BP Near-Term Quandary

BP has successfully capped their leaking oil well… mostly… for now… probably. Though the hole is capped, seeps are already emerging, the Coast Guard said this morning. Plus, the cap is just a temporary solution until a relief well can be completed… then there’s that whole issue of the ? million gallons of oil in the Gulf.

For the near term, BP faces a quandary. The key question is what will the pressure do as it builds up to a shut-in level? From what I’ve been told, BP engineers want to see 8,000-10,000 psi, based on the original well data from pre-blowout.

How much is, say, 10,000 psi? By way of comparison, the hydraulic system that controls the ailerons, flaps and landing gear on a Boeing 767 is 3,000 psi, according to an airline pilot buddy. So 10,000 psi is a LOT of pressure.

If the well pressure is less than the expected 8,000-10,000 psi, then we have to worry that there’s a leak somewhere down hole. That is, oil and gas may be seeping out somewhere. Is it seeping up the outside of the drill casing? Is it seeping into another rock formation, somewhere between the seafloor and the bottom of the well? Could it worm its way up some fault line and exit from the seafloor at some other spot? Ugh!

That’s the big issue right now. What’s the pressure doing? From what I hear, the psi is up around 7,000, which makes me wonder. Where’s that other 2,000-3,000 psi? A Boeing 767 worth of hydraulic pressure is missing in action.

Does that mean that there’s a Boeing 767-sized leak? Or is this pressure drop a natural phenomenon, indicating that the well has depleted a couple thousand psi worth over the past 85 days? That’s more than possible. One way or the other, BP had better finish getting one of those relief wells drilled and kill that reservoir at the bottom. ASAP.

Byron King
for The Daily Reckoning