Comments: I'll Take Your Worse-Case Scenario, and Raise It To Eleventy


Here's an update on the condition of the well bore. Kinda. It's pretty well acknowledged that the condition of the system down there is a variable rather than a constant. Also, we probably won't ever know what condition it's in unless everything goes to hell. If the relief well works, the whole thing is sealed forever and ever. If it doesn't, and the down hole systems collapses, we're in for a long, long summer down here on the Gulf Coast.

It's also clear that Transocean and BP committed the cardinal sin of drilling. They cut corners down hole.

Posted by Dave at June 21, 2010 09:09 PM


Typical "engineering disaster" - no engineers involved.

BP demonstrated the ability to put a smaller pipe into the BOP, with the goal of stopping the flow...

"There isn't any "cap dome" or any other suck fixer device on earth that exists or could be built that will stop it from gushing out and doing more and more damage to the gulf."

Why stop the flow? I thought the whole point was to capture it.

"Oil Drum" environmentalists aside - it can be stopped - but we have environmental controls of freon...

... what was that about that shuttle?

Posted by Druid at June 21, 2010 09:13 PM

CY & You All,

Heard a very interesting interview today of retired Shell President. He said he has been speaking to BP and US Government. Seemed very well informed, and an expert on the subject of off shore drilling. He outlined a number of things being done and could be done. He made a very interesting comment of the LAST RESORT thing to do - Blow up the well!! Remeber, a couple of weeks ago CY blogged on this subject and most everyone scoffed at the idea, myself included on the nuclear option.

It seems that was a very prescient blog. He said it WILL work, but it is the last resort.

OH where oh where is Red Adair when you need him???

Posted by mixitup at June 21, 2010 09:41 PM

Using a small nuclear device is something which only the Russians/Soviets would come up with. Brute force engineering at the most extreme. However, as they showed, it usually does work. Essentially you compress the sea floor, reducing all the pipes to little more than crushed bits of embedded metal, resetting it to the condition before drilling. Then the roughly two miles of seabed above the oil strata becomes a plug.

Interestingly there was an American experiment done where the device was detonated in a gas well. The idea was to shatter the surrounding rock and increase the flow of oil and gas. It worked fine, except that the output was significantly radioactive.

Posted by Tregonsee at June 22, 2010 06:12 AM

What Terrence Aym suggests is horrific indeed, and it seems to me that he is in the bis of incendiary articles. In the posted link he suggests that the oil rig was destroyed by a supersonic methane explosion. In this link he suggests that the rig was destroyed by a North Korean mini subs torpedoes.
Thus bringing World War 3. It seems he need to decide which doomsday scenario he favors most.

Posted by Web at June 22, 2010 08:23 AM

I saw a guy in the office a few weeks ago that was headed to the Gulf. His job was to take an existing 12,000 feet of drill stem that was already laid out on the floor and to the surface ship and drill into the well head itself. He seemed fairly confident that it would bappen in hte next few weeks.

Posted by David at June 22, 2010 09:29 AM

Something else to keep in mind is that (at least according to Wikipedia), a pure internal-pressure-driven 'gusher' well typically recovers less than 15% of the oil in the tapped deposit. The deposit that Deepwater Horizon tapped into is estimated at about 50 million barrels. If it behaves like a typical well, then we should see the flow peter out somewhere around 7.5 million barrels. If it really blows out to a 150,000bbl/day flow, it will last only weeks or less before the flow rate starts to drop again, as the internal pressure is reduced.

It will be decades or centuries before the Gulf of Mexico recovers from this disaster. But that particular guy's "worst case scenario" doesn't seem realistic.

OTOH, I am not a petro engineer, and he apparently is. He may know something I don't.

Posted by wolfwalker at June 22, 2010 10:22 AM

I'm still missing something...

Confirm if everything I mention here is right:

1. The oil is coming up from a fairly localized spot.
2. The oil is, obviously, coming out at a higher pressure than the surrounding water.
3. A large bore, flexible pipe, when filled with water or whatever at or above the pressure of the surrounding water, will not collapse.

So... why haven't they retried the original cap-the-whole-thing method with a larger bore pipe - perhaps with a steam line/anti-freeze line running down it so that it won't freeze shut? While it wouldn't shut down the well, it would take what was escaping and guide it to the surface at a fixed point where it could then be piped into some waiting supertankers... who could haul it off to a facility that could actually do something useful with it?

Posted by Jeff Shultz at June 22, 2010 12:03 PM

As I understand it, Jeff, the seabed around the well is collapsing, not just the well materials themselves. Once the wellhead and the surrounding strata collapse (which seems preordained, as the gusher is eroding the well with every pressured gallon that erupts) it will not seal the well, but encourage the oil to seek fissures and faults in the surrounding seafloor from deep inside the well shaft.

The big question is whether the fissures that the oil exploits will be shallow or deep.

If shallow, there would seem to be an opportunity to still capture some or much of the oil, as it would be fairly localized.

If it finds an outlet deeper down, it could erupt from almost anywhere in dozens or hundreds of places, none of which would be predictable or stable.

If the seafloor becomes extremely fractured and unstable, it then opens the door to the nightmare scenario of the methane blowout/tsunami.

The only real plausible hope we have is that the team drilling the relief well hit their target on time. If they don't it is going to get very, very bad.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 22, 2010 12:24 PM
It will be decades or centuries before the Gulf of Mexico recovers from this disaster.

A worse leak in 1979 in Mexico took about 2 years for recovery. So I don;t think that it will take centuries to recover.

Posted by iconoclast at June 22, 2010 07:27 PM

Lot's of folks are pushing lot's of worst case scenarios. There is no evidence at this point of the seabed or BOP collapsing. A logical interpretation of the course of events suggests that they may have a loss of casing integrity downhole (probably in the top 1000') but people are vastly misinterpreting the implications. Erosion of the casing is a concern but you should keep in mind that as you lose casing and drillpipe (which is NOT going to blow out the top of a collapsed BOP!) the wellbore quality DEGRADES. The methane blowout/tsunami is utterly bogus. People are taking things they don't understand far beyond physical limits. The "methane" bubble they are touting is in the form of hydrates - if we could figure out how to make that flow our energy problems would be over FOREVER.............

Posted by gasmiinder at June 23, 2010 06:15 AM

"It will be decades or centuries before the Gulf of Mexico recovers from this disaster. But that particular guy's "worst case scenario" doesn't seem realistic."

Few people understand that over a million barrels a year of petroleum seep naturally into the Gulf. This spill has a much bigger impact because it is concentrated but natural systems will deal with the hydrocarbons much faster than "decades or centuries".

I'm a huge fan of CY - but folks should keep in mind that the MSM is even more ignorant regarding the technical issues of subsurface dynamics than they are of firearms (yes that is possible). They should also keep in mind that we are starting to see on many sites that I follow some of the weaknesses of the blogosphere - 1) eyeballs come to "the world is ending" posts and 2) cross-fertilization is almost instantaneous even in areas where folks don't have expertise thus driving what appears to be a 'concensus' which in fact may be utterly bogus.

I am in the industry (lots of offshore GOM experience) and have followed the Oil Drum postings. I'd tell you that there are some very good technical people posting there and also some very dubious folks posting the "worst case" imaginable as "the likely".

This is not a half-hour sitcom where the solution magically appears. Time is necessary - the relief wells were always the answer and they are making good progress. If you want to worry - the worry is hurricanes, that will make a bad situation much worse.

Posted by gasminder at June 23, 2010 06:30 AM

Oh, my gosh! The Derb predicts an utter cataclysm. Dog bites man. July is hot in the Midwest.

Details at eleven. (rolls eyes)

Posted by Casey at June 24, 2010 01:31 AM

Nuke the oil well? The Nuclear Option
Given that BP is still sitting on both the detailed situational and geological data, it is difficult to tell from a distance what will or will not work to stop the Deepwater Gulf oil spill, therefore everything should be on the table. Here is an interview with a leading U.S. expert on Peaceful Nuclear Explosives, Dr. Milo D. Nordyke, who suggests that it should be carefully considered under the circumstances.

Posted by Chuck Stevens at June 24, 2010 04:14 PM