Monday, June 14, 2010

Unseen Damage Beneath Ocean Floor

Reports have been rampant of oil seeping up from cracks in the sea floor, and last week Senator Bill Nelson told MSNBC that he's heading an investigation into it:

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL): Andrea, we’re looking into something new right now, that there’s reports of oil that’s seeping up from the seabed... which would indicate, if that’s true, that the well casing itself is actually pierced... underneath the seabed. So, you know, the problems could be just enormous with what we’re facing.

Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC: Now let me understand better what you’re saying. If that is true that it is coming up form that seabed, even the relief well won’t be the final solution to cap this thing. That means that we’ve got oil gushing up at disparate places along the ocean floor.

Sen. Nelson: That is possible, unless you get the plug down low enough, below where the pipe would be breached.

Some scary talk from an interview with former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister in the Washington Post, Friday, June 11:

Q: What are the chances that the well casing below the sea floor has been compromised, and that gas and oil are coming up the outside of the well casing, eroding the surrounding soft rock. Could this lead to a catastrophic geological failure, unstoppable even by the relief wells?

Hofmeister: This is what some people fear has occurred. It is also why the "top kill" process was halted. If the casing is compromised the well is that much more difficult to shut down, including the risk that the relief wells may not be enough. If the relief wells do not result in stopping the flow, the next and drastic step is to implode the well on top of itself, which carries other risks as well.

And oil industry expert Bob Cavnar, speaking on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show, goes further still, actually using the term "doomsday scenario" on a mainstream media program:

The real doomsday scenario here... is if that casing gives up, and it does come through the other strings of pipe. Remember, it is concentric pipe that holds this well together. If it comes into the formation, basically, you‘ve got uncontrolled [oil] flow to the sea floor. And that is the doomsday scenario.

If it is true that the oil well casing and piping are damaged underground - and with the reports of cracks in the seafloor oozing oil, there is now every indication that they are - then this already sad story has just taken a most chilling turn.