Thursday, June 24, 2010

Start Preparing For The Worst

We know that we have not been hearing full, honest descriptions of the oil spill in the Gulf or about possible worst case scenarios.

When the drilling rig first collapsed, I wondered why BP didn't send down a big crimper and crush the pipe that was leaking most of the oil. My understanding is that this was at least one of the ways the failed blow out protector was supposed to stop the leak.

It took many weeks, but I finally heard an expert raise this same solution and then explain that the underwater infrastructure might be too fragile. BP may have known or suspected that the blowout protector was so badly damaged by the collapse of the drilling rig that it might not be able to handle the pressure that would build up if the oil escaping from the well were shut off.

Now we hear that the blowout protector is leaning to one side by 10 to 12 degrees. There is some thought that the pipes below the blow out protector are disintegrating from the wear and tear of the last two months. If there is no longer a pipe coming out of the sea floor it will be much harder to collect the oil coming out.

The latest doomsday scenario is that the oil coming up is under so much pressure that the bottom shot, pumping drilling mud and/or cement might not be able to stop the flow. The estimate I heard is that there is only a 1% chance that the bottom kill won't work.

That is the worst case scenario. We can't stop the leak. Oil will be coming out of the ocean floor for years.

Any possibility that the bottom kill won't work means we should be working on other solutions right now.

Could we drill 50 wells into this same area and extract enough oil to lower the pressure and allow a plug in the pipe to hold? Can we drill 50 wells quickly without another disaster?

How about a cap that is three hundred feet by three hundred by three hundred feet feeding into four pipes, each 20 feet in diameter, to bring the oil to the surface where it is pumped into tankers? The sheer weight of this contraption would force the sides deep into the ocean floor helping to keep out sea water that clogs pipes.

Can we pump oxygen down and burn some of the natural gas as it emerges from the well? Maybe the heat would help warm the water and help get the oil to the surface without forming ice crystals.

I know these sound outlandish, but someone should be working on several different solutions now rather than waiting until October to decided we need a plan F.