Monday, June 14, 2010

Just when it looks like things couldn't get worse...

There is mounting evidence that the Deepwater Horizon oil well disaster is careening into a worst case scenario, and that the relief wells currently being drilled constitute a race with Mother Nature. The problem: the well is damaged below the seafloor. i.e., "down hole." At this point, all of the evidence is circumstantial and represents the observations of people who are supposed to be subject matter experts.  But as the evidence grows, so does the sense of horror that we could be on the verge of an unprecedented calamity in the Gulf of Mexico.

Evidence points to damage beneath the sea floor.

As I noted Tuesday, there is growing evidence that BP's oil well - technically called the "well casing" or "well bore" - has suffered damage beneath the level of the sea floor.

The evidence is growing stronger and stronger that there is substantial damage beneath the sea floor. Indeed, it appears that BP officials themselves have admitted to such damage. This has enormous impacts on both the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf, and the prospects for quickly stopping the leak this summer.


Also: The Oil Drum -- "The magnitude and impact of this disaster will eclipse anything we have known in our life times if the worst or even near worst happens..."
It's a race now...a race to drill the relief wells and take our last chance at killing this monster before the whole weakened, wore out, blown out, leaking and failing system gives up it's last gasp in a horrific crescendo.

We are not even 2 months into it, barely half way by even optimistic estimates. The damage done by the leaked oil now is virtually immeasurable already and it will not get better, it can only get worse. No matter how much they can collect, there will still be thousands and thousands of gallons leaking out every minute, every hour of every day. We have 2 months left before the relief wells are even near in position and set up to take a kill shot and that is being optimistic as I said.


And: Doug Ross @ Journal.

The magnitude and impact of this disaster can't be understated, if the worst case scenario described by the Oil Drum's poster plays out. The post is long and chock full of technical details about why the poster thinks disaster is looming and all but inevitable.

To summarize--the casing system itself (i.e., the mechanical system consisting of the well bore and cementing that holds the well pipe in place) has been compromised somehow. There is likely at least one leak somewhere between the damaged blowout preventer on the seabed and the oil reservoir. The "top kill" procedure failed to stop the oil flow because it was like jamming a finger into a gushing hose that has leaks between the spigot and the nozzle. When you let the water flow, the leaks don't leak so bad. When you plug the nozzle, the the leaks spew liquid. Why is this a problem? Because those leaks start eroding the material surrounding them, and the well pipe loses its support from the sediment and rock formations surrounding it. Eventually, that erosion causes the sea floor itself to weaken, and the 450-ton blowout preventer falls like a house built on sand.

I'm a little more optimistic than he is--as both BP and Thad Allen have said that the relief well drilling is ahead of schedule. But, as the evidence shows, this is clearly a race against time. Any interruption in the drilling of those wells could have dire consequences.

Extra point: The nuclear option is looking more and more attractive. Not only will the oil foul the Gulf, we can also have fish that glow in the dark.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the relief wells will work. They can whipstock over and under the damaged casing. Unfortunately our partying administration might actually have to get off their asses and authorize some foreign aid to come in. Yeah, two months to figure out we could use some help is a little insane, but I guess better late than never.

JMW

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