Weather Stalls Replacing Macondo Well BOP

HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Aug. 30, 2010

BP and U.S. officials said Monday that efforts to remove a sealing cap and replace the blow-out preventer at the well that unleashed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are on hold due to inclement weather in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, likely delaying the final operations to kill the well by a few days.

High seas at the Deepwater Horizon site have interrupted work, and "right now it's reasonable to look at a two- to three-day delay," said Retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen in a teleconference.

The final steps to kill the well, which involve flooding it with drilling mud and cement from the bottom, were previously expected to begin around Sept. 7, after a new blow-out preventer is installed. The well stopped leaking oil on July 15, when BP sealed it with a capping stack; the seal was further strengthened when BP pushed oil back into the reservoir with drilling mud and cement in early August.

The effort was held up because the six- to eight-foot high seas make it difficult to remove the capping stack, as well as a damaged blow-out preventer, both of which sit on top of the well at a depth of 5,000 feet. BP will store the capping stack at the bottom of the ocean, even as it aims to lift the damaged blow-out preventer to the surface, where federal investigators will use it as forensic evidence in their research on the causes of the explosion that killed 11 and unleashed the worst accidental offshore spill to date. Only after that equipment is removed can BP proceed to install a new blow-out preventer, designed to withstand any pressure resulting from the injection of flood and cement into the gap between the well casing and the surrounding rock formation. U.S. officials are concerned that the flooding of that area, known as the annulus, could compromise a cement plug that the company installed in early August at the top of the well.

BP said in a statement on its website that operations will resume as soon as wave heights reach "acceptable levels."

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