People, I hate pouring cold water on somebody’s frenzied efforts , specially if those efforts are aimed at stopping the Gulf of Mexico blowout oil spill which is turning out to be our worst nightmare, but really you have to examine closely what BP is attempting to do.
What exactly is topkill? It’s supposed to be a proven method used for land-based oil wells in Kuwait that needed to be shut down. It’s applying counter-pressure on the blowout top of the oil pipe using injected hydraulic fluids, (synthetic?) mud, shards(of what?) later cement, and oh yes, according to BP also golf balls. I mean why not ? We can even use the kitchen sink, for all I care, if it’s going to get the job done. Let’s just remember that this method is being attempted about 500 miles down to the ocean floor.
And what exactly is my apprehension? The oil that gushes out from a land-based oil well is coming from a shallower source in the earth’s crust compared to the undersea oil leak where the pressure nearer to the earth’s core is greater. So if the method proved successful in Kuwaiti oil fields, couldn’t we just say it would do the same for our undersea oil spill? “’Tain’t necessarily so”, as the song goes. Let’s remember that much of BP’s own investigation of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowup pointed to a leak of gases into the cement that was poured into one of the oil pipes, rendering the cement prone to fracture, and thus the blowout from the weak spot. Spelled technically, the first crisis of having a state of the art oil rig explode from underwater due to the pressure encountered which surpassed the usual means of sealing an oil pipe (filling pipe with cement) should already tell us that we are dealing with a whole lot more of pressure than is usually encountered. To be able to cap this successfully, we have to be sure of two things; (1) There must be no other weak spots along the oil pipeline which can give another blowout rupture when counter pressure (topkill) is applied (2) The amount of counter-pressure to be applied should be significantly be more (like 3-5X more) than the pressure coming out. This 2nd “must” can be predicted through repeated pressure readings before the topkill. If there are uncertainties about those two, better not attempt topkill. Try going through (I mean sincerely going through) those submitted ideas being collected by the Deepwater Horizon website which aim to contain and redirect this oil spill away from eco-sensitive areas rather than counter-pressuring a man-made tap into mother nature’s fury. So remember, folks – we’re still dealing with mother earth’s most combustible material – oil. Just think what a nuke would do to that, aside from punching a bigger hole in the earth’s crust and releasing more oil spillouts enough to kill the remaining marine life, not to mention coastal economic life. So limit your thoughts of nukes to Predators for the Bin Ladenists.
To be fair, BP’s first containment dome idea could have worked. The only flaw in the design was an outflow pipe on top which was too narrow with respect to the size of the dome. As this containment dome was applied over the leak, it narrowed the confines of a gushing undersea high-pressure oil pipe leak, together with the surrounding seabed floor causing increased turbulence of an oil and seabed debris mixture which was enough to clog the outlet as it worked its way out of the dome. This seems more plausible than what was being advertised as “ice crystals” which “precipitated “ to clog the outlet. Once this design flaw is addressed (enlarging the outflow pipe on the dome top)and applied, we would be closer to solving the worst marine disaster on the Gulf of Mexico. Better that rather than seeing the continued undersea oil pollution with golf balls on the seabed floor to boot.