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Oil FAIL: Is the Deepwater Horizon's geology permanently fractured?

My view is that the damage from the Deepwater Horizon is permanent and catastrophic, which is why the administration and its owners, BP, imposed press censorship, won't do the science needed to document what's going on, and are generally lying to the locals and crawfishing about any- and everything. ("Crawfishing" being pretty ironic, since most of the Gulf crawfish are probably sick or dead.) George Washington, in "What's Going on in The Gulf, has a fine wrap-up at Yves's place with lots of linky goodness to confirms that view, which I hope is cynical enough. But the post has a sting in the tail. Here it is:

Okay, but at least the well has been capped, so that no new oil flows into the Gulf … right?

Its hard to know.

BP has shut off 16 out of 17 of its underwater cameras. The only remaining camera shows a small – but continuous – stream of leaking materials:

More at Monkeyfister.

There are still problems with the well. See this, this, and this, and Admiral Thad Allen is now saying that the relief well might not be completed until October.

But remember, one of the world’s top oil industry accident experts says that the well may never be killed.


I hope and pray that the relief well is successful. But if there were insurmountable problems in capping the well, do you think we would hear about it before the November elections?

Simple answers to simple questions:


And by "No," I mean "No, of course not. What are you thinking?" Which is why any kind of free pass issued to The Big O on system FAILs like Deepwater Horizon is so, so destructive, especially when it comes from those who should be a third force in American politics, as opposed to reinforcing the legacy parties, and the values and interests they support.

NOTE * Oopsie. Read this in inteview in its entirety. One highlight:

Bea teaches engineering at the University of California Berkeley, and has 55 years of experience in engineering and management of design, construction, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning of engineered systems including offshore platforms, pipelines and floating facilities. Bea has worked for many years in governmental and quasi-governmental roles, and has been a high-level governmental adviser concerning disasters. He worked for 16 years as a top mechanical engineer and manager for Shell Oil, and has worked with Bechtel and the Army Corps of Engineers. One of the world's top experts in offshore drilling problems, Bea is a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, and has been interviewed by news media around the world concerning the BP oil disaster. ....

Bea: That's an interesting question. You have to ask why did this location blow out when nearby wells drilled in even deeper water didn't blow out.

You have to look at the geology of the Macondo well. It is in a subsalt location, in a Sigsbee salt formation. [For background, see this and this]

The geology is fractured.

Usually, the deeper you drill, the more pressure it takes to fracture rock. This is called the "fracture gradient".

But when BP was drilling this well, the fracture gradient reversed. Indeed, BP lost all pressure as it drilled into the formation.

WB: Is it possible that this fractured, subsea salt geology will make it difficult to permanently kill the oil leak using relief wells?

Bea: Yes, it could. The Santa Barbara channel seeps are still leaking, decades after the oil well was supposedly capped. This well could keep leaking for years.

Scripps mapped out seafloor seeps in the area of the well prior to the blowout. Some of the natural seeps penetrate 10,000 to 15,000 feet beneath the seafloor. The oil will follow lines of weakness in the geology. The leak can travel several horizontal miles from the location of the leak.

[In other words, the geology beneath the seafloor is so fractured, with soft and unstable salt formations, that we may never be able to fully kill the well even with relief wells. Instead, the loss of containment of the oil reservoir caused by the drilling accident could cause oil to leak out through seeps for years to come. See this and this for further background].

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badtux's picture
Submitted by badtux on

Saying "Gulf crawfish" is like saying "Gulf catfish" -- an oxymoron. Both catfish and crawfish are fresh-water fish, and don't live in salty or even brackish water. Gulf shrimp, on the other hand, are toast. At least, in the area impacted by the oil spill.

- Badtux the Pedantic Penguin