Is the BP Oil Well Gonna Blow?

It looks like the possible worst case scenario is more than a theoretical possibility. The news on this is vague and unclear, but it seems as though pressure reductions under the newly placed well cap have been detected, indicating that oil and gas in the deep sea wll are going somewhere. The fear would be that this indicates that the bore running from the deep deposit to the surface is leaking into surrounding sediments. If that really happens, it could be detected by gas coming from the surface near (but not directly from) the bore. Eventually, if this leak is for real, oil could start leaking out of various places as well.

If such leaks form and are significant, and continue, it could become impossible to actually stop leakage of this well, and it would be difficult to control the oil that does leak out.

There are two relief wells being dug, and once they are completed they will relieve pressure and that could reduce random uncontrolled leaking. Also, eventually, the well will run out of oil. None of these scenarios are good with respect to, say, the health of the planet and all.

Keep your fingers crossed. It won’t help, but it will keep your fingers occupied while we wait for the other shoe to drop.

source

Comments

  1. #1 Maria
    July 19, 2010

    I’m in the south but not near the gulf. And I’m finding it hard to concentrate on work today. Keeping an eye on news feeds, in case something happens that’s so big it would stress my ability to comprehend the wide ranging ramifications.

    Somehow paperwork and project deadlines pale in comparison but not much choice in the matter. I’m told “there’s nothing you can do” “no point in worrying” “stop being paranoid.” Yup, completely 100% true. So, busy work, busy work, busy work. That will keep me busy.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    July 19, 2010

    You can complain loudly about how this came to be, but an appropriate bumper sticker on your car, and vote against the incumbant “drill baby drill” office holders in your voting area in a few months. In fact, make the bumper sticker appropos the election, that might do somegood.

  3. #3 dewey
    July 19, 2010

    Better yet, if I may be so bold, would be to attach the bumper sticker to the milk crate on the back of your BIKE. (Not a liberal political sticker, though, as it may increase your risk of being hit or run off the road by SUV-driving yahoos.) So long as we are all driving our private cars on every errand, we are all part of the problem.

  4. #4 ranggaw0636
    July 19, 2010

    How this accident happen anyway? The media in my country don’t give a damn about this disaster

  5. #5 Sharon Astyk
    July 19, 2010

    What Dewey said. You can vote against drill baby drill politicians – if there are any, which there often aren’t. But until we actually get the heck off our oil dependency, even the quiet ones who don’t mention it will be defacto “drill baby drill” – because of the enormous and profound bind our energy dependence places us in.

    Sharon

  6. #6 Virgil Samms
    July 19, 2010

    No biggee. Really. The possible leakage is happening with the valves on the new cap closed. If they open the valves it should reduce the pressure and thereby reduce the leakage. They should hook a pipe up to the new cap and let oil flow to surface ships.

  7. #7 NoAstronomer
    July 19, 2010

    Greg, that BBC article does not say anything about ‘pressure reductions’, it says that the pressure is not as high as expected. Which is not the same thing.

    Also, once *successfully* completed, the relief wells will eliminate any leaks, random, uncontrolled or otherwise (they’re going to use the relief wells to plug the whole shaft). So I don’t see why that’s not a good scenario.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    July 19, 2010

    Not really. A relief well is a controlled outlet that may or may not compete successfully with a natural opening.

    Yes, my mistake, the pressure is on the low end of what it should be. Which is a concern, but mainly is uncertainty.

    It may not be irrelevant, and indeed may impinge on the “this is not a bad scenario” hypothesis, that there is evidence already of seepage.

    http://tinyurl.com/2dpddq6

  9. #9 Omega Centauri
    July 19, 2010

    No Greg a relief well is not designed to draw off the pressure/fluids, rather it is a connection through which heavy mud can be injected to stop the well at depth. Of course there is still cause to be concerned in the meantime, can the upper reaches of the well and surrounding sediments take the pressure that has built up because of the cap?

  10. #10 Bohica
    July 19, 2010

    The lower pressure spells trouble. They were expecting 8000 PSI at the well head, but they’re not getting it. Since the well head is not getting full pressure, then the well is venting somewhere else.

    What happens when the induced cavity leaks or ruptures? The well head pressure will drop further as the stored oil escapes.

    The worry is that the well is broken far below the well head.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    July 19, 2010

    Omega, thanks for the correction which, I believe, is correct.

  12. #12 Kris Rhodes
    July 19, 2010

    The other thing to note is that the relief wells are being drilled to a level far below the surface. Since they’re so deep, the odds are that any leakage will be above the, which means that they still will work. Additionally, any leakage below them is unlikely to get to the surface – too much dirt in the way.

    And lastly, the engineers thought that 8000psi would be good, while 6000psi would indicate leakage. The well has been sitting at 6700psi- which is sort of ambiguous. There might be leakage, or their calculations might have been off. Seems they should probably start working on pumping some to the surface again to reduce pressure.

  13. #13 itzac
    July 19, 2010

    It makes me nervous that BP is still in charge of the site. I can’t help but worry they will sit there watching the pressure drop and hoping it will stop dropping soon.