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.)