Friday, July 16, 2010

The Mother Of All Caps - 4

We continue to monitor and report on the status of the closing in of the oil well gusher that remained when the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform exploded, burned, and sank in the Gulf of Mexico.

The current scene of this Shakespearean drama focuses in on the cap that was sealed yesterday to stop all the toxic hydrocarbons (oil & gas) from flowing into the environment and destroying what it touches.

The official expectation was that a pressure reading of from 8000 to 9,000 psi of pressure would show the well casing to be intact from top to bottom, but on the other hand that 6,000 psi of pressure or less would tend to show a breach somewhere in the well casing or assembly.

As Murphy's law would have it, the pressure is somewhere near the 6,000 psi level, leaving the officials in somewhat of a quandary:
The initial pressure readings are in an ambiguous range, and officials will have to make a difficult judgment call on whether to keep the well shut in or reopen it, according to Tom Hunter, retired director of the Sandia National Laboratories and a member of the federal government's scientific team overseeing the test.

"If it were a lot higher, it would be an easier decision to make," Hunter said.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, has said that a pressure reading of 8,000 or 9,000 pounds per square inch would be ideal, while below 6,000 psi might indicate leakage. Hunter, who witnessed the test from BP's war room in Houston, told The Washington Post that the pressure rose to about 6,700 psi and appeared likely to level out "closer to 7,000." He said one possibility is that the reservoir has lost pressure as it has depleted itself the past three months.

"It's just premature to tell. We just don't know whether something is leaking or not," Hunter said.
(Washington Post). Figure 2 above shows the current state of the cap, without any breach in the well casing.

Lets hope that depiction is the real case so the gusher will have been tamed after 85 days, 16 hours and 25 minutes from the first report on April 20 of an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, after the death of 11 workers, after some 94 - 184 million gallons of toxins spilled into the Gulf, and after vast destruction to the environment and economy.

Hold baby hold!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Mother Of All Caps - 3

We have been discussing capping the Deepwater Horizon disaster sight well casing.

The mechanism called "the cap" (3-ram capping stack, LMRP), its purpose, the dangers involved in using it, and its relation to the relief well, are included in the discussion.

The grave dangers involved are shown in Figure 3, taken from the first post in this series.

The danger in allowing the pressure to rise within the well casing is that it will breach then leak oil / gas into the strata of the sea floor around the well bore and well casing.

It could then leak profusely into the gulf waters with no end in sight unless the relief well works.

The uncertainty of the test is that it is not known how completely the well casing has held up nor how deep any damage done to it may be located.

What is known is that the relief well must come into contact with the well casing safely below any breaches in the well casing, if the gusher is to be shut off.

According to BP, a leak was discovered at "the choke" (part of the cap assembly evidently) which they are repairing prior to initiating the cap test.

Adding more mystery to all this, I found a very interesting comment over at a blog I read from time to time.

The blogger was talking about how Secretary of Energy Chu had helped out, for example recommending that BP use a gamma ray "camera" to look at the internal condition of the BOP, so BP did so:
... it told engineers which valves and rams inside the BOP were closed and which were open, and it showed that a piece of drill pipe was stuck inside the BOP.
(The Oil Drum, emphasis added). I added the bold because that really caught my eye and my curiosity, seeing as how there aren't many ways a piece of drill pipe can get into the BOP.

It either happened while the BOP was being fabricated, shipped, installed, or during the explosion.

The more likely scenario is that it happened during the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon.

That is yet another reason why the suspicions that there is a breach in the well casing are valid.

Add to that the fact that both the "top kill" and the "junk shot" attempt to plug the well did not work, and one can see the reason for concern of a well casing breach down out of sight.

UPDATE: After 85 days, 16 hours and 25 minutes from the first report on April 20 of an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, after the death of 11 workers, after some 94 - 184 million gallons of toxins spilled into the Gulf, after vast destruction to the environment, the test is underway to see if the cap holds for 48 hours. Hold baby hold!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Mother Of All Caps - 2

In the first post of this series we looked at the Deepwater Horizon well assembly as well as what BP was trying to do with the cap and with the testing of what would happen if they tried to cap it completely.

Now we find out that the test has been postponed.

My guess is that the scenario depicted in Figure 3 in the first post is suspected by BP engineers.

The pressure probably did not hold, or seismic data indicated something happening around the well bore and well casing.

If so, it would mean we wait for the relief well slated to make contact with the original well bore and well casing sometime around mid-August.

Figure 4 depicts the concept of the relief well, showing the oil stopped deep under the seabed at the relief well contact point.

For the relief well to work, the well casing and well bore below the relief well contact point will have to be undamaged.

UPDATE: Other posts here that deal with the Deepwater Horizon disaster: Danger Lurks In The Deep Water and From Deepwater I to Deepwater II.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Mother Of All Caps

At the Deepwater Horizon ground zero location, today, BP will test the cap it has put in place as well as the integrity of the entire well system.

Figure 1 shows the concept of the entire well assembly with the cap placed over the BOP (blow-out preventer), shows the pipe going up to the rigs floating on the surface of the gulf, and shows the well casing going down to the oil reservoir deep under the seabed.

Figure 2 shows what the well assemblage will look like if the cap works and if the well casing under the seabed down to the oil reservoir is intact, that is, not damaged.

This is the best possible scenario, especially at this time of hurricane season.

The cap would allow the site to be completely abandoned during a hurricane without any more oil / gas leaking into the gulf waters.

Figure 3 shows the worst case scenario, meaning a disaster far worse than what we have now, even though that does not seem possible.

There are two problems shown in the Figure 3 graphic: 1) a deep breach in the well casing allowing oil / gas to leak into the strata layers around the well bore (raw hole) and well casing (metal pipe), and 2) a shallow breach near the sea floor that ruptures the seabed making a crater, then allowing a full on gusher of the oil / gas into the gulf waters.

If the Figure 3 shallow breach scenario happens there is no stopping the catastrophe unless the relief well being drilled works to shut off the oil down closer to the oil reservoir.

Lets hope the cap works and the well casing also holds.

They will know if there is a well casing breach because the pressure at the cap will be low, or will continue to decline as oil / gas leaks out through the well casing into the layers of rock and other strata around the well casing.

If the pressure at the cap holds at a high level, that will indicate that the well casing is intact and has not been breached.

The concern about a breach arose when they tried the "top kill" by pumping "mud" into the well casing to plug the well.

The mud went somewhere, and one of those places it went could be out a breach in the well casing into the strata around the well bore and well casing.

They are wise to slowly close the valves in the cap and closely monitor the pressure level as they do, otherwise the whole assemblage could blow again if the pressures go wild.

Again, may the cap hold!

UPDATE: Washington's Blog shows, in forbidden photos, what has happened, and unfortunately what will continue to happen for months or years, even if the cap works.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Destroy The U.S. In Order To Save It?

Presidents who set up commissions usually do so to kick the can down the road, leaving something for someone else to do after the next election.

Sometimes when they do that they get more than they "hoped for".

A case in point is the establishment of a commission that President Obama set up by appointing Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson to look at the issue of debt and deficits, hoping to quieten down the furor a bit; but instead of toning down the debate, those two bi-partisan co-chairs of the commission said they found the internal source of the destruction of the nation:
The co-chairmen of President Obama's debt and deficit commission offered an ominous assessment of the nation's fiscal future here Sunday, calling current budgetary trends a cancer "that will destroy the country from within" unless checked by tough action in Washington.
(Washington Post, emphasis added). The intellectual warmongers who have been trained in the war colleges, who run MOMCOM, the military oil media complex, are setting the government up to do further damage to the nation while war and oil addiction are strengthened.

MOMCOM is the biggest fiscal spender, spending more money on the U.S. military than all the rest of the nations of the world combined spend on their military.

MOMCOM is destroying the nation in order to save it again, as she-it has been doing for ages it seems.

Since MOMCOM controls the government, plans are already being established to cut social security, health care, and other social programs set up for what the constitution calls "the public welfare".

More war, more military, more oil, is the menu for MOMCOM, while fewer jobs, less health care, fewer homes, and loss of retirement funds and social security is slated for the people.

Here are a few Dredd Blog posts that deal with the subject:

Entitlement Wars - Guns vs. Butter

The U.S. Mythology Trance - Free Wars

Why Does MOMCOM Hate America?

MOMCOM - A Mean Welfare Queen

Bring The Economy Home - 3

Thanks Bill & Arianna

States of War Budgets

The next episode in this series is here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Extinction Clock Nears Midnight- 3

When scientific facts are spoken or blogged about, sometimes the person asserting those facts can be called a "doomer", or worse.

For example, talking about "the doomsday clock" could get you branded as a religious heretic, even though scientists are the ones who crafted and who manage that clock.

So I guess that NASA will be called the official "doomer" of the federal government now:
Britain could face widespread power blackouts and be left without critical communication signals for long periods of time, after the earth is hit by a once-in-a-generation “space storm”, Nasa has warned.


“There is a severe economic impact from this. We take it very seriously. The economic impact could be like a large, major hurricane or storm.”

The National Academy of Sciences warned two years ago that power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications could “all be knocked out by intense solar activity”.

It warned a powerful solar storm could cause “twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina”. That storm devastated New Orleans in 2005 and left an estimated damage bill of more than $125bn (£85bn).

Dr Fisher said precautions could be taken including creating back up systems for hospitals and power grids and allow development on satellite “safe modes”.

“If you know that a hazard is coming … and you have time enough to prepare and take precautions, then you can avoid trouble,” he added.
(NASA Warning, July 2010). On the other hand, having any hope that civilization will pull through by a course correction can get you labelled as a "utopian" thinker.

Dredd Blog has been advocating that the U.S. government start a stimulus work program to beef up the U.S. power grid to: 1) be more protected from solar storms, and 2) while upgrading it, to also make it a "smart grid" that can receive intake from wind, solar, and other ways of generating electricity.

This could provide jobs at a desperate time, make our nation more economically viable for the future, make it more secure, and it could avoid a cataclysm:
... on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn't create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that.
(Knowing - The Movie). The Sun, the nearest star, is no different than the other stars out there in the cosmos, the universe.

They all have a familiar pattern and lifestyle they go through, which literally means we can't live without them, and we can't live with them, depending on "where they are" in their life cycle.

The bottom line is that the human species simply must pay close attention to where we live and the conditions for survival, lest we like thousands of other species become an extinct civilization, or worse, an extinct species.

The low-grade governments of the world are self-serving and selfish, thus the new public will need to become more assertive to offset the lack in governments.