Transcript of Thad Allen's July 25 briefing on the BP oil leak

This is the transcript from Adm. Thad Allen's telephone briefing for reporters on Sunday, July 25, on the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The transcript was released by the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center.

July 25, 2010

12:00 p.m. EDT

Thad Allen: Thank you, Meghan and good afternoon. There have been a series of meetings in Houston this morning with our science team, representatives of BP, extensive discussion about our efforts to remobilize assets at the source and make preparations for installing the casing and moving on with the static kill and the bottom kill as I had briefed in the past.

Excuse me, specifically DDIII is now running the riser pipe down. They have 67 joints to complete, they've done 39 of those as of about 10:30 Central Daylight time this morning, need about five more hours to do that. They are planning to latch on to the well around midnight tonight. Development Driller II which was – had drill – was involved in drilling the backup well is returning to site and will start running their riser today.

Q4000 is inspecting the yellow pad, that is the control device that's placed subsea to operate the hydraulics. They replaced the valve on that and they plan to install it later on today and then they will begin preparations for the static kill operations.

The Gecko Topaz, which is the seismic research vessel, is back in the field. They completed a pass this morning and detected no anomalies and this is consistent with our decision to leave the capping stack on in the absence of any indication there are problems with well integrity. And we will attempt to have the Gecko Topaz make more passes tomorrow.

And this is an opportune time to do this because while we're bringing the vessels back in it is quiet and not as crowded and doesn’t present a problem with simultaneous operations. The stack pressure has gone above 6,900 PSI and currently stands at 6, 904 PSI.

And the temperature has been steady around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, these are both indicators of a – and consistent with a well that has integrity. We'll continue to work throughout the day. We have a number of sorties up today looking at condition of the boom, where it's gone and looking for oil.

As was briefed by Jane Lubchenco yesterday from NOAA we expect some oil that was there before the storm to be displaced. We also have noticed with our air surveillance based on the movement of the storm and the prevailing winds a lot of the residual oil that was out there that had not been skimmed by our significant effort in advance of the capping stack a lot of that has moved northerly toward Mississippi Sound, the areas around the Chandelier Islands and Breton Sound in southeastern Louisiana, but we are up doing very, very intensive surveillance today to try and reestablish where the oil is at and also redeploy response equipment back into the area so we can resume response operations and be responsive to oil sightings.

And with that I'd be glad to take your questions.

Operator: At this time I'd like to remind everyone if you would like to ask a question please press the star key then the number one on your telephone keypad. Your first question comes from the line of Harry Weber with the Associated Press.

Harry Weber: Thank you for taking my call. Admiral Allen, there are reports out this morning that Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP is going to resign, that it may occur – the announcement – as early as tomorrow.

I'm curious if the U.S. government has been notified of that through the unified command, whether it's true or not and if it is what do you think that does to the continued response moving forward, depending on who his replacement is? And also as a corollary to that can you add a little bit more about the oil displacement that you were just talking about?

Thad Allen: Yes, first of all I've got no knowledge of the inner workings of BP as a corporation and any personnel decisions they might make. My job as a National Incident Commander is to focus on unity of effort and making sure that BP, as the responsible party, uses the guidance it's been provided. And I'll continue to do that regardless of who is in charge and who I work with.

I have no knowledge of any personnel changes that are going on and will continue to work as the National Incident Commander and focus on what I do.

Regarding oil, Jane Lubchenco briefed yesterday correctly that along with the oil moving around from the south more to the north and to the northwest it's possible that where you had oil it could be moved by the storm and redeposited other places.

And that migration of oil is problematic in that it doesn't come from sea but could relocated from someplace else. So we're running a number of aviation sorties this morning trying to make sure we know which shoreline areas are impacted so we can get assessment teams out there as soon as we can.

Harry Weber: Thank you.

Operator: Next question comes from Kristen Hays with Reuters.

Kristen Hayes: Good morning, Admiral. I just wanted to check with you regarding when all the vessels will be back. Do you expect them all to be back on site by this afternoon or this evening or tomorrow morning or what?

Thad Allen: Well, I think at least by tomorrow. The critical ones are out there right now. Those are the ones related to re-establishing the riser pipes for the relief wells and then getting the Q4000 in place for the static kill.

There are a number of other vessels that were involved in building out the containment system, the second vertical riser package that would allow us to go to that production of 80,000 barrels a day. This is all starting to converge and given the priorities right now and the opportunity to go ahead and proceed with the – to install the riser package. Those are the primary vessels that are being looked on, looked at right now to get out there sooner.

The ones that will come out later are the ones that are going to probably be supporting the build out of the containment – the rest of the containment package.

Kristen Hays: So you are going to build that out? Are you going to do the static kill and not do the containment or will containment be a back up to the static kill?

Thad Allen: We continue to do all of that but we have to sequence you know what needs to be done out there and the priorities. Right now there is a little bit of a quiet area out there because there is no simultaneous opps going on and that's allowing us to do seismic surveys.

But we continue to move out. We need to have backups for all these systems. I think we've learned early on and we need to continue to understand that we'll the best thing we can. And the optimum outcome right now is to lay that casing pipe, do the static kill and then proceed with the well intercept.

That said we could have a problem somewhere along the line. So we will continue to work towards building that second vertical riser system but you have to prioritize what you're going to do and obviously getting that pipe into the relief well right now is the most important item we're working on right now.

Kristen Hays: OK, thank you, sir.

Thad Allen: Yes.

Operator: Your next question comes from Tom Fowler with the Houston Chronicle.

Tom Fowler: Hi, good morning, thanks for taking the call. I guess, two things: could you do an update on the time line for getting the relief well you know that next section with the casing put in and then for moving forward with the static kill?

And also for the static clear I just wasn't clear if it's simply the mud that's involved or is it mud then followed by cement on the static kill?

Thad Allen: On the static kill I believe it's only mud. If there's any – if that is not the case then we'll get back to you. The time line is roughly over the next week. We'll return the Development Driller III, run the riser pipe, latch in, pull that undersea containment device, which they call a packer.

They're going to need to circulate conditioning fluids through that pipe line to make sure it's ready what they call conditioning a hole and then some time in the next week they'll be in a position to be able to run that (nine and sent to eight inch) liner which is the critical path right now to moving – to move ahead.

Once that liner is laid, they're going to put cement in and around it. And at that point the two vessels that were supporting the liner operation, one call the Blue Dolphin, the other is called the Center Line will redeploy and hook up with the Q4000.

This is sometime – this will be sometime during the week of 1 August. And they will set up for that to be able to inject the static kill and during that week of August subject to the (inaudible) I'm sorry the containment pipe being installed and cemented in then we will go to the static kill with the Q4000.

So generally the next week will be prep, making sure everything is ready to go and getting the liner run and then the week of the first of August is when we will attempt to do the static kill and then move back and finish the top kill.

Male: Thank you.

Thad Allen: Let me correct. We are going the finish the bottom kill, I'm sorry.

Male: OK.

Thad Allen: No, go ahead.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of (Cocia Clemenisa) with Bloomberg News.

(Coci Clemenisa): Hi, thank you for taking my question. First, I want to clarify, when will DDIII be connected to that relief well. Is this going to take place today? And second question, you mentioned that there were meetings with BP today. Did Bob Dudley particular in this meetings?

Thad Allen: Well, first of all the DD3 will latch somewhere around midnight. And the meetings in Houston were between the BP engineers working with our science team and the Coast Guard represents there.

I don’t know whether Bob Dudley participated or not but I talk with him several times a day. I'm – I'm not sure he was in those meetings but I'm in communication with Bob Dudley.

Next question?

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Richard Fausset with the Los Angeles Times.

Richard Fausset: Good afternoon Admiral, I think I may have missed this. What does latching in mean?

Thad Allen: That’s connecting the riser pipe to the lower marine riser package. If you’ve seen where we gone in and put the top hats on before. That’s always been the connection between the riser pipe and the lower marine riser package but in this case with the relief well, there is actually a connection that goes from the Development Driller III down.

This is the way you connect the pipe from the Development Driller III down to the lower marine riser package and the blowout preventer. Then once that’s connected, that is the outer parameter if you will through which the drill string is run.

They will then have to pull the drill string and be able to pull it up to about 10,000 feet below the mud line and locked in there before they departed. So what they're going to have to do is basically clean out that entire area inside the riser pipe and down through the casing pipe—get that all conditioned and then they're prepared to go down and lay the liner down there.

Was that responsive?

Richard Fausset: I think so.

Thad Allen: Thank you.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Tamara Lush with the Associated Press.

Tamara Lush: Hi there, Admiral. I was wondering if you could maybe shed some light on something we've heard about regarding an incident in Plaquemines Parish yesterday that the Parish blocked BP trucks from moving the response material out of a town to a more safe area to avoid the storm. Have you heard anything about that?

Thad Allen: We've had several discussions over the last two or three days including last Friday when I was in New Orleans meeting with Admiral Zunkuft, our local commander.

We were in the process of executing our redeployment plan to move response equipment where it might not be affected by the storm. This was back before the storm was downgraded to a depression and then in a lull when we did not know whether it was going to a severe storm or not.

These plans had been developed over the summer and allow us to take this equipment so it’s not a risk and we can come back in and be able to be as response as we can afterwards to the sense that the parish officials had concerns about that. Admiral Zunkuft met with them and we discussed the reasons for our actions with them.

I think everybody understands what's going on right now, and I believe we've got C130 flight scheduled today where we're going to take some of the parish officials up and actually fly the coastline to give them an idea of the type of damage moving forward.

But I will say this, and I don’t know how much more emphatic I can be, and I did this at my press event on Friday in New Orleans—we need to understand that some of this equipment that’s not lifesaving equipment that would be needed during a storm need to get to higher ground where it can be saved and be brought back into the area.

I'm still haunted by my flight over New Orleans on the 6th of September 2005, seeing a parking lot full of school buses under water. They were not moved in time so they could help with the evacuation. So we need to continually focus on where this equipment should be and how it can best be preserved to help the people of the Gulf area.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Andrew Belli with the Agence France-Press.

Andrew Belli: Hi, good afternoon Admiral. Just clarifying, yesterday, you said that it would be three to five days for the start of the static kill which was Tuesday to Thursday. And today you’re saying beginning of August I was just wondering if that was a misunderstanding of what you said yesterday or that the situation had changed. There was something that unexpected which had come up.

Thad Allen: No, it was my estimate of what was going on based the vessels returning. The teams have met in Houston this morning. You folks want the best information we have and sometimes I'll give you my best estimate at the time to be refined once we have better information.

Some of this stuff could move up sooner into the time window I talked about but I asked BP to give me a timeline that I could use to discuss with the media and they gave me the timeline I gave you this morning.

And, quite frankly, I don’t have a problem with them erring on the side of conservatism moving this stuff a little bit to the right because we do know there have been things that would have delayed today here but I would go with what I passed this morning. It's been refined and revised based on meetings in Houston.

Andrew Belli: Thank you.

Thad Allen: Yes.

Meghan Maloney: Operator, we'll take two more questions at this time.

Operator: Yes ma'am, your next question comes from Carrie Kahn with National Public Radio.

Carrie Kahn: Hi, Admiral. If you could tell us, how long has this evacuation of equipment bumped you off schedule? And would you do anything different the next storm that comes that you didn’t do or did do this time.

Thad Allen: Well, its going to be hard to see until we get everything hooked back up again in how long takes us. We're trying to do that as fast as we can. And I think in regards to what happens out on the well site itself, this has pretty much went according to plan. If we have any indication we're going to have winds at sea, gale force winds, which is 39 miles an hour.

Due to the personnel that are operating the platform we pretty much need to pull them back. Now in this case we didn’t pull them way far away and they were in a position where they could come back more quickly than they might have after a full strength hurricane.

But these proceedings are pretty much laid out and they're dictated by the safety of the platform and the masters and the supervisors that are actually operating them. So I think that went pretty much according to plan. I didn’t – I haven't seen any problems with that.

As far as moving equipment out of the local communities, we're going to have some meetings this week and lay out some very clear guidance and expectations regarding equipment—who's responsible for it, how it has to be moved, and the primacy of reserving this equipment and making sure it can be brought back in after the storm.

And be able to use for oil response and recovery. It's something that’s not needed for storm protection if you will and so it needs to be preserved and brought back in as quickly as possible.

Regarding the overall impact, we're still working on that to revise it but I would say probably about seven to nine days total moving to the right.

Meghan Maloney: And this is the final question at this point operator.

Operator: Yes ma'am. Your final question comes from the line of Jim Ryan with the ABC Radio.

Jim Ryan: Will the booming operations resume closer to the shoreline and have you received any update on this area of interest that Dr. Lubchenco mentioned—out in the Caribbean—yesterday?

Thad Allen: No, no significant developments in the Caribbean. I would tell you this: I think one of the discussions we're going to have about impacted shoreline— where the oil is at and booming is—I think we're going to find that some of this boom may have been pushed up into sensitive marsh areas.

We're probably going to sit down and talk with local officials about the best way to proceed. One lesson learned I think we're going to get out of this is if you leave boom unattended in a very sensitive area, and there is a high surge, sometimes just the mechanical action of the boom itself being dragged over the marshes may be something that’s not desirable.

So I think one of the things we're going to do is sit down and take a look at our booming strategies for sensitive areas. If there is not clear threat of oil on the immediate horizon it might be better to stage that boom nearby where you could put out quickly but not have it out there where during a storm surge it will be dragged across the marshes and maybe cause more mechanical damage than maybe even the oil would if it was there.

But those are the types of things we're going to look at as we move forward after the response here.

Meghan Maloney: And that concludes our call for today. Thank you everyone for your participation.

Thad Allen: Thank you.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, you may now disconnect.