Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I got your "Drill Baby, Drill" right here!

I've been following the news a bit on the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, and the news ain't good. 11 workers are missing and presumed dead. They thought the well was sealed on Friday, but by Monday we learned it wasn't so. An estimated 42,000 US gallons are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico each day. Now the Coast Guard is talking about burning it off. Great! If we don't kill the birds on the shore, we'll get them as they fly over!

From the BBC we learn:
BP - which is responsible under federal law for the clean-up - said it was using four submersible vehicles, equipped with cameras and remote-controlled arms, to try to activate a blow-out preventer - a series of pipes and valves that could stop the leak.

However, this was a "highly complex task" and "it may not be successful", said chief operating officer of BP's exploration and production unit, Doug Suttles.

If the blow-out preventer does not seal off the well, the company intends to place a large dome directly over the leaks to catch the oil and send it up to the surface, where it could be collected by ships.

This has been done before, but only in shallow waters, Mr Suttles said.

Another alternative is to drill a "relief well" intersecting the original well, but he warned that this might take two to three months to stop the flow.

And from the NY Times:
“I must stress that this is state of the art,” Mr. Suttles said, adding that the method had never been done at such depths. It would take at least two weeks to put into place, he said.

Also from the NYT:

While the causes of the accident on BP’s rig, called Deepwater Horizon, may take months to determine, drilling down 10,000 feet or more is inherently risky because of the extreme heat and pressure at those depths.

So in essence he is saying that BP was unprepared for this event even though operations were "inherently risky," If early attempts are unsuccessful, the spill could go on for months and into the millions of gallons.

Timing couldn't be much worse for nesting and spawning wildlife, so it's little consolation that the energy companies and politicians also get a big black eye. Closer to Washington, we had the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, and continuing controversy over the environmental safety of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Pennsylvania. When are we going to wake up? When CEO's say "just trust me," you say "no!"

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