Casaubon's Book

Reader Stephen B. pointed me to this comment at The Oil Drum by someone who argues that there’s more going on under the Gulf that we think. For those who think it is strange that I be highlighting a comment in a thread, I should note that TOD attracts many, many petroleum geologists and other professionals, and while sometimes the comments are the same “pulled it out of my ass” as on every other website, often, the technical knowledge on offer is pretty astounding. This one passes my smell test, which is usually pretty good – that doesn’t mean I claim commenter Doug R is right – it means I think his information is interesting enough to be worth exposing to a wider audience for clarification or correction.

The whole thing is worth a read, including the many cites and sources (again, why I take it at least a little seriously), but here’s one of several major points made, building on a Wall Street Journal article (link at source):

There are some inconsistencies with this article.
There are no “Disks” or “Subsea safety structure” 1,000 feet below the sea floor, all that is there is well bore. There is nothing that can allow the mud or oil to “escape” into the rock formation outside the well bore except the well, because it is the only thing there.

All the actions and few tid bits of information all lead to one inescapable conclusion. The well pipes below the sea floor are broken and leaking. Now you have some real data of how BP’s actions are evidence of that, as well as some murky statement from “BP officials” confirming the same.

I took some time to go into a bit of detail concerning the failure of Top Kill because this was a significant event. To those of us outside the real inside loop, yet still fairly knowledgeable, it was a major confirmation of what many feared. That the system below the sea floor has serious failures of varying magnitude in the complicated chain, and it is breaking down and it will continue to.

What does this mean?

It means they will never cap the gusher after the wellhead. They cannot…the more they try and restrict the oil gushing out the bop?…the more it will transfer to the leaks below. Just like a leaky garden hose with a nozzle on it. When you open up the nozzle?…it doesn’t leak so bad, you close the nozzle?…it leaks real bad,
same dynamics. It is why they sawed the riser off…or tried to anyway…but they clipped it off, to relieve pressure on the leaks “down hole”. I’m sure there was a bit of panic time after they crimp/pinched off the large riser pipe and the Diamond wire saw got stuck and failed…because that crimp diverted pressure and flow to the rupture down below.

Contrary to what most of us would think as logical to stop the oil mess, actually opening up the gushing well and making it gush more became direction BP took after confirming that there was a leak. In fact if you note their actions, that should become clear. They have shifted from stopping or restricting the gusher to opening it up and catching it. This only makes sense if they want to relieve pressure at the leak hidden down below the seabed…..and that sort of leak is one of the most dangerous and potentially damaging kind of leak there could be. It is also inaccessible which compounds our problems. There is no way to stop that leak from above, all they can do is relieve the pressure on it and the only way to do that right now is to open up the nozzle above and gush more oil into the gulf and hopefully catch it, which they have done, they just neglected to tell us why, gee thanks.

A down hole leak is dangerous and damaging for several reasons.
There will be erosion throughout the entire beat up, beat on and beat down remainder of the “system” including that inaccessible leak. The same erosion I spoke about in the first post is still present and has never stopped, cannot be stopped, is impossible to stop and will always be present in and acting on anything that is left which has crude oil “Product” rushing through it. There are abrasives still present, swirling flow will create hot spots of wear and this erosion is relentless and will always be present until eventually it wears away enough material to break it’s way out. It will slowly eat the bop away especially at the now pinched off riser head and it will flow more and more. Perhaps BP can outrun or keep up with that out flow with various suckage methods for a period of time, but eventually the well will win that race, just how long that race will be?…no one really knows….However now?…there are other problems that a down hole leak will and must produce that will compound this already bad situation.

This down hole leak will undermine the foundation of the seabed in and around the well area. It also weakens the only thing holding up the massive Blow Out Preventer’s immense bulk of 450 tons. In fact?…we are beginning to the results of the well’s total integrity beginning to fail due to the undermining being caused by the leaking well bore.

Read the comment, follow out the links, and read the subsequent commentary. It may or may not be true, but it seems we’ve found a new worst-case scenario.

(Updated to add that Heading Out over at TOD has more on flow rates and the reasons behind them. As always, I recommend the comments as well.)



  1. #1 dewey
    June 16, 2010

    We can perhaps only hope that the destruction of all life in much of the Atlantic Ocean will cost us enough ecosystem services to push our economy over the edge. Your previous post noted the historical lack of action to match our talk; if Americans will not tolerate voluntary limits, the best hope for minimizing overall harm to the world is that we and similarly greedy nations should be ruined and impoverished as fast as possible. At this point, I’m actively looking forward to it. Of course, when the consequences of our actions start hitting hard, it will be advisable not to express satisfaction in public, lest you be among the “terrorist sympathizers” who will be blamed for it.

  2. #2 hibob
    June 16, 2010

    There are no “Disks” or “Subsea safety structure” 1,000 feet below the sea floor, all that is there is well bore.

    several comments to Dougr’s point out that there are several subsurface disks, one of them 1000′ down, and link to a schematic.
    Not sure how that affects the veracity of the scenario.

  3. #3 RyanS
    June 16, 2010

    We need to nuke it fast. It will rearrange the earth around the well.

  4. #4 Jen
    June 16, 2010

    This confirms what I’ve felt about this leak since it’s began. I’ve had a pit in my stomach about it for the past 2 months. We don’t see it this minute, but I think this is an event that will change the course of the century. This is terrifying.

  5. #5 dewey
    June 16, 2010

    Today’s Drumbeat links to a column whose author argues that a worst case scenario is 20 million barrels and 70-560 billion dollars’ damages (derived by assuming cost per barrel equivalent to Exxon Valdez). If the real worst case scenario is 2.5 billion barrels … well, such damages could never be paid, obviously, so those harmed and killed, both animal and human, would be abandoned to their fate, like the Ninth Ward on a continental scale. The Archdruid is looking more right all the time about complexity leading to collapse.

  6. #6 Don
    June 16, 2010

    Whatever happens, we’re screwed. This is truly frightening.

  7. #7 Alisha
    June 16, 2010

    HI, me and my daughter are really upset about the 2010 Gulf Spill and we really want to help the birds and other wildlife affected. We were thinking that we could go to the Gulf and volunteer by cleaning birds, which because I am as my daughter says “old”, I remember the Valdez spill which they let people do that. Another question would be if we can do that would my daughter be able to too?

  8. #8 Jennie
    June 16, 2010

    Ryan, Nuking it would only compound the problem as we would then have to deal with irradiated oil, which sounds like a whole new level of hell.

    Alisha, I’ve been hearing that volunteers are strongly encouraged to find some training before trying to help, as the eco systems involved are much more fragile and varied than those dealt with in the Valdez spill. Under 18, I don’t know, OSHA is monitoring workers down there and there are truly hazardous chemicals, in the air, in the water, on the land, I’m not sure how favorably they’d look on a youth.

  9. #9 Rose Colored Glasses
    June 16, 2010

    BP has been concentrating its efforts on harvesting as much of that oil as possible, not on stopping the leak. Think of this as looting a crime scene.

  10. #10 darwinsdog
    June 16, 2010

    Alisha, the vast majority of those oiled birds are going to die anyway, even if they are cleaned well. The best thing that can be done for them is to euthanize them. Sad but true.

  11. #11 Pteryxx
    June 16, 2010

    Anyone hoping to volunteer for spill cleanup… read this first (it might give you an ad to click through):

  12. #12 dewey
    June 16, 2010

    darwinsdog – That’s true of some birds, but not all. There’s some German scientist throwing around claims that virtually all oiled birds will die, so just kill them. American biologists note both that some of her more dramatic figures have no clear reference, and that in recent spills, using newer cleanup methods, documented survival rates have been much improved. (Older studies also may have overestimated death rates, or the transmitters stuck on the birds may themselves have contributed to death rates.) Very high survival rates have been recorded for penguins in a recent cleanup, for example. Some Gulf species of birds, including the near-endangered brown pelican, also deal pretty well with being handled and at least some can be expected to survive (though where they will ever go to live, if the entire Gulf ends up destroyed, is another matter).

    So long as BP is having animal corpses cleaned up in secret, and people with cameras kept off the beaches by armed goons so the real toll will not be known, I think it is fair to assume that part of the “cleanup is futile” meme is being spread by people who know that industry will be required to pay for the cleanup and rehab, and it’s much cheaper to kill birds than to save them.

  13. #13 Felicia
    June 16, 2010

    This is a serious problem..It s worth reading..I hope I can help :). It’s for our own good.

  14. #14 Gary
    June 16, 2010


    I have been following this over at TOD as well. I also am gradually getting a very bad feeling about what is coming down. From a comment yesterday – here is a link to a video of purported oil seeping from the sea floor about 50 feet from the the well head.

    The fact that this could get MUCH worse is truly frightening.

  15. #15 Flora
    June 16, 2010

    Talk about a Doomsday Machine! This is just hideous beyond words.

    What about the report that this all happened because BP was preparing to pull out of this well anyway, and were moving on? That the “accident” was a result of improper procedures followed during the shutdown process? Why would they abandon a well that produces such a huge quantity of oil in the first place?

  16. #16 Jonsi
    June 16, 2010

    @Flora, 15: I believe the plan was to cap the well, drill others, cap them too, and then put in production facilities. Any number of reasons exist for not using a well for production, even if you hit oil. Until you drill, you simply don’t know how well your seismic data and interpretation align with reality. This commonly results in dry holes (if 1/3 hit oil, you are in the hall of fame,) but even if you strike black gold, it might be at the incorrect depth, contain too much water or gas, or the hole itself may be deemed unsafe for geotechnical reasons.

    I read TOD, and I don’t see how a subsurface leak could possibly migrate kilometers away like some of the unsubstantiated reports — the angle is too high, and fractures in that muck are likely to be purely vertical or horizontal from all the sub-bottom profiles I’ve seen in similar parts of the gulf — so most leaking should occur up and around the actual bore. It just means that the only way to kill the leak is below the rupture and right above the reservoir via the relief wells. You can’t do anything from the top without enlarging the leaks. Possibly the top kill efforts could still have worked, but you’d have a large zone of weakness that may make cementing impossible. I don’t think that is why they killed that effort, but right now, containment is really their best strategy.

  17. #17 Mary
    June 16, 2010

    This is terrifying! It just simply appears to be one of worst engineering disaster in history, with financial impacts that we haven’t even begun to understand. @Pteryxx: Thanks for sharing this info. How I wish I could help.

  18. #18 dhogaza
    June 16, 2010

    BP has been concentrating its efforts on harvesting as much of that oil as possible, not on stopping the leak. Think of this as looting a crime scene.

    Then why is the Q4000, just brought on line, *burning* each and every barrel of oil it recovers?

    I always thought they sold the unburned oil, not the emissions …

  19. #19 bomoore
    June 16, 2010

    If you remember, BP’s first response was to lower an enormous containment dome over the site. There could be two reasons for this (that I know of): Money – they wanted to capture the escaping oil, which is what they are doing on a small scale now, or, they knew attempts to cap the well would be futile. From what I’ve heard, the “cement job” (casing the well bore) failed, which may be the cause of the down hole leaks Doug R. refers to.

  20. #20 Stephen B.
    June 16, 2010

    When I first saw this comment on TOD, I was simply amazed that we hadn’t/haven’t heard about it in a more mainstream place. As a former engineer myself (electrical), it instantly explained so many previously puzzling facets of what I had seen in the media over the past several weeks concerning the details of this failed oil well that I was just sure that there was/is a large amount of truth in the story once I digested it.

    It really annoys me that the mainstream media haven’t picked up on this well failure under the sea bed at this late stage of the game. Though I haven’t been critical of our modern media as many others have been in this Internet Age, I must admit that I am becoming convinced that the control that the proverbial “Powers That Be” have over the news reporting industry is becoming overwhelming at this point, OR the mainstream media are morphing into something simply no longer able to do a competent job of reporting in the first place.

    I’ve been very short on time lately and don’t often get to read TOD much anymore, but this comment/post by “Doug” was brought to my attention in turn by a comment posted on a rather right-wing, survivalist web site forum,, a site which I find useful, though I read it with much caution I must say. It just goes to show in this day and age, one cannot get enough varied news and information sources because, given the state of the main stream media, where would our individual levels of awareness and information be without them?

  21. #21 James
    June 17, 2010

    What do you think about this footage? I am not a physicist, but would an underground explosion like this work without sending a tsunami of sorts? I mean they must have drilled down a good distance right?

  22. #22 Josh
    June 17, 2010

    Greetings Mr Ebert, thank you for leading me here from Twitter.
    I heard about this a few weeks ago on the Alex Jones show, info from an oil business insider…I wondered why no mainstream coverage?
    Actually what I heard was the leakage was upwards of 2 million gallons a day, this was 2 weeks before this info came out in the mainstream. This inside also revealed this info…
    Oil “deposits” relativity shallow (on land) are very different from deep water deposits…stating that this one is 20,000 to 30,000 feet down, possibly going 70,000 feet, and they have underestimated the pressure of this immense reserve, and quite frankly they have no clue how to contain it. Also, it is said oil at these depths is a different kind of oil than shallower depths and that it contains very dangerous VOC’s.
    This insider also revealed that a nuke is being seriously considered and that it could work, however if it does not work it could cause problems you do not even want to imagine.
    He revealed that VOC levels were thousands of times higher than EPA safety levels.
    Lets see if the rest of this information comes to the mainstream in the coming days, and if it does we need to ask why werent we told sooner.

  23. #23 Bob
    June 17, 2010

    It strikes me that the US oil industry needs US nuclear industry risk assessment, design, and environmental standards and the same level of scrutiny paid toward construction and operation. The producers will squall like babies but I simply can’t imagine letting them loose to do this sort of damage again. Like the technology or not, the nuclear industry got a pretty serious wake-up call from Three Mile Island.

    Beyond increased regulation from the NRC, the utilities and vendors knew that another major accident would destroy the industry and they’ve spent decades improving their practices. Those same design and analysis practices along with strict but sensible regulation applied to the oil industry would likely make it safer, cleaner and more productive. The same goes for the coal industry which has had an inordinate number of environmental disasters and worker fatalities in the past few years.

    This doesn’t address the issue of whether our current consumption level of fossil fuels is appropriate given the scientific consensus regarding AGW. There’s no reason to assume there will (or can) be any major shift away from fossil fuels in the US in the foreseeable future.

  24. #24 Cornish_K8
    June 17, 2010

    Found this last night on the BBC. i

    It doesn’t directly address the issues raised on TOD but for people like me who like diagrams it increased my understanding of what has been going on.

  25. #25 sensiblo chamaeleon
    June 17, 2010

    sorry i didnt actually understand what you wrote there because of lack of time, but i felt a strange urge to post a comment here. perhaps stupid linkbuilding in order to change the informational logistics in information retrieval ?
    (emotionally affected by strong photography)
    (the oilspilled dragon-fly is my friend, also the trees and also the polluted pelicans and also the dead fish)
    (trying to change point of views and perspectives by wrapping them around anti-speziestically)
    (mutation and selection – no, thanks ?!??!?)
    ((intelligence of nature – survival of the symbiotically fittest living in web swarms))
    (if it feels better for you, delete this post please)

  26. #26 tony
    June 17, 2010

    Sharon, why do you give time to this? It’s not the opinion held by many in the field or those with knowledge of this particular well. I expect overly speculative scare mongering elsewhere, not on these pages.

  27. #27 Sharon Astyk
    June 17, 2010

    Tony, I don’t know if I buy it, but I trust me readership not to be idiots. I wanted to know what people thought of this, and I haven’t been disappointed by the people who have commented here or written emails on the technical materials. IMHO, speculation, framed as such, with the limits of speculation acknowledged doesn’t actually do any harm.


  28. #28 Klem
    June 17, 2010

    MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show – 16 June 2010: Congressman Ed Markey points out in Congress in front of spokespeople for the top five oil corporations that they all have effectively the same response plans as BPs, including protection of walruses in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Youtube: Part 1 and Part 2

    All the companies cut-and-paste the same plan, which was not specific to the Gulf or to the actual response capability of each company. This is so outrageous, and really shameful for the US environmental scientists and regulators. I thought someone actually reviewed these emergency response plans?

  29. #29 Stephen B.
    June 17, 2010

    Tony, if you have information from people “in the field” or with “knowledge of this particular well”, something you can point us to, we’d all be very interested to read it.

    So far, all we’ve gotten is the most general of generalities, excepting places like The Oil Drum.

    Please post specific URLs with comments from such people.

  30. #30 dewey
    June 17, 2010

    Tony – Most of the people who have actual knowledge of this particular well are BP stooges, or in recent weeks, a few government types who will never, ever admit the possibility of a catastrophe that hasn’t happened yet. Outside sources may have less information, but far more willingness to be honest about it.

    I don’t have any independent way of evaluating DougR’s apocalyptic scenario, not being an oil geologist, but it seemed significant to me that the geologists on TOD didn’t savage him in the way, for example, that they savaged Matt Simmons’ latest silliness. If they didn’t pile on to debunk most of his assertions, does that mean that they think most were at least plausible? If you know otherwise, I’d be very happy to hear an explanation.

  31. #31 lylebot
    June 17, 2010

    I can’t figure out if those proposing the nuke are serious or not. Obviously a few people are serious, but the tone of a lot of blog posts and comments about it are like irony wrapped in sarcasm topped with satire. Is it one big Poe?

    The video linked above could be read seriously, but it starts out like a parody of 70s and 80s classroom education videos, and the Russian accent on the narrator is sort of comical—I mean, it’s obviously made for an English-speaking audience, so why have a Russian narrate it? I tried searching for more info about that particular incident, but I couldn’t find anything. The video itself provides no details. So I’m skeptical.

  32. #32 ThePessimist
    June 17, 2010

    dewey: “…the destruction of all life in much of the Atlantic Ocean….we and similarly greedy nations should be ruined and impoverished as fast as possible”

    That scale of destruction would extend far beyond the ‘greedy nations’, and include much of the third world. The best interpreration of what you’re suggesting is the deaths of billions of people and the beginning of a new dark age. It is difficult to believe that you are “actively looking forward to it”. This reminds me of the ‘Hurricane Parties’ I rememeber people throwing on the gulf coast prior to a hurricane strike. There was nothing to celebrate then. There’s nothing to celebrate now.

  33. #33 bo moore
    June 17, 2010

    Here is a flow rate equation:

    Flow Rate = 1/4 x (pi)x (pipe diameter)2 x velocity

    The pipe diameter is 21″ I don’t have the velocity, but I can’t imagine BP doesn’t, so estimates of gallons per day of leakage ought to be fairly straightforward. What fractions are oil / gas? I can’t imagine they don’t know: from listening to testimony from rig personnel who survived, gas content was very high – that was what exploded and burned. The BP failed (pressure was higher than it could handle – far higher than drillers anticipated?) allowing the gas to vent up hole to the rig floor where it instantly ignited.

  34. #34 dewey
    June 17, 2010

    ThePessimist – I didn’t use the word “celebrate,” so you needn’t. I do believe that Greer’s vision of catabolic collapse and the World3 computer model in the Limits to Growth update are the best guess as to our future. I believe we cannot avoid the decline of our civilization, because it is built on a grossly unsustainable foundation, and we are clearly not going to turn it around and achieve a magic Star Trek future fast enough to avoid calamity. If that is true, then the faster we decline, the better – not only for the other species we are killing, but for the sake of future humans, who might have some resources left if we don’t cling to our power long enough to wring every last drop out of our world.

    One of the classic examples of overshoot is of a bunch of lichen-eating reindeer that were left on an island without predators. At one point, there were thousands of reindeer, who ate every scrap of lichen they could find; shortly thereafter, there were only a dozen or so. Then none. Had they been able, or compelled, to cut back their lichen consumption before the totally inevitable population peak and crash occurred, there might have been enough lichen left to support a population. Our descendants in 500 years will not be able to guzzle petroleum no matter what we do, and they won’t need to; but they will need fish, and if our losing our ability to guzzle petroleum a little earlier means that there are still some fish in the ocean, that will be a good deal.

    All of today’s billions of people will die sooner or later anyway, so it isn’t obviously morally superior to wish to extend their lives at the cost of shortening the lives of more billions of future people; however, unlike you, I don’t envision much of the world dropping dead en masse if the Western colossus falls. Rather, I imagine that many of the world’s people would soon find themselves better off without the industrial countries sucking their resources dry and dumping carcinogenic and climate-changing chemicals into their environments.

  35. #35 CTD
    June 17, 2010

    Nice. “Science” Blogs lending credence to anonymous internet posts now? Because they “pass the smell test.” I never learned this particular test in ant science class I took. This particular one was written by a admin over at Godlike Productions, a fruitcake/conspiracy theory/woo-woo site.

    Please check this kind of garbage out next time before you post it.

  36. #36 Bruce Lane
    June 17, 2010

    I’m not sure I agree with the theory that there is a leak down below the wellhead and that because of that they are trying to make the oil come out faster.
    The top kill failed because the pressure it too great. I thought it was a silly idea myself. Squirting drilling mud into a riser that’s gushing close to 300,000 gallon of oil a day was like trying to sit on top of a fire hose. No good. Same thing with the “junk shot”. Golf balls, bits of tires and knotted rope just shot out the top of the well head.
    They had to cut the riser in order to put the collar on it and start pumping oil to the surface. It stinks that the saw broke. I don’t know why they didn’t have a back up already there. Snipping the riser caused it to become even more oval shaped than it was from the huge bend it had in it. Capping it was not as successful as it could have been.
    They are only capturing about 1/4 of the oil coming out of the well head I think because that’s all they are capable of. I don’t think they can pump any faster. They can’t close it off because they don’t have a solid seal on the well head.
    Nothing that I read in the argument agrees with what I understand of the situation.
    I hope this helps. I don’t mean to sound like a smarty I just don’t agree with what they said.

  37. #37 Anne
    June 18, 2010

    Search: Doug R, petroleum geologist…Doug Ratcliff Austin, TX, Doug Ratcliff Associate director of the Geology Foundation and the Jackson School of Geosciences since 2003 and assistant dean of the school since 2005, Doug Ratcliff is responsible for financial and administrative management at the two organizations which have assets of about $360 million. Jackson School of Geosciences Director of Outreach Programs U.S. Department University of Texas geology American Association of Petroleum Geologists American Institute of Professional Geologists General Manager scientist Certified Quality Engineer societies auditor B.S. in Geology Bureau of Economic Geology

  38. #38 Antony W. Serio
    June 18, 2010

    Well your article and the original have certainly made the rounds over the past few days. I’ve seen both linked to everywhere. The only problem is that the ‘worst case scenario’ is resurrecting the ‘worst case solution’ by people who are advocating using a nuclear warhead as ‘the only way to shut down the leak’. I don’t know if these people are actually serious or just being trolls trying to tick people off.

  39. #39 dewey
    June 18, 2010

    Now Anne, none of those credentials compare in importance to the claim of another anonymous poster that the original anonymous poster is affiliated with a “woo-woo” website! I never learned in any science class that an ad hominem argument was sufficient to definitively reject an apparently plausible hypothesis (yet it is a favored tactic by proponents of corporation science in many fields). If CTD is so certain that DougR’s hypothesis is “garbage,” he must have enough geology background to be able to evaluate it properly, and therefore he might lower himself to explain the matter to those of us who don’t.

  40. #40 Adam
    June 18, 2010

    The post by DougR was originally posted on a conspiracy site (“UFOs, Conspiracy Theorists, Lunatic Fringe” is the tag line) by a forum moderator under the handle SHR. In this post , SHR writes that he/she is NOT dougr at oil drum. Here is the exact post from SHR:

    “Nope I am not…and it was copy and pasted from here a day after I posted it.

    Could have been one of our “Friends”…lol…posted it there hoping it would be ripped apart….didn’t work out that way…most people thought very highly of it…if they had a link back…they could read any answers I made clarifying or expanding on the essay…their loss…or he just wanted to steal it and tried to take credit…either way…whoever they are failed and trying to take credit for somebody else’s writing as if it was your own is just childish and scummy…people will know whomever this was as the lamer they are.

    Not like it hasn’t happened before either…

    Happened with the Norway Spiral Skervoy thread…and I’ve seen other examples of the same…it’ll happen again too I’m sure….don’t really want to play copy right nazi…more interested in seeing the information spread, but I would prefer a link back to here since I wrote it…and yes I did write all of it, to be published here as a GLP original.”

  41. #41 Adam
    June 18, 2010

    The post made on the Oil Drum by DougR was copied and pasted from a post that occurred the previous day on a website called Godlike Productions by a forum administrator using the handle SHR. Another GLP user notified SHR with this post here: SHR’s reaction is also in this thread (SHR says he/she is NOT dougr from oil drum and was ripped off).

    I haven’t looked that much, but I haven’t seen any outlandish stuff posted by SHR on that site (though they are a forum administrator). He/she doesn’t fall in with the 9/11 conspiracy theorists and has written some lengthy stuff trying to debunk them on the site, which is a plus.

    The point is, we have no clue who this person is or if they are in any way credible. I know that I have virtually no knowledge of geology, oil drilling, ect, so when some writes out seemingly detailed doomsday scenario it will sound very convincing even if it’s hogwash. This is how things like 9/11 conspiracy theories take such a hold. Take a step back, pose the question to some people who are qualified to answer it and not shit our pants if that answer runs contrary to what we want to believe (and often times we clearly want to believe the worst).

    I think it’s worth considering, but at this point, there is no real reason it should be believed.

  42. #42 dewey
    June 18, 2010

    Adam – You’re being much more civil about this than the Scienceblog trolls, but still, hinting that those of us who are concerned about this hypothesis are “shitting our pants”, either out of irrational fear or out of a frustrated desire to see the whole Atlantic Ocean wiped out, is not going to change any minds.

    You are quite correct that most of us do not have the necessary education or training to determine whether this alleged possibility is really possible or whether it is hogwash. Since most of us don’t know any independent petroleum geologists, the only way we can even approach “posing the question to qualified people” is to see what the people on TOD have to say about it! And that’s why Sharon and I are concerned, because while the denizens of TOD disputed a couple of points, nobody responded with a firm, knowledgeable refutation of the main idea. I don’t like to simply assume that this is because they don’t want to bother arguing with a crank, because when other people post stuff that is clearly wrong or just disputable, there is always someone waiting eagerly to jump down their throats (one of the main reasons I won’t go beyond lurking there).

    If anyone knows someone at TOD or participate there, can the question maybe be directly posed to the experts in one of the open threads – is this possible or not?

  43. #43 Adam
    June 18, 2010

    Hey Dewey,

    Hey Dewey

    I was 90% referring to myself on that one, since I was sort of shitting my pants about it. I think the comments in the OilDrum/Godwhatever post are very compelling but could also be completely absurd. I too have noticed that not a lot of people well qualified people have commented on it one way or another. Though people like Sharon and Mother Jones giving a little credence(though clearly not completely buying in)On the other hand, that this post came from conspiracy site makes me view it with much greater skepticism than I did two days ago.

    It’s posts like this that make me wish I was a lot smarter!Perhaps I should have done something more than listen to Bad Religion songs and stare at all day(most underrated player of the 80’s? Pedro Guerrero!)

  44. #44 Sharon Astyk
    June 18, 2010

    Antony, as I understand it, if the seabed is starting to decompensate, a single nuke isn’t going to do it, so this as actually evidence for the counter-claim.

    I never took an ant science class, CTD, I’m afraid, so I must have missed something important, but when I was studying physics and math, I learned that open inquiry is good. No one here has said “this is true, believe it.” What we’ve done is open it for discussion, and the discussion has been good and interesting – including the critique.


  45. #45 John
    June 20, 2010

    I picked up a post by this guy SHR from but actually it seems the article was from godlikeproductions site.
    He made 2 posts, one on 15th of May (before they tried the top kill) and another few days ago on June.
    and then the second part

    Maybe the sources are not the trusted ones, but this guy from the first post, seems to know from what he is talking about. What impressed me was his statement that we should pray for the top kill to work.
    Until now, the “serious” mass media sites, slowly start to speak off some worries about leak below the seabed, about fragile or possible cracks n the seafloor etc etc.
    Trusted or not, with or without references, these 2 posts till now tests his credibility and time will tell if he was right from the beggining or not.
    If you allow me , I could make a guess for myself only. This guy should have some internal info at same level.

  46. #46 CTD
    June 20, 2010

    If you’d like to snark at silly typos, that’s fine. I’m rather more concerned that a blog reputedly based on science is breathlessly repeating anonymous, unsourced forum posts that originate on lunatic conspiracy/woo-woo sites, based on nothing more than it “passing the smell test.” Why does it pass it exactly? Because it’s long, detailed, and uses a lot if impressive-sounding words? I can send you immeasurable reams of 9-11 tall tales that exceed it on all counts. Will you be publishing those, too?

    I’m all for discussion, but frankly, some opinions are more equal than others. Material originating from say, cranks or creationists MIGHT be true (Just as the above information might.) but should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. Absent some kind of corroboration from a reputable source, I feel it irresponsible to air this kind of stuff, especially given the gravity of the predictions being offered.

  47. #47 Stephen B.
    June 20, 2010

    Well, Rep. Ed Markey released an internal BP document today that basically says a worst case scenario for the well could be 100K BBL/day.

    “Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander leading the government’s response to the spill, said Thursday that the condition of the wellbore, or the hole drilled to reach the oil field, is still unknown and is the reason that other failed efforts to cap the well weren’t more rigorous.

    “‘This document raises very troubling questions about what BP knew and when they knew it. It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill,’ Markey said in a statement released with the document.

    “‘BP needs to tell us what it will do if the wellbore is compromised and 100,000 barrels per day of oil spills into the ocean. At this point, we need real contingency planning,’ Markey added.”

    That sounds to me like BP and the government are thinking along the lines of what was said in TOD post in discussion.

  48. #48 Wigbert
    June 21, 2010

    The premise on which this worst-case scenario is based — that there is no disk like that mentioned in the WSJ article — is false.

    In describing a “malfunctioning disk about 1000 feet below the ocean floor,” the article was no doubt referring to the item labeled “16” rupture/burst disk sub 6047′” in the well blueprints:

    So at 6047 feet below sea level, which would be about 1000 feet below the sea floor if the sea is about 5000 feet deep, there is supposed to be a 16-inch rupture/burst disk.

    It might be that this disk is a cement structure fused to the well casing, but this and two other such disks are definitely supposed to be there. It could be that problems with this disk raise the specter that there might be problems all the way down the bore. But it also could be that there are no problems farther down. We can only hope. And at this point, I don’t see any value in obsessing over what else might go wrong. There is nothing I can do in the meantime to change what might happen. And I doubt there is anything the folks on the job can try that they aren’t already at least considering.

    By the way, I know no more about this than any of the rest of you. I found this link by reading all of the comments over at The Oil Drum. None are out and out saying that this worst-case scenario is nonsense, but they did cite a few inconsistencies and link to several other relevant documents.

  49. #49 Josserand
    June 21, 2010

    lylebot complains that the nuke solution video was Russian made in the 1970’s and 80’s – and implies that this is a bad sign. Well it might be bad aesthetically, but the method of plugging of oil spills with small nuclear bomb explosions was pioneered by the Russians during the 1970’s, so the video is not so odd after all. And out of the 5 times the Russians tried this, 4 were completely successful in stopping the spill (80% success) and this option is quite seriously being considered at the highest levels (i.e. Obama). Also to those who say that Dougr might be right, but Matt Simmons is crazy: don’t you realize that they are saying essentially the same thing! (except for the nuclear solution argued by Simmons). Both men are highly qualified in geology and oil industry methods/equipment, respectively. Matt Simmons goes out on alot of limbs making predictions for the next 6 months, and sometimes he is wrong. But he is very knowledgeable about oil and its technology, he loaned out huge sums to pay for much of it over 35 years as a major Houston-based investment banker specializing in the worldwide oil industry.

  50. #50 Sharon Astyk
    June 21, 2010

    CTD, actually, I didn’t realize it was a typo and I wasn’t sniping at you – I thought it was perfectly possible you were a myrmecologist. I agree that there’s plenty of crap out on the internet, but I do think that just saying “this came from here, don’t discuss” is sort of a silly argument. Yes, not all opinions are equal. And if I were reporting this for the New York Times, I wouldn’t include it. But this is a blog, and one of the beauties of blogs is the wide ability of a readership to sort through information more effectively than one person. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reposting this, and if you ever read other science blogs, you will know I’m hardly the first person to repost speculation, in part to find out if it is worthwhile. (One of my fellow bloggers, for example, posted the old rumor about NASA’s conducting experiments on sex in space, for example, only to be usefully corrected by his readership.)

    Frankly, I’m just not impressed by waving the language of the 9/11 truth movement – this is not a conspiracy theory, there is no illuminati, and realistically, it is important to begin asking, two months into the oil spill, whether it is possible that the spill will not be contained. The idea that asking whether there are fundamental technical challenges to containing a spill that far down seems hardly the realm of “woo” and more in the realm of “duh” as time goes on, the spill is not contained, and containment efforts fail again and again.

  51. #51 todd
    June 21, 2010

    My dad, an old chemical engineer, suggested they should make a large needle (giant pin) and stuff it down into the hole until it clogs it. What think?

  52. #52 darwinsdog
    June 21, 2010

    Nice. “Science” Blogs lending credence to anonymous internet posts now?

    You expect actual science on ScienceBlogs LLC?!?! Well, actually you sometimes get it, but not routinely. You never get it from Brayton or Myers, whose blogs are one incessant rant about how supernaturalists are stupid. Duh, of course they’re stupid, get over it already. Or Zuska, where it’s “the boys are being mean to the girls!” over & over ad nauseum. Even Sharon’s blog, which happens to be one of my favorites, seldom delves into actual experimental hypothesis-testing science. You’re going to be disappointed if you expect science on what’s essentially an entertainment and book marketing site.

  53. #53 Sharon Astyk
    June 21, 2010

    That’s true – and that’s because a “science blog” isn’t one thing – some people exposit on research as their primary modus, others provide commentary on ethics, argue about the relationship between science and faith or talk about other things. The idea that “science blogs” means one thing is false, but common enough, I suppose.

    If it was primarily a book marketing site, however, I’d be doing a pretty crappy job for at least my books ;-).


  54. #54 Donald Gordon
    June 21, 2010

    Can’t tell anything until the pressure gradient is measured over the past 60 days of open flow. Don’t forget that there’s a mile of water pressure above trying to buck the trend. In brighter times (blame MMS for this fiasco), it’s a helluva a good well! It sure screwed everything up though!

  55. #55 chugs
    June 23, 2010

    for f**ks sake

    people stop panicking. Nigeria has suffered oil leaks as great and as big as the gulf of mexico spill every fricken year for the last 50 years. Although some parts of the Nigerian delta are a wasteland other parts have overcome virulent, never ending spills.

    The planet hasn’t collapsed. The illuminati won’t invade with the reptile people, and the oil will be staunched at its main flow (be it explosives, the relief effort, or whatever) but will continue to leak as it does across every ocean and sea on the planet out of little fissures.

    In the meantime oil production at the hundreds of other wellheads will be upped in a bit to reduce the pressure coming from the main reservoir.

    obviously what’s happened is terrible, and its clear there is massive quantities of misinformation and fighting going on. insiders with their own agenda’s are more then happy to post anonymous bullshit comments in internet forums to let the rest of us crap out pants over.

  56. #56 loopygeek
    June 24, 2010

    @chugs Good you brought up Nigeria. What really is annoying is the nobody seem to give a damn about what’s been happening there so far. Do you think anybody is going to ever compensate them?

  57. #57 Sharon Astyk
    June 24, 2010

    Agreed that what happens in Nigeria is beyond appalling, but that’s like saying “Wow, in Nigeria the infant mortality rate is 12 times what it is in inner city Detroit, so why are all those poor black Moms bitching about their dead babies?”

    You can simultaneously be horrified and appalled by Nigeria and not want to see it here.


  58. #58 predicament
    June 27, 2010

    From what I’ve read the 2.5 billion is the low end while 10 billion over 35 years is more like it. Relief wells are just another ploy to distract the public until the next one is unveiled. There seems to be little to no chance that these extra relief wells can actually work. It seems likely that much of the world will participate in oil collection until the reservoir has emptied. If we live that long. The environmental impacts to the seas ecosystems and to CO2 levels could well eradicate much of the life on the planet. People will likely parish and rightly so. There are the other leaking wells on this reservoir too. When the conservatives are voted in you can cut our remaining time in half. I’m voting Republican to speed up the process. We’re doomed any way so what the hay. I think I’m going to buy a Super Duty pickup and party!!

  59. #59 DaVinci
    July 11, 2010

    I don’t know all the dynamics of what’s involved in this, but it seems to me that we have a pipe going down into a very deep well, that has not only malfunctioned at the cap, but is fractured elsewhere along it’s length.
    I wonder if it would be possible to insert a smaller diameter pipe into the existing fractured pipe to a depth that we could be relatively sure would bypass the ruptures and install a new cap on it. In essence line the fractured well and reduce the flow of oil.

  60. #60 evden eve nakliyat
    July 12, 2010

    Hi all;
    A fatal flaw was that they failed to have any representative posts ready to go up when the blog went live.

    Had they done so, and had the content been surprisingly acceptable, the reception might have been better.

    Instead we get this “Hi! Welcome to ShillBlog!” (crickets) and everyone, quite reasonably, expects the worst.

  61. #61 JAK
    July 16, 2010

    Check out the news interviews on: The Possible Turning Point of BP Gulf Oil Spill – July 16th, 2010

    Specialists are in dire need right now if we are going to make sure this doesn’t become terminal!!

    In solidarity,


  62. #62 Sarasota real estate
    July 22, 2010

    I don’t know all the dynamics of what’s involved in this, but it seems to me that we have a pipe going down into a very deep well, that has not only malfunctioned at the cap, but is fractured elsewhere along it’s length.

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