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10 June 2010 @ 11:38 am
Green Hills of Earth: Deepwater Runs Still  
From The Rachel Maddow Show, a few nights back:

Right now, we have a catastrophic uncontrolled petroleum gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, and another spill up in Alaskan waters.

Who needs new footage? We can just rerun reports from 1979, when almost exactly the same thing was going on.

To recap (no pun intended):

  • A blowout on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A rig run by the company that eventually became Transocean.
  • Exactly the same techniques used to stem the flow
  • In exactly the same order
  • With exactly the same results:
    • BUPKIS.

  • After months and months of gushing oil, matters were only alleviated when relief wells were drilled.
  • Why didn't they just go for the relief wells first this time?
  • Have "top hats" and "top kills" ever worked?*

The only difference is that in '79, the well was 200 feet down; now, it's over five thousand.

My father used to have a saying about four wheel drive vehicles: "They won't keep you from getting stuck. They just let you get some place even farther from help when you get stuck."

The oil companies keep talking about how their technology has imnproved—but it's just let them get even farther from any solutions. If When shit hits the fan, they don't actually have any new solutions; they're just trying the same things that didn't work before.

"But that trick never works!"

*Yes, that is a request for specific instances, if anyone out there feels like dredging them up. Like Wikipedia, however, I want citations.
I feel: frustratedfrustrated
Tube: announcement!toob on June 10th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
According to NPR, they got started on the relief well right away, but since it was going to take 2 months to drill, they wanted to try to stop the flow of oil as quickly as possible using other methods.
pseudo manitoupseudomanitou on June 10th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
On the plus side, it seems that the Gulf of Mexico had recovered from such a disaster before.

But certainly, there's no excuse for the lack of technology involved. I know of many new research projects over the years that produced many ways of sucking up oil, just for instance. And I see none of those things applied today. Who wants to bet those researchers couldn't find a single oil company to invest in production of those newer technologies?
Anvil*: Toastthoughtsdriftby on June 11th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
A top-kill is a fairly common technique however, it is normally used after a blowout once the well can be shut-in. This means a working Christmas tree is in place and the valves can be used to control flow. This is a slide show for a surface well: http://www.wildwell.com/uploads/Capping_a_Blowout_Well.swf

There have been improvements in kill fluids and guiding the relief wells but I haven't seen any solution other than relief wells for a blowout that doesn't have an operational valve stack in place and an intact well casing.

It would be interesting designing the equipment to install a capping assembly however. Less interesting, but necessary, are improvements in cementing technology.