Relief Wells and Reality: An Ounce of Prevention
Compiled by: Larry M. Walker, Jr.
There's more to 'Going Green' than what naïve Progressive, so called working family party, criminals would have you to believe. In reality, going green should consider an 'all of the above' approach. An 'all of the above' approach entails using our current natural resources more effectively, efficiently, responsibly and safely. The Progressive Obama Administration has failed in that it has not governed in the present. The Progressive Obama Administration has attempted to govern in the future (i.e. 20 to 40 years out), while neglecting to govern today. One of my favorite quotes is, "Keep it in the day". Progressives believe that we can somehow skip over today and jump ahead with policies designed for 20 to 40 years from now.
What a 'real' government would do is regulate proactively in the present. Perhaps we need another Presidential Commission to do the job, I mean since we have an inexperienced executive in the White House? Beyond the current budget disaster, we need a government who is actively engaged in implementing better safety measures in the areas of mine safety, onshore and offshore drilling, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric energy. Caulking and insulating houses, inflating tires, building solar power plants, and putting up windmills are not the responsibility of the Federal government. The Federal government's job is to protect us and our freedoms. Do you feel safe?
We don't necessarily need more laws and regulations, what we need is a government that can enforce our current laws and regulations, something that the Progressive Obama Administration obviously lacks.
Today, I am sifting through excerpts from industry experts regarding the capping of the Deep Water Horizon's - Macondo well from a historical perspective, alternative capping methods, and finally, how to prevent such disasters from occurring in the future.
Capping With Relief Wells
Capping with relief wells may not be as simple nor timely as implied.
"You have to hit something the size of a dinner plate miles into the earth," said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser at the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, who follows spills around the world. "Even in a shallow-water blowout, the drilling of a relief well can be complicated and problematic."
The world's worst offshore well blowout and oil spill, the IXTOC I well in Mexico's Bay of Campeche was ultimately stopped with a relief well, after a containment dome, junk shot and top kill failed, but it took nearly 10 months.
05/30/2010 - "There could be oil coming up until August, when the relief wells are dug, " White House energy and climate change adviser Carol Browner said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning. "We are prepared for the worst. ... We will continue to assume that we move into the worst-case scenario."
I don't think Ms. Browner has a clue about the worst-case scenario. The worst case scenario is that the relief wells are not completed for another 8 or 9 month's.
PEMEX: IXTOC I
Fact: When IXTOC I blew in 1979, it was also believed that a relief well could be drilled within three months, however, it took ten months. In fact, it took BP several weeks longer than expected to drill the original Macondo well due to complications. Might the same complications occur in drilling a relief well, or two?
08/06/1979 - Tyler Priest, a historian at University of Houston who has written a book about the history of offshore drilling, said Pemex thought it would go a lot faster. He cited a headline in the Aug. 6, 1979, issue of Oil & Gas Journal that reads, "Pemex: Ixtoc may flow until Oct. 3."
"They initially estimated three months. It took them almost 10, " Priest said.
According to a 1981 report from the Society of Petroleum Engineers detailing how Pemex, the Mexican state oil company, stopped the well, engineers decided to start drilling two relief wells at the end of June.
Progress was slow. It took one well until Nov. 20 to reach the original well, and the second took until Feb. 5, 1980.
Shutting down the main well took multiple attempts in February and March 1980 as Pemex shot drilling mud through both wells and gradually decreased the flow of oil.
PTT Exploration: Montara Well
Drilling a relief well could just as well cause a second explosion. At least that's what happened last year with the Montara well off the coast of Australia. Thus, there is no guarantee that BP's 'Plan Z' will work.
Last August, the Thai company PTT Exploration and Production Co. was drilling the Montara well in 260 feet of water in the Timor Sea off of Australia when it well blew up and began leaking oil into the ocean.
It took 10 weeks and five tries for the drilling rig brought in to drill the relief well to hit its target about 8,600 feet below the sea floor. On the last try, there was another rig explosion, which burned for two days.
The oil was finally stopped on Nov. 3, and it took until mid-January to cap the well, according to news reports.
A final report from the Australian government on the Montara incident is due June 18.
Capping with Nukes
Now this is one way to get the job done. This is how a nuke can be used to plug a well? Following is a detailed video of how the USSR used a nuclear bomb to plug a gas well that was burning and leaking out of control. It may finally come to this sometime in September, as BP would still need to drill to just above the depth of the original well in order to insert a bomb. Although the Russian well was on dry land, the principle is the same, "plug the hole". The Federal Government may want to look into this option.
An Ounce of Prevention
Once the Macondo well has been capped, and the Gulf Coast has been restored, the question will be: How can we minimize the fallout from offshore drilling blowouts in the future?
How about requiring that oil and gas exploration companies, like BP, drill a minimum of two relief wells in the same season as the primary well? That way, relief wells are already in place ready to cap or blow the main well in the even of disaster. Even Canada is now considering such a measure. So will the U.S. now take the lead or stumble?
"... shortly before the U.S. disaster, BP and other oil companies urged Canadian regulators to drop a requirement stipulating that companies operating in the Arctic had to drill relief wells in the same season as the primary well."
Why wait until there is another disaster to begin drilling relief wells? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.