10 May 2010

Stopping the Seafloor Oil Gusher: A Tighter, Warmer Box

Miami Herald Oil Spill Coverage

The next attempt at containing the oil gusher will involve a much smaller containment box combined with an ongoing warm sea water flush to prevent crystalisation.
.... the second dome that they will try to cap the well with is going to be much smaller (about the size of a barrel) and that this should be tried within three days , and if that doesn’t work they are thinking of tapping into the pipe to drain the oil without seawater contamination. One of the problems, apparently has been the high gas content of the oil. Much higher than had been anticipated.

The box is being made smaller so that warm water (from the surface) can be poured over it to keep the temperature above that at which the hydrates form.

Now they've gone from "one extreme to the other". The "top hat" dome is 5ft tall, 4ft wide. Warm sea water will be pumped down. As they lower the dome it will already be operational - hooked up to a ship on the surface. It will be more difficult to place but they will succeed.

It should be in place by the end of the week.

If the second containment box fails to divert a significant amount of oil up to waiting ships and barges, the next set of solutions will be mulled over and selected among. One possibility is to cut the riser pipe and cover it with a larger pipe to divert the oil to surface vessels. Another possibility is the "top kill" involving the plugging of the well with tire scraps and rubber junk.

Meanwhile the usual suspects -- the media, the federal government, "environmental" lobbies and activist groups, and various trial lawyer conglomerates -- are setting the table for a grand feast of vultures, at the expense of everyone and everything else. These vultures will do everything possible to shut off all offshore oil and gas drilling, by making the projects too expensive to pursue. Another example of "political peak oil."

If the US doesn't drill, everyone else in the world will do so -- including China, Mexico, and Brazil. The US will be likely to learn from these early deepwater mistakes. It is not so certain that third world and emerging countries will take the trouble to protect anything when they drill.

This disaster is a warning shot. If we learn from it, we can go on to safely and profitably extract vital oil and gas reserves from the deep sea floor. If we lapse into hysterics and run away screaming, we are likely to suffer a far worse fate than some temporarily closed fishing grounds and a number of tarred birds and turtles.


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Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

I wonder if it would be possible for the oil pumped out to pass through an air scoop (similar to what is found on hydronic heating loops) to allow the gas to be separated from the oil?

Monday, 10 May, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

HILN: Right. At least allow enough gas to bleed off into another (or multiple) valve / line(s) to limit the riser pressure, at the early stages.

You still need a backup for the BOP.

Deep pressure drilling will have to evolve quickly.

Tuesday, 11 May, 2010  

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