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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 8/23/10

The Gulf Blowout

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Message Michael Bond

For the last few months I've been following the BP blowout of their well in the Gulf of Mexico. The lack of information and data, and total confusion coming out about this is huge. I would like to offer my perspective on this so far...

First I'd like to say I have some experience in the oil and gas industry. After my initial training I started working on drilling rigs and became very familiar with the procedures involved in drilling wells, and operations on drilling rigs. Later I went on to working on "servicing rigs", which complete (or finish) wells that have been drilled,and perform a variety of procedures on live oil and gas wells. I used to work on live oil and gas wells every day. Thus I'm fairly experienced about oil and gas wells,the procedures and terminology. I am not claiming to be an "Industry Expert", but I know enough to be able to try to figure out what's going on with this "runaway" well. However trying to figure out what has happened and what is really going on now is extremely difficult due to the lack of information and secrecy that has existed since the beginning. It's like trying to put a puzzle together with a lot of the pieces missing.

I personally do not believe this blowout was an ACCIDENT! This was the (almost inevitable) result of sequence of decisions that BP deliberately made, resulting in the blowout, the loss of lives, and the massive contamination of the Gulf of Mexico. The decisions (and results) made before the blowout and after, even until now, still astound me. It was BP's constant decisions to cut corners and normal procedures to save time and money that led to this disaster, certainly no accident. So this could be Criminal Negligence. It seems that after drilling the previous well, and the problems and failures resulting into the "abandonment" of the well, and necessity of drilling a new one may have put BP's schedule way behind, causing pressure to complete the second well with more urgency and haste. Some of the bad decisions that we suspect leading to the blowout are:

-Deciding to carry on operations when it was found that the "annular preventer" on the BOP Stack may have been damaged. Apparently, at one point in the operations the annular preventer had been closed, then the rig started pulling the drilling pipe up from the hole (before releasing and opening the annular preventer) which would have caused tearing and damage to the large rubber seal, this I believe WAS an unfortunate accident. The clues to this damage were obvious when the crew reported "chunks of rubber" flowing back to the rig in the drilling mud, however this was ignored. Also are reports of one of the BOP's battery powered activators may have been faulty. I believe that these possible problems should have been inspected and repaired, before any further operations were allowed to continue.
-Deciding to go with a cheaper final casing option, despite the knowledge that this well may have been drilled into a very high pressure, high volume hydrocarbons zone.
-The decision to install a far less number of "casing centralizers", than the cementing contractor Haliburton had recommended; the on-site rep for Haliburton is said to have disputed this plan but was over-ruled by BP. This decision could result in a poor or defective cementing and sealing of the final casing installed.
-The shocking decision to not run a cement bond log after the cementing job, although the contracted company was on-site and waiting to perform the vital procedure, instead they were sent home and the job skipped. A little time and a few more bucks saved. This was an extremely unusual and risky decision. Now no one has any idea of how well or successful the casing has been cemented in. This leaves the possibility of hydrocarbons traveling outside of the casing, which could reduce the integrity of the well. There is a reported e-mail from a BP engineer on the rig, saying something to the effect of "Oh well it's done now, should be ok. Who cares..."
-Replacing the drilling mud in the well with much lighter sea water. I believe the TransOcean rig manager fought with BP against this idea. This step was practically begging for a blowout to happen, and it did.

I believe that as a result of all the shortcuts taken in drilling and constructing the well, we are left with a well of such shoddy construction that the actual final and complete "killing" of the well may not be possible. This is a pretty horrific possibility to ponder, but I regret it may be true. The casing and cement job are most likely ineffective, leaking and damaged. There is drill pipe left stuck in the hole. I think is very likely oil and gas flowing on the outside of the casing, possibly all the way up to the sea floor, and left to flow for so long as it has will further erode the formation strata outside the casing, and may be flowing into other soft strata up towards the sea floor further fracturing and pressurizing them, and allowing gas and oil to escape. I'm also afraid that the sea floor may be fractured and leaking more and more as BP and the government dither and stall about finishing the "Bottom Kill". Thad Allen has lately been blubbering such gibberish that nobody understands him now, and I think this is intentional confusion, since I think this whole well or sea floor is ready to collapse or explode or something more devastating, so BP doesn't want the responsibility of any further operations, as a much bigger disaster is impending... I certainly hope I'm wrong on that.

What I can't understand is why BP has taken so long to take any logical action since the beginning. Now they are so close to a "Bottom Kill" (that I do not believe will work, due to the length of time the well has been flowing and eroding things, poor structure of the well,and the damage) why are they now stalling? The top kill failed as most figured it would too.

What about the collection of the oil? Why did they choose to burn the surface oil they collected (a horrible, toxic, filthy choice) instead of suck it up into ships? Because then that amount could be measured? Why was the oil and gas sucked up from the seafloor above the well burned instead of collected on ships, same reason?

Why weren't there daily reports on air and ocean quality and contaminants and toxins? I would think this to be of utmost importance for public safety. From Day#1 the government should have been rigorously testing the air and water at all distances and depths from the blowout, and kept the public informed daily for their safety. I've heard nothing but vague assurances from government and BP that it's all safe. Where is all the professional testing and data? I'm guessing it's safely locked away where the public can never see it to help cover BP's and the government's asses. No data means no evidence in case of liability.

"The blowout has been killed,and almost all of the oil is gone!!"
The well is not killed.
The Good Fairy did not come one night and make all the oil disappear.
There are huge liabilities pending, and November elections are coming...

"Two Well Monty"
Some people suspect we've being seeing undersea video from both of BP's last 2 wells drilled there in close proximity to each other, both are known failures. The possibilities are too numerous to mention here, are we getting selected video from one or the other, are they both blowing? Who knows, after so many months of secrecy and dis-information anything is possible or believable.

The locals and fisherman are delusional or crazy?
Despite what locals and fisherman report every day, government and BP insist everything is ok. The oil is almost gone, no dying or tainted fish, no illnesses related to toxic hydrocarbons or Corexit dispersant, etc.
Maybe you folks have just been breathing too many toxic fumes and are imagining it all...

In the end I suppose there will be books, movies etc. about the whole episode but I don't expect much for financial compensation or legal satisfaction, I doubt if any bigshots from BP or government are going to jail. Mostly because like all other previous disasters, the most important evidence and records will be mysteriously missing.

I truly pray for the best results for the inhabitants living around the Gulf of Mexico. Hopefully this will end soon, and the damage will not be too great or permanent, and your lives restored. But I think to get proper compensation and environmental action you will have to pursue private actions, study the Exxon-Valdez incident and results and adjust your tactics accordingly. Punish every single politician, mayor etc. who stonewalled or foot-dragged by voting them out of office. Continue to form strong coalitions, and MOST importantly start to professionally collect all your own evidence, documents and witnesses now, and guard it. The "Dream Team" of lawyers is available to anyone with money$$$, so pool your resources and get the best. Find out how much campaign donations each of your politicians previously received from the petroleum industry, and discount them as a source of help.

Personally, I don't think that halting all offshore drilling is going to help you right now,your states need this income, especially now, but each and every offshore operation must be rigorously inspected, and better regulations made.
But if possible I think that BP's operations need to be stopped, I always suspected the 2 "Relief Wells" being drilled were done with more of an eye to be new production wells to replace the last 2 colossal failures, and the fact that BP is suddenly balking at completing them and using them for a "Bottom Kill" makes me even more suspicious...

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I've been a Canadian commenter,having my opinions published for the last 12 years. People like my commentary,because I'm not afraid to tell the truth.
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The Gulf Blowout

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