Jun 25

Council on Foreign Relations member Matt Simmons calls for the evacuation of the gulf states.

Don’t miss:

- Former Shell CEO John Hoffmeister On MSNBC: ‘The Whole Casing System Is Deteriorating’


Each day, another way to define worst-case for oil spill

gulf_of_mexico

An enduring feature of the gulf oil spill is that, even when you think you’ve heard the worst-case scenario, there’s always another that’s even more dire.

The base-line measures of the crisis have steadily worsened. The estimated flow rate keeps rising. The well is like something deranged, stronger than anyone anticipated. BP executives last month said they had a 60 to 70 percent chance of killing it with mud, but the well spit the mud out and kept blowing.

The net effect is that nothing about this well seems crazy anymore. Week by week, the truth of this disaster has drifted toward the stamping ground of the alarmists.

The most disturbing of the worst-case scenarios, one that is unsubstantiated but is driving much of the blog discussion, is that the Deepwater Horizon well has been so badly damaged that it has spawned multiple leaks from the seafloor, making containment impossible and a long-term solution much more complicated.

Video from a robotic submersible, which is making the rounds online, shows something puffing from the seafloor. Some think it’s oil. Or maybe — look again — it’s just the silt blowing in response to the forward motion of the submersible.

More trouble: A tropical wave has formed in the Caribbean and could conceivably blow through the gulf.

“We’re going to have to evacuate the gulf states,” said Matt Simmons, founder of Simmons and Co., an oil investment firm and, since the April 20 blowout, the unflagging source of end-of-the-world predictions. “Can you imagine evacuating 20 million people? . . . This story is 80 times worse than I thought.”

The bull market for bad news means that Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man for the crisis, is asked regularly about damage to the well bore, additional leaks and further failures. “Can you talk a little about the worst-case scenarios going forward?” a reporter asked Tuesday. “What happens if the relief wells don’t work out?”

“We’re mitigating risk on the relief well by drilling a second relief well alongside it,” responded Allen, possibly the least excitable figure in this entire oil crisis.

He said he’s seen no sign of the additional leaks that have gotten so many bloggers in a lather. But Allen’s briefings offer plenty of fodder for the apocalyptic set. Allen repeatedly has acknowledged that there could be significant damage to the well down below the mud line. That’s why, he said, the top kill effort last month was stopped: Officials feared that if they continued pumping heavy mud into the well, they would damage the casing and open new channels for hydrocarbons to leak into the rock formation.
ad_icon

“I think that one thing that nobody knows is the condition of the well bore from below the blowout preventer down to the actual oil field itself,” Allen said last week. “We don’t know if the well bore has been compromised or not.”

And by the way, the blowout preventer is leaning, Allen said.

“The entire arrangement has kind of listed a little bit,” he said. A government spokesman later said this development wasn’t new.

Even the most sober analysts are quick to say that this is such an unpredictable well that almost anything is possible. Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said additional leaks are a possible source of deep-sea plumes of oil detected by research vessels. But this part of the gulf is pocked with natural seeps, he noted. Conceivably the drilling of the well, and/or the subsequent blowout, could have affected the seeps, he said.

“Once you started disturbing the underground geology, you may have made one of those seeps even worse,” he said.

But Tadeusz Patzek, a professor who is the chairman of the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas, argues that the discussion has been hijacked by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

“There is a lot of fast talk, which has little relation sometimes to reality,” Patzek said. “And there is jumping to conclusions by the people who have no right to jump to any conclusions because they don’t know.”

Much of the worst-case-scenario talk has centered on the flow rate of the well. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), among the harshest critics of BP in recent weeks, generated headlines with a dramatic announcement Sunday.

“I actually have a document that shows that BP actually believes it could go upwards of 100,000 barrels per day,” Markey said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “So, again, right from the beginning, BP was either lying or grossly incompetent. First they said it was only 1,000. Then they said it was 5,000 barrels. Now we’re up to 100,000 barrels.”

The 1,000- and 5,000-barrel figures (42,000 gallons and 210,000 gallons), however, were estimates of the actual flow; the 100,000-barrel figure (4.2 million gallons) in the internal BP document was based on a hypothetical situation. The document stated, “If BOP and wellhead are removed and if we have incorrectly modeled the restrictions — the rate could be as high as {tilde}100,000 barrels per day.” The blowout preventer and wellhead have not been removed.

Another undated BP document, released by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) last week, has an even more dramatic worst-case scenario for the well’s flow rate, but again one based not on the well as it is but on a theoretical formulation arrived at before the drilling. Under the heading “Maximum Discharge Calculation,” the document states that, given the most “optimistic assumptions” about the size of the reservoir and the intensity of the pressure at depth and assuming a total loss of well control and no inhibitions on the flow, “a maximum case discharge of 162,000 barrels per day was estimated.”

After the Deepwater Horizon rig sank, BP recalculated that estimate based on what was known about the well. BP executives in early May briefed members of Congress on their conclusion: that the absolute worst-case flow rate was 60,000 barrels, with a “more reasonable worst-case scenario” of 40,000 barrels a day, the document states.

Today the official government estimate of the flow, based on multiple techniques that include subsea video and satellite surveys of the oil sick on the surface, is 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day.

In effect, what BP considered the worst-case scenario in early May is in late June the bitter reality — call it the new normal — of the gulf blowout.

By Joel Achenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Source: The Washington Post

More:

- US Scientist: Methane In Gulf ‘Astonishingly High’, As Much As 1 Million Times The Normal Level

- BP Plans To Dump All North Sea Assets In Dramatic Attempt To Cut Costs

- BP Blocking Media Access To Workers (Video)

- BP Official Admits to Damage BENEATH THE SEA FLOOR

- BP Buys Search Term ‘Oil Spill’ From Google

- BP CEO Tony Hayward sold £1.4 million of his shares weeks before Gulf blowout

- Goldman Sachs Sold 44% Of Its BP Stock 3 Weeks Before Gulf Blowout

- Feds and BP Withheld Videos Showing Massive Scope of Oil Spill

- Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Solution Restores Environment in Just Six Weeks

- BP’s ‘brilliant’ CEO Tony Hayward clashes with scientists over deep sea oil pollution

- Matt Simmons on Bloomberg: There Is A Much Larger Leak, Creating A Gigantic Plume; US Military Should Take Over And Use Nuclear Weapons to Seal The Blowout

- BP’s top kill effort fails to plug Gulf oil leak

- Gulf of Mexico Oil Apocalypse Creates Underwater Nightmare

- Gulf of Mexico clean-up boats recalled after crews suffer health problems

- Deepwater Horizon survivors were kept in seclusion after rig explosion, coerced into signing legal waivers

- SPECIAL REPORT: Civil fine in Gulf spill could be $4,300 a barrel

- Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Health Hazards

- Fishermen get severly ill from clean-up work in Gulf

- NASA Images Show Oil Entering Loop Current

- New NASA Image of Gulf Oil Moving Towards Atlantic Ocean

- Worry That Gulf Oil Spreading Into Major Ocean Current

- AP IMPACT: Fed’l Inspections on Rig Not as Claimed:

The federal agency responsible for ensuring that an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that inspections be done at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Since January 2005, the federal Minerals Management Service conducted at least 16 fewer inspections aboard the Deepwater Horizon than it should have under the policy, a dramatic fall from the frequency of prior years, according to the agency’s records.

- Gulf of Mexico: Scientists Find Giant Plumes of Oil as Large as 10 Miles Long, 3 Miles Wide And 300 Feet Thick in Deep Waters:

Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day.

- Beyond Stupid: BP CEO Tony Hayward:

“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

- US Oil Spill: Scientists and Fishermen Alarmed Over Chemical Dispersants:

Approximately 325,000 gallons of dispersant have been deployed so far in BP’s effort to break up the spreading oil slick before it hits the fragile Gulf coast, and over 500,000 gallons more are available.

- Rig firm makes $270m profit from Gulf of Mexico oil spill

- US not accepting foreign help on oil spill

- Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: New NOAA Projection Map; BP’s High-Stakes Mission; And More News

- Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: The Halliburton Connection:

The company acknowledged Friday that it had completed the final cementing of the oil well and pipe just 20 hours before the blowout last week.

- US Oil Spill Disaster Is Now ‘Out Of Control’

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply