Cable sobre la fuga de gas

Los estadounidenses avanzan hipótesis sobre la causa del incidente

ID:171633
Date:2008-09-26 11:35:00
Origin:08BAKU919
Source:Embassy Baku
Classification:CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:08BAKU883 08BAKU897
Destination:VZCZCXRO2384
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHKB #0919/01 2701135
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261135Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0068
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAKU 000919

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, AJ, ENRG
SUBJECT: AZERBAIJAN INCOME TAKES A HIT AS NO SHORT-TERM FIX
LIKELY FOR ACG PRODUCTION PROBLEMS

REF: A. A) BAKU 897
B. B) BAKU 883

Classified By: Ambassador Anne E. Derse, Reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. As Operator BP continues to look for the
cause of the gas leak in its offshore ACG oil mega-field that
has resulted in slashed oil production (reftels),
possibilities center on either a failure in one of the wells
or damage in the underlying geologic formation. A quick fix
is unlikely in either scenario, meaning that at least for the
short-term, GOAJ revenues from the ACG field, its major hard
currency earner, will be seriously decreased. At least some
ACG partners are not pleased with BP's handling of this
incident, and GOAJ displeasure with BP will certainly
increase if it turns out that the gas leak was due to
operator error. END SUMMARY.

CHAIN OF EVENTS

2. (C) ACG Operator BP has been exceptionally circumspect in
disseminating information about the ACG gas leak, both to the
public and to its ACG partners. However, after talking with
BP and other sources, Embassy has pieced together the
following picture:

- On September 17 bubbles appeared in the waters around the
Central Azeri (CA) Platform, one of the major platforms in
Azerbaijan's offshore ACG oil mega-field and the platform's
gas detector alarm went off, signaling the presence of
abnormally high levels of gas in the water around the
platform (reftel).

- Shortly thereafter, a related gas-reinjection well (B-17)
for Central Azeri had a blowout, expelling water, mud and
gas.

- The BP Offshore Installation Manager decided to evacuate
the platform, sounding the "muster" alarm at 0900 hours,
evacuating the 211 workers on the CA Platform.

- BP then shut in production at the Central Azeri field and
the Eastern Azeri field. Shortly thereafter production from
the Western Azeri field was also shut down for putatively
unrelated reasons (problems with a generator), with an
overall decrease in daily production from approximately
900,000 to 250,000 bpd (overall ACG production has
subsequently increased to 300,000 bpd).

- There have been no visible signs of gas noted on the
water's surface since September 19 (which does not mean gas
is no longer flowing). However, the ROV has noted small holes
and bubbling on the seabed floor.

POSSIBLE CAUSES

3. (C) According to Embassy interlocutors, there are three
possible causes for this leak (in order of increasing
severity and longer times needed to fix):

- Leak in a Gas Flowline: this was the least likely cause
(and the easiest to fix), since a flowline pressure drop
would have been detected. BP has subsequently ruled out
flowline problems as the source.

- Well Failure: Simply put, this is operator error, most
likely a bad cement job around a well, or a split casing,
causing a gas leak. The fact that surface bubbling was no
longer noticed shortly after well production was shut down
indicates that well failure might be the cause. If this is
the cause, repair could take weeks or months, and one or some
wells would have to be plugged in and subsequently re-drilled.

- Formation Damage: A geologic event in the sub-seafloor
around the platform, to include a sea breach of the oil/gas
formation (possibly due to the operator's failure to maintain
formation pressure above the 'bubble point,' which would
allow the gas trapped in the oil to change from liquid to
gaseous form, and thus permeate the overlying rock
formation), or fracturing of faulting of the undersea
formation. Shallow gas (i.e. gas under the subsea floor but
above the geologic formation) and/or a mud volcano could also
be causes, although according to existing data the nearest

BAKU 00000919 002 OF 003


known mud volcano is 1.5 kilometers away from the CA
Platform. If formation damage is the leak's cause, the
length of time needed to fix the problem, if indeed it can be
fixed, will be substantial.

ACTIONS TAKEN

4. (C) BP's have pursued a multiprong strategy of data
acquisition to determine the gas leak's cause, to include:

- Review of existing well data, to include the cement logs
(for when the cement around the well casings was poured, to
see if a faulty cement job is the cause)

-Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) surveys: BP has done and
will continue to conduct underwater ROV surveys around
Central Azeri.

- Reboard of CA Platform: Experts from Boots and Coots will
seek to re-board the CA Platform on September 27 to, inter
alia, take gas samples (biogenic gas would indicate a shallow
gas source, i.e. gas from just the under subsea floor but
above the formation; formation gas would indicate formation
damage). Subsequent platform re-boards for investigative
purposes will continue consist with safety procedures.

- Side-scan sonar, measuring up to 50 meters below the sea
floor, to detect the possible presence of shallow gas.

SHALLOW SEISMIC SURVEY?

5. (C) If BP is not able to determine the cause by the above
methods, it will have to conduct a shallow seismic survey,
which measures up to one thousand meters below the sea floor,
and the undertaking of which is, in the words of one source
"a big deal." . (Comment: The geologic formation under CA
is six to eleven thousand feet below the sea floor).
Conducting this survey and processing the data would take at
minimum until early November.

PRODUCTION ESTIMATES

6. (C) Current ACG production has plummeted from 900,000 bpd
to 300,000 bpd. BP has said that the West Azeri Platform,
currently shut down due to problems with its electrical
generator, will be producing again on November 1, adding
another 100,000 bpd to the existing 300,000 bpd.
Consequently at least some ACG partners are being forced to
seriously revise downwards production estimates for (at
least) the remaining months of 2008, with no one currently
having any clear idea as to how long this decreased
production will continue.

SOCAR CONCERNS

7. (C) BP has told Embassy that it is keeping SOCAR informed
as to its findings, and that SOCAR is seeking to "plug in"
its own experts with those in BP working the issue. SOCAR
Marketing VP Elshad Nasirov told EnergyOff on September 25
that SOCAR was concerned about delivery disruptions. There
is an approximate one month lag time between arranging for
the sale of oil at Ceyhan and the arrival of the vessel to
pick up the oil, meaning that there are vessels steaming
towards Ceyhan now to pick up oil that SOCAR (who is
currently responsible for marketing 80 percent of the ACG
gas) cannot deliver. SOCAR is concerned about the demurrage
fines and the penalties to be charged by buyers and
refineries. Nasirov said that it was his understanding that
SOCAR can declare force majeure only if the cause were a
natural one (such as an underwater mud volcano); if the
problem resulted from ACG Operator error (such as BP erring
when pouring concrete around the well), he didn't think that
SOCAR would be able to declare force majeure.

LOST INCOME

8. (C) When asked to hazard a guess as to how much money the
GOAJ was losing as a result of this incident, knowledgeable
Embassy interlocutors have estimated approximately USD 45
million each day (600,000 barrels per day at approximately
USD 100 per barrel equals 60 million, minus Capex/Opex, times
0.80 percent, since the GOAJ gets 80 percent of the profit
oil).

BAKU 00000919 003 OF 003



COMMENT:

9. (C) The ACG field is the GOAJ's main revenue-earner, and
it is likely that this event is going to seriously impact its
income stream in (at best) the short-term. Additionally,
President Aliyev is likely to see this as the latest in a
series of disappointments from BP, at a time when he is
seeking to develop ACG Deep Gas and other Azerbaijan
hydrocarbon assets. At least some of BP's ACG partners are
similarly upset with BP's performance in this episode, as
they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this
event even to its ACG partners. Although it is too early to
ascertain the cause, if in fact this production shut-down was
due to BP technical error, and if it continues for months (as
seems possible), BP's reputation in Azerbaijan will take a
serious hit. There have been no indications that the problems
were caused by anything other than operator error or a
geological problem.
DERSE
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