As Operation Uncap & Recap gets underway this weekend in the Gulf, an interesting piece of information has recently come to light.
First, some background:
One of the problems in successfully capping the well way-back-when occurred on June 2nd. In order for the cap to form an effective seal, the riser pipe of the main well needed to be cut cleanly across. The better the cut, the better the seal.
Unfortunately, the saw used to cut the riser pipe became stuck in the casing. Subsequently, giant shears were used to make the cut, resulting in a more jagged, uneven edge, requiring a looser fitting cap that failed to form an adequate seal.
Nevertheless, these efforts were described by Admiral Thad Allen as "another positive development".
In Admiral Allen's press briefing on Friday, as he summarized plans to recap the well by the middle of next week, he revisited the problems BP engineers had encountered on June 2nd ...
"...let me take you through the sequence. It is complicated. First of all, we have a cap over the well head right now and the reason there’s a loose cap with a rubber seal on the bottom is we weren’t able to get a clean cut when we cut the riser pipe. We used a diamond wire saw and we got inside. We found out there was actually two sets of drill pipe there. And trying to use that diamond wire saw to cut against it—if you’ve ever tried to saw a limb or a piece of wood where you couldn’t hold it and it could move—you can’t get any traction, it doesn’t cut. So then we stopped.
"We then used the big, hydraulic shears which were a very imperfect cut but we did cut it. So it was cut at an angle and we had this jagged cut...
"...we will completely remove that cut off stub of riser pipe and just deal with what we got. What you’ll have then is an open pipe with a phalange (flange) and two pieces of pipe sticking up—the drill pipe and the piece of pipe that presumably fell down beside it as a result of the explosion and the riser pipe being bent over.
"At that point there will be a metal strap put around both of those pipes to make them closer together so it’s easier to put something over the top of them. At that point, they’re going to put a cylindrical device over the top of the two pipes that are banded together."
Of particular interest in this briefing is the repeated reference to not one, but two drill pipes, side by side, inside the wreckage of the well's blowout preventer, and the implication that a second freestanding pipe may have contributed to the failure of the initial cut.
A troubling acknowledgment considering that in late May, when scientists from the Department of Energy detected the presence of two pipes in the well's main riser, BP dismissed the Energy findings as "impossible" because only one pipe in sections was used for drilling.
Troubling because it appears someone up the chain of command deferred to BP's assessment that two pipes were "impossible", over evidence (presented by the DOE) to the contrary.
Why anyone is still deferring to BP's assessment of anything is more than a mystery, it's a shame.