Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP oil spill nightmare scenario

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be about to get a whole lot worse. There's speculation that the entire well-head and even part of the seabed could collapse before the relief wells can be drilled. This would cause the entire contents of the oil deposit to gush unchecked into the gulf and beyond. The well head seems to already be collapsing, oil is leaking deep under the seabed, and it's now a race against time.

Mother Jones picked up the story via Science Blogs and The Oil Drum, an online hangout for oil industry professionals. A poster there called dougr lays out his theory, and it's chilling reading.

Here's a summary of his comment.
1. The underground pipe is compromised and there are numerous leaks along its length.
2. Oil is flowing outside the pipe and through the surrounding sediment.
3. Top kill did not and cannot work because of these other leaks.
4. Plugging the riser pipe merely increases pressure on the other leaks "down hole" which is why that strategy was abandoned.
5. Impeding the flow of oil in any way at the riser pipe only drives oil into the sediment, weakening it further. This is why the crimp in the riser pipe was cut off.
6. The blow-out preventer is supported by the pipe anchored in the seabed itself, not by the 20 or so feet of silt on the its surface. The BOP weighs about 450 lbs.
7. As the oil pressure and debris erodes the surrounding sediment, the pipe can no longer support the BOP.
8. Once the BOP falls out of the way, the well will be fully open sending 150,000 barrels per day into the gulf.
9. How much oil is in the reservoir, ie how big a spill might we be looking at? Up to 2 million correcton, 2 billion barrels.

"If the BP data correctly or honestly identified four separate reservoirs then a bleed-out might gush less than 2 to 2.5 billion barrels unless the walls -- as it were -- fracture or partially collapse. I am hearing the same dark rumors which suggest fracturing and a complete bleed-out are already underway. Rumors also suggest a massive collapse of the Gulf floor itself is in the making. They are just rumors but it is time for geologists or related experts to end their deafening silence and speak to these possibilities.

All oilmen lie about everything. The stories one hears about the extent to which they will protect themselves are all understatements. BP employees are already taking The Fifth before grand juries, and attorneys are laying a path for company executives to make a run for it."

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is also of the opinion that the well's integrity is blown. I don't know anything about deep-water (or any other kind of) drilling, but I do know this. Governments and corporations have a long history of withholding information. BP has clamped down on its workers, banning any contact with the media and they continue to prevent media access to the beaches and surrounding waters. And the 2 relief wells to be completed by August are by no means a certainty to work, as BP would have us believe.

Have a nice day.

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  1. billion not million - and the real risk is the enormous amounts of methane and other gases. The pressure would shoot oil nearly into orbit .

  2. Good catch - I've corrected it now.