relief well lost drilling fluids, which was a sign it had broken through. The drill bit encountered extra resistance, indicating it had pierced the Macondo well's casing. And readings from the Macondo well's new blowout preventer also seemed to agree that something had changed far below the seafloor.
"While each of these indicators taken separately would not necessarily be conclusive, the aggregate data available supports the conclusion that the two wells are joined," Allen said in a written statement Friday morning.
Further tests on the Macondo well, Allen said, appeared to show that oil was not flowing up an empty space inside the casing. That, he said, made it possible for the "bottom kill" to go forward.
BP, in its own statement, did not say when the bottom kill would begin. But it did say when it was expected to be over.
"It is expected that the . . . well will be completely sealed on Saturday," BP said. That would be the denouement to a sub-sea battle that began after April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded dozens of miles off Louisiana. The broken well below leaked until July 15, when it was sealed by a mechanical "cap."
In between, federal officials estimate, 4.9 million barrels (205.8 million gallons) escaped - making the Macondo spill the largest in U.S. history by far.