12 May 2010

Leak Changes: Less Oil More Gas; Oil Slick Shrinks

BP has discovered a change in the nature of the Deepwater Horizon hydrocarbon leak: the proportion of gas has risen, while the proportion of oil has dropped. As BP learns more from better pressure readings and updated assessments at the wellhead, executives will have to choose whether to first place the "top hat" small containment vessel over the leak, or to go directly to the "top kill" or "junk shot" direct injection of rubber junk and matting through the blowout preventer in an attempt to clog the BOP, and shut down the leak.

One or the other of the methods will be attempted on Thursday or Friday.
In the last few days, the spill from the broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico has begun to change. Sources tell ABC News the amount of natural gas coming out of the well is increasing, which could mean less oil spewing into the ocean. BP, trying to control the slick, confirmed the report.

When satellite images of the oil slick from May 1 are compared with the slick today, it appears smaller in size. On explanation is that it now appears that the natural gas forcing its way out of the well could be reducing the amount of oil escaping. Instead of floating on the surface, the natural gas escapes into the atmosphere.

BP confirms that it is seeing some changes in the nature of the leak, but because it is not measured, they cannot say precisely what is happening.

"The pressure data we have observed in recent days gives us more confidence in a direct intervention," BP spokesman Andrew Gowers said today.... the company thinks that the change in the nature of the leak could improve the odds of containing the damage. A plan to fire rubber tires and golf balls into the pipe to clog it now actually has a chance of working. _ABCNews
BP has not had good luck so far in stopping the sea floor leak -- which is probably a good thing in terms of making future deep sea oil drilling safer. The more lessons that are learned from this disaster, the more likely that future offshore drilling will be both safe and environmentally benign.

On the other hand, BP has been extremely lucky so far in the limited extent of surface and shore damage from the almost 5 million gallon (so far) leak. That could all change if the leak itself is not stopped fairly soon.
BP will decide which of two containment solutions it will use to try to corral the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by midday Thursday, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

...In the first method, a pipe attached to the top hat would suck up the oil escaping from the leak in the crumpled riser pipe -- as well as any other contents captured within the box, including water -- and send it to a drill ship waiting on the surface for separation and treatment.

In the second, a pipe would be placed directly inside the gash on the riser pipe. The top hat would not be used in that case. That version, BP officials said, would result in the collection of mostly oil, and little water and other elements.

The distinction between the two methods is important to note because BP's first attempt at capturing the escaping oil was stymied when the containment box failed because frozen crystals, called hydrates, blocked the pipe opening where oil would come out after being sucked from the well. The hydrate crystals form in cold temperatures and under high pressure where water combines with gases.

One of the two methods will be deployed late Thursday or on Friday, a BP spokesman said. _NOLA

Despite the best efforts of media, Congress, tort lawyers, and environmental activists to portray this disaster as an apocalypse, reality has so far not gone along with the apocalyptics' private wishes and public statements.


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Blogger ee_ga said...

'Success through failure' is a wonderful book about engineering disaster and how the lessons learned from those disaster lead to the standards, practices, and procedures we have today. There is an entire chapter on the Tacoma Narrows "Galloping Gurdie" failure. I think you are correct, there will be a lot of lessons learned from this that will benefit the industry. All we have to do is prevent the government from spinning this into a usable crisis.

Thursday, 13 May, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Right. The technology will keep getting better -- and bring more and more fossil fuels deposits into economic reach.

If the Obama Pelosi regime chooses to starve the US of fossil fuels, there are plenty of other countries who will jump at the chance to grab Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Atlantic oil reserves.

China, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.

Thursday, 13 May, 2010  

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