While BP has not adjusted its early August timetable for completing the first of two relief wells boring toward the Macondo more than two miles beneath the Gulf of Mexico seabed, independent drilling engineers and some energy analysts said the company could be in a position to intercept the damaged well and begin the critical kill operation within 14 days.
"Two weeks might be reasonable," said Darryl Bourgoyne, director of the petroleum engineering research and technology transfer laboratory at Louisiana State University, though he added the company still has many steps to complete first.
Before getting too excited over this, it's important to remember that we've been given hopeful news in the past, only to have those hopes dashed by failure or disappointing performance. First, there was the four-story containment dome contraption that failed because of methane hydrates clogging the valves. Then there was the insertion tube strategy, followed by the top kill, kill shot, junk shot and currently, the "lower marine riser package," otherwise known as "top hat." None of these top-down procedures have worked terribly well, but the relief well is a bottom-up approach.
BP is sticking to their August completion date, and performing ranging runs after every few hundred feet slows the drilling process down so engineers can check the aim of the intercept well. They're trying to hit something the diameter of a soccer ball, located more than three miles below the surface, so while plugging the damned hole quickly is good, getting it right is critical.
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