Thursday, June 17, 2010

Erosion and oil well infrastructure - #BP Oil Spill #boycottbp #oilspill #gulf ((tag: BP, Oil, Spill, boycottbp, oilspill))

The drilling infrastructure is likely designed to be stable.  Several factors
contribute to this stability.  As oil seepage and erosion occurs, the
infrastructure is stabilized by settling from the seafloor above. This
is the case of normal well operation, but in the gulf, we are now far
away from the norm, and seepage may be a much greater problem.

What if there is a large seepage amounting to a steady eroding flow?
One thing for sure is that the infrastructure will be bypassed more
and more as the oil escapes around it.  Settling will still tend to
support the infrastructure, but the seepage could become the major
problem as the infrastructure becomes bypassed and superfluous.

This explains some of the things we have been hearing.  The infrastructure might
have been better protected and erosion reduced before the seepage
became a major problem, but there is a mental block when it comes to
cutting the infrastructure near the sea floor opening.  Also the mass
of the infrastructure importantly holds it down in the hole. The delay
in cutting the infrastructure is what might have killed prospects for
success. If so, the time is past for stopping the leak from above.

Is it possible for the oil pressure to eject the infrastructure from the hole?
Settling will be a huge impediment to such an event, and the infrastructure
is very massive.  If this scenario is correct, then erosion will simply bypass
the infrastructure, which will be stabilized by sea floor settling and
not ejected.
If the infrastructure is ejected, it means that I never understood the magnitude
of the oil pressure.

Here is a metaphor to help understand the magnitude of flow and pressure.
Thousands of tonnes of oil and gas are being ejected every day, and maybe more.
This is analogous to the action of about 1 thousand common tanker trucks, with
which everyone is familiar.  Think of 1 thousand tanker trucks driving a single
stretch of several miles of dirt road every day.  Conditions are
muddy.  Erosion happens.  It appears to me that time is of the essence
in the gulf.  Hopefully we have geophysicists on this problem.

Here is a link to an interesting related article from Mother Jones.
My conclusions are somewhat different than those presented in the
article, but it was helpful.

Is the BP Gusher Unstoppable?


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