Democratic Underground Latest Greatest Lobby Journals Search Options Help Login

The Doomsday oil scenario: a description of what could be happening (with diagrams).

Printer-friendly format Printer-friendly format
Printer-friendly format Email this thread to a friend
Printer-friendly format Bookmark this thread
This topic is archived.
Home » Discuss » Archives » General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010) Donate to DU
Are_grits_groceries Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 05:56 AM
Original message
The Doomsday oil scenario: a description of what could be happening (with diagrams).
Edited on Wed Jun-09-10 06:25 AM by Are_grits_groceries
I didn't fully understand all the info about the 'doomsday scenario' as it was explained on Countdown. I have been looking for info about exactly what is going on. I found a lot of info at this site:

This is a very long post because I have been walking myself through the process and the problems. Unfortunately, I think I understand.

First of all here is a 1.5 minute animation of what happens as they drill into the rock:

The Well,or Wellbore: When they start drilling they drill a fairly large hole, I think 36-40 inch in this case. After a certain point, 1000 feet or so they run in pipe called casing and cement around it. They then drill in this 36" pipe with a smaller drill bit and after a certain depth, they run casing again and cement it inside the larger casing, they will continue doing this over and over again until they reach their target formation, I believe on this well there are 7-8 sets of casing in total, with the end casing being around 7 inches or so. So the well when finished is actually a pipe with a 7 inch hollow inner diameter with around a 15 inch wall thickness. The BOP's are attached to this at the top of the well on the seafloor, then in this case a 5000 foot pipe called a riser from the BOP is attached to the drilling platform.

The casing is the steel pipe that was placed in the Deepwater Horizon well hole during the drilling process to prevent the wall of the hole from caving in.
A diagram of the casing that they are worried about:

1. The Well is a pipe that essentially is 36 inches in diameter with a 7 inch hole in the center. The wall of this pipe is essential made of multiple sets of pipe and cement, it is designed and engineered for fairly high pressures. (I have links to pictures and videos of this below)

2. The Blow Out Preventer (BOP) is a big-ass "safety valve" that was supposed to "prevent the blowout" by closing and not allowing anything past, it is on top of the casing. It is designed and engineered for fairly high pressures.

3. The Riser is a pipe that goes on top of the Blow Out Preventer (BOP) and it connects to the platform. It is designed for Moderate pressure and 5000 feet of it hit the ocean floor making the reliability of it's ability to even withstand low pressure is at an extremely low percentage. It also has a nasty bend right at the top of the BOP. Within this Riser is a drillpipe, the end of which is now plugged, there is also a 4" line with big rubber seals inserted into the riser.

All that being said think of it like this. A car pressure washer hose (the well) is hooked up to a high pressure valve (BOP) which has a garden hose attached to it (The Riser)

What is the Goop Coming Out of the Well and Flow Rate Estimation

The stuff that comes out of the well is not 100% crude oil. It contains Oil, Natural Gas (Methane), Formation Particulates and funky stuff called "produced water".

Produced water is usually slightly salty and is essentially ancient seawater. The majority of it, once it is separated from the other stuff that comes out of the well is injected down other wells so that it re-pressurizes the underground oil producing reservoir and eventually produced water replaces a lot of the oil to a point where the oil is not economically viable to recover and the well is plugged, or "abandoned" in oilfield terminology.

Oil bearing formations, or reservoirs are kinda like a giant sponge made of sedimentary material, stuff kind of like sandstone. Some of this crap comes loose and makes it's way to the surface. It is not usually a lot of stuff but an uncontrolled blowout often raises havoc and brings more to the surface then usual.

Misconceptions about plugging the well:
You cannot simply put a plug in the end of the pipe to stop the leak, or inflating a balloon inside it as there are a few leaks and the riser is not structurally sound. You plug the big leak the small leak at the top of the blow out preventer will in all likelihood burst or open significantly adding to the problem.
Also plugging this way may burst the riser pipe in other spots that may have been damaged. You also can't cut the pipe off at the top of the BOP (safety valve) and plug it there because it is bent just inside the BOP.
Think of an uncontrolled blowout as if it were a garden hose hooked up to a pressure washer you clean your car off with. You plug it at the end and somewhere the garden hose is gonna start expanding and burst especially if it has been damaged and may burst even if it were 110% perfect, most of the time you have to kill these things at or near the bottom for reasons I will make clear further on.
In my opinion they cannot plug this thing 100% from the top of the BOP without something blowing up. You must also realize that there is drill pipe within the riser pipe making any catheter/balloon plug very ineffective.


The 'plugging' has been all show. They can't plug it because of the damage to the BOP.

They have no choice but to try to cap it with a device to capture the oil and bring it to the surface.
The choices basically are:
1-Do nothing and just let it flow.
2-Cap the well and bring the oil to the surface so that it doesn't go into the water.
3-If they try to top kill it or plug it, they run the risk of destroying what is left of the BOP and releasing brazillions times more oil.
4-keep drilling relief wells and hope that they work.

When they tried to cap the well at the end of May, they found out that they could not do it without destroying the whole thing. They cannot control the pressure finely enough to do it.

The real problem is the casing below the wellhead that reaches into the reservoir. If that has begun to have fractures, the oil is leaking out to the sides and forcing it's way to the surface through fractures in the surrounding rock.

Imagine a garden hose that is punctured. The water spews from the punctures too. If the pressure of the water that is coming out is high enough, it will continue to flow out of the end as well as the punctures.

From the beginning, they should have also begun a MASSIVE effort to keep the oil off the shores and to try to get it out of the water. It would have to be continuous. Some of it would have reached the areas anyway, but not like this.

1-The relief wells are the only way to stop it that they have on hand. However, even as they say this, they have not explained why other methods won't work. They are not considering out of the box ideas even if they would work.
That whole device is like a bomb ready to go off because of the pressure. Even a new idea might trigger it. They are just hoping everything will not deteriorate a lot until the relief wells are complete.

2-The only way to have really helped the people along the Gulf was to start a massive cleanup effort and keep it going. The dispersants were horrible because of their toxicity and they made it harder to even try to collect the oil. The oil was dispersed with a poison attached which made it a much more dangerous problem for anybody trying to clean it up.
The oil itself is a hazard and would require special equipment and suits to handle it.

3-the only way to still help directly with the spill is to seriously try contain it and clean it up.

The dispersant is the gift that will keep on giving all over the ocean with the oil.
If the plumes were partly a result of the dispersants, that really helped. *sarcasm*
Even if they were going to occur anyway, the toxic dispersants were the last thing needed.

I'm stopping now. I may be wrong on some of this, but I believe a lot of it is correct.

I have only 3 words:
Oy vey!

Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
voteearlyvoteoften Donating Member (548 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 06:43 AM
Response to Original message
1. Thank you for your report
Oy vey is right!
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
atomic-fly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 06:51 AM
Response to Original message
2. thanks for the info
It helps to understand exactly is going on with the well.
I did not realize how weak the structure is.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Are_grits_groceries Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 08:05 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. I believe the only reason this hasn't been an issue before,
Edited on Wed Jun-09-10 08:20 AM by Are_grits_groceries
is the perfect storm of events.
1-the location of the well
2-the poorly regulated rig
3-the poorly designed equipment for deep water drilling
4-ignoring all the warning signs
5-the wrong decisions made right before the blowout over the objections of the oil well workers

There are more. If the Ixtoc had occurred in the middle of the Gulf we would already have seen this in some form.

There are so many of those factors still in play at drilling sites that it doesn't take a lot to trigger this. They have been very lucky for a long time.

Edit to add:
I don't think this has been a secret from anybody. I believe they have known about the probablity of this occurring for a long time. This includes past governments too.
They gambled with the Gulf, and we lost our shirts.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
leftupnorth Donating Member (657 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 08:35 AM
Response to Original message
4. Here's another diagram many may find useful
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Are_grits_groceries Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 09:33 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. The O rings - the liner hangers!
That's why were so worried about the 'rubber bits' that they saw coming up. It was the liner hangers in pieces, I bet.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
lfairban Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-10 12:14 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. No, IIRC . . .
. . . the rubber bits were from the BOP that was sitting on top of the well.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
yella_dawg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 08:48 AM
Response to Original message
5. One important thing you forgot to mention.
The particulates picked up in the formation are highly abrasive. Think sandblasting, the technique used to etch stone, hardened steel, etc. The velocities in the well bore accelerate even a relatively small amount of sand into a super sandblaster that is eating away the pipe from the bottom up. The sand itself wears away in this process, so little abrasive reaches the top at first. The longer this goes on, the more rock is exposed as pipe is eroded and that rock is broken into more and more abrasive particles. This monster is growing every day, and if it continues too long, an unimaginable horror will be born. Oil volcano, indeed.

Excellent work. Thanks!

Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Are_grits_groceries Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 09:28 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Good point.
I had read about that, but it never crossed my mind.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
GreenMetalFlake Donating Member (102 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-09-10 10:15 AM
Response to Original message
8. Thanks for posting
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
laughingliberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-10 12:59 AM
Response to Original message
10. Great work! And aggressive cleanup efforts are called for. BP is shirking on that. nt
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Waiting For Everyman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-10 01:31 AM
Response to Original message
11. Also look into methane hydates - ice that burns
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
DU AdBot (1000+ posts) Click to send private message to this author Click to view 
this author's profile Click to add 
this author to your buddy list Click to add 
this author to your Ignore list Wed Oct 28th 2020, 02:01 AM
Response to Original message
Advertisements [?]

Home » Discuss » Archives » General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010) Donate to DU

Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators

Important Notices: By participating on this discussion board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals |  Store  |  Donate

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC