According to the Washington Post, the static kill could begin as early as Monday night, part of a two pronged plan to seal the Macondo well for good. The idea is to pump mud into the capped well, very slowly and push the oil all the way back down to its source rock, 2.5 miles below the seafloor. However, “the static kill is not the be-all end-all,” Thad Allen said on Sunday so if it is successful, BP will then begin pumping in cement to seal the well, both from the top and from the relief well which will be intercepting the main column in a matter of days. The static kill is expected to take one to two days while the bottom kill from the relief well would begin in 5-7 days and take up to a few weeks to complete. Thad Allen will be in Houston to observe the process and expects to give the go-ahead on Sunday night for BP to begin late Monday.
Unlike the top kill that was attempted a while back, the chance for success of the static kill is much greater due to the well-cap. They will not be trying to overcome flowing oil as in the top-kill, but oil that has been stilled, pressured against the new blowout preventer installed on July 15th. If all goes according to plan, that’ll be all she wrote for Macondo well, sealed permanently and BP has pledged never to reopen it.
Sounds pretty good…
But before we all get too excited, there are a number of considerations to be examined, some BP and the Coast Guard are willing to admit, but most of them…no, not so much.
According to the same article…
“Still unknown after all these months is which avenue from the reservoir the hydrocarbons have exploited. No one is sure if the oil and gas are flowing inside the pipe or outside the casing in what is called the annulus — the space between the pipe and the rock wall of the hole. Or the flow could be through both…which is why the relief well is so important.” Also, the static kill would result in increasing the pressure inside an already fragile well: there’s always the risk that the pressure exerted by the mud will rupture the casing holding in the oil and potentially cause an even greater mess (read: uncontrolled blow-out), but experts say it’s very unlikely.
The above risks British Petroleum and the Coast Guard will admit to, though they will disagree on their seriousness – but when a story and the data is as tightly controlled as that of the well cap, there are bound to be other potential problems, many of which boil down to the integrity of the well.
Originally, the goals for pressure inside the wellcap was 8000-9000 pounds per square inch and according to BP’s own estimates, this should have occurred within 24 hours of the well being sealed. Anything less than that could indicate the integrity of the well had been compromised and oil, methane and other fun stuff had already started leaching into the surrounding walls. This would potentially create pockets of gas and crude that might rupture. So when the pressure only reached 6700 psi, the excuses started coming: the lowered PSI readings were a result of the volume of oil already released, or hey, the pressure’s still rising, slowly, but it’s rising…but it never did rise to 9000 psi, not even 8000 psi. Today, the pressure still stands at around 7000, well short of original estimates. This is what led to the twenty-four windows the Coast Guard ran for a while, monitoring the pressure and evaluating the safety of keeping the well sealed, all the way up until Tropical Storm Bonnie…where apparently the concerns about pressure faded as quickly as that storm.
Also, bursts of methane and leakage of oil from the sea floor have been captured by underwater cameras, several examples of which exist for anyone to see, and this also is indicative of a compromised well. Though the leaks were first reported in June, it turns out that British Petroleum had been monitoring them since February. These leaks still continue today. Just over the past weekend a new gas leak was discovered inches from the cap. Throughout, BP has claimed this isn’t a problem, that the seepage is unrelated to the Macondo Well, but many scientists would disagree: Robert Bea, an industrial engineer at the University of California, Berkley and a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group said in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “He has little confidence in what’s been said publicly about the seeps. He’s troubled that we’re…hearing about seeps three kilometers away, because a survey of the seabed conducted before BP drilled its well didn’t indicate anything like that…there was nothing that indicated the presence of such a seep.” If British Petroleum and the Coast Guard are wrong and the seeps are related, the increase in pressure from the static kill could make this leaking even worse and could even compromise the ability of the relief well to permanently seal the Macondo.
Think putting the cork back in a bottle of wine versus using the same cork to stop the flow from a sieve.
If the integrity of the well has been maintained, good, but as stated above, indications are otherwise and the evidence of such has been downplayed to the public by BP and Thad Allen, and as indicated by their own infighting, to each other. If the integrity of the well is compromised, the static kill could go very wrong. And that’s only the evidence we do know, what else exists to indicate risk? What other concerning data is out there? It’s difficult to know for sure. This is the problem when the Coast Guard permits British Petroleum to control their data, their information, or sits idly by while BP purchases university scientists they then smother with contractual gag rules – the public’s confidence gets lost. And when the Coast Guard, rather than urging the release of all information instead abets the problem by withholding data of their own, this further complicates matters for an in-tune public. We are left with nothing but trust: we are urged to trust their numbers, trust that well integrity has been maintained and can withstand the pressure, trust the PSI never really needed to reach 8000 to show integrity, trust them when they say the leaks and seepage from the sea floor isn’t a result of the Macondo well…
Trust is a lot to ask for at this late stage.
Over the past three months the public has learned – trust is a four letter word Thad and BP spits out every time their predictions turn out wrong or their denials prove to be false…so yes, some of us are skeptical. The officials’ continued contradictions have created too much doubt.
So how about hope?
This is doable…hope and well wishes…because who really wants to think about what the results could be if they’re wrong, again.
Good luck all,
Have a nice day.
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