BP Moves the Goalpost for the Oil Well Integrity Test → Washingtons Blog
BP Moves the Goalpost for the Oil Well Integrity Test - Washingtons Blog

Monday, July 19, 2010

BP Moves the Goalpost for the Oil Well Integrity Test

I noted on July 15th:

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.

How was the 8,000 psi number calculated to determine the lower acceptable limit for the pressure test?

Don Van Nieuwenhuise - director of geoscience programs at the University of Houston - explained to CNN that the pressure at the bottom of the well is 11,000 psi, and so scientists have calculated that it should be 8,000 psi at the top of the well:

Yet BP is now trying to pretend that 8,000 psi was never the target.

As oil industry expert Robert Cavnar writes:
Kent Wells moved the goalpost during his Friday, July 16 briefing, saying,
"We also said that if the pressure go above 8,000 pounds and really the number in 7,500 pounds, it would really say to us that we do have integrity under, essentially, any scenario."
Very smooth. In one sweeping statement, that the press let him get away with, Wells moved the target pressure down as much as 1,500 psi from the 9,000 psi to 7,500, much closer to the 6,700 psi they were holding, which is actually at the lower end of the ambiguity range we talked about on Friday. Wells did it again yesterday, moving the "good integrity" range number down to 6,000 psi to 7,500 psi, saying,

"But at this point there is no evidence that we have no integrity and that's very good and the fact that the pressure is continuing to rise is giving us more and more confidence that as we go through this process."
So, over the last 3 days, BP has walked the "integrity" goalpost down from as high as 9,000 psi to 6,000 psi, or at least the 6,700 psi, which happens to be where they are, give or take 100 psi. You know Adm Allen didn't just make up the 8,000 to 9,000, being a sea captain and knowing little to nothing about oil and gas. Somebody gave him those numbers. BP moved to goalpost and the timeline, and the press let them get away with it. Again.


So the stage is set. It sure looks like to me that BP is refusing to disclose critical data and playing chicken with the government while holding our Gulf of Mexico as hostage. They have every motivation to not produce the well, for all the reasons we've discussed before, most importantly, being able to measure the flow; and the ROV feed of oil roaring back into the Gulf is the gun to the head. The government should compel BP to release all the data from this test. Again, this well, this lease, this oil and gas belong to the United States. This well is in federal waters, and we are all owners here. As owners of this resource, we have a right to see all the information available. BP should immediately release all of the pressure buildup data, temperature data, acoustic data, and seismic data. They should also release their build up models including the Horner plot forecasts that Wells discussed yesterday. Only then can we make a judgment that BP is managing this in the best interest of the United States, not just their own. We need no more reason for this demand than the massive scale of this catastrophe.

One more thing...these McBriefings are BS, and we're just passively sitting there letting BP get away with "technical briefings" that are neither technical or briefings. It's time to start asking the hard questions, demanding the data, and to stop putting up with the one question per customer, no followups, no coupons accepted policy. These briefings should be live, with some reporters actually present rather than just by telephone. If the government won't do it, then we need to. This is too important.
Cavnar's article is well-worth reading in full.


  1. How come all this oil is being lost and gas prices haven't gone up at all? Also, I heard that the US isn't letting ships from other countries, like the UK, come to help with the clean-up. Any validity?

  2. If you do not demand your rights, you don’t have any!

    Democracy is open government! Obama stand up for our Democracy!

    Real Scientist should be in charge of a physics problem, not BP functionaries. No Physics science, no solution!

    We know there is well damage that is where the mud went, so what is the purpose of the test? Just another delay for what reason; waiting for the next hurricane, so that BP can cut and run?

    Fire BP!
    Oil and feather BP officials!

  3. If the United States are to move against BP, it will be tomorrow, shortly after the private meeting between Obama and Cameron begins, when the PM will be presented with an ultimatum: you are either for or against us, and you have 5 minutes to decide.

    Simultaneously, BP faculties will be raided, records seized, and warrants issued for top BP officials.

    Most probably, BP the corporate person will be criminally charged, enabling their assets to be seized immediately under existing criminal forfeiture laws.

    Stay tuned.

  4. this whole charade seems to support the regulative policies being pushed through congress. Corporate greed is an amazing thing...BP had plenty of times to do what is right and they continue to play the American people as dopes.

  5. It’s a case of elementary addition and subtraction. Keep it simple BP. Subtract the current pressure from the blowout pressure. The resulting number will indicate the volcanic oil gusher is flowing from an unmonitored hole more then three miles away.

  6. Sea water pressure at the sea floor there is 2200 psi (0.44 psi/foot x 5000 foot deep), so pressures higher than 2200 psi show the flow is being contained in the bore and surrounding strata. Increasing pressures would show that the surrounding strata is becoming saturated and holding.

    Not sure that I understand your objections in this posting. The only parameter of interest is whether there are any substantial sea floor leaks anywhere near that have started.

  7. BP has no motive to produce this particular well, but rest assured they will be producing from this new discovery with the other two wells. At +50k BOPD these are very very big wells and will go along way towards paying for this screw-up. Once those wells are online only then will we know the 'heartbeat' of this reservoir. The goal post changes on pressure because the near wellbore is severely depleted and the exact pressure is unknown.

  8. Three days after the oil disaster, the Netherlands offered the most advanced oil spill cleanup in the world to the US for FREE. The White House and the Unions turned it down because it involved non-union experts from overseas. The Dutch have a law that if a well spill occurs, the company has 12 hours to prove it has it under control or the government sends in a trained specialized spill containment group. Oil cleanup is all they do around the world and they have handled worse spills than this one. Incidently they offered to take care of the Exxon Valdez spill and were turned down there also. The White House obviously would rather play political games than do what is right. This negligence resulted untold costs to the environment, peoples lives, the reputation of the US and an economic tsunamai to the economy still to come. For further proof of corruption and stupidity, read the new non-political report by the Inspector General on the Tarp bailout of GM. It is a scathing indictment of this administration's incompetence.


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