Monday, March 12, 2012

342 America's Chernobyl? - Gulf Oil Spill “Could Go on Years and Years”

America's Chernobyl? - Gulf Oil Spill “Could Go on Years and Years”

(1) Gulf Oil Spill “Could Go on Years and Years” - Professor at Russian State University of Oil and Gas
(2) Deepwater Horizon blast triggered by methane bubble, report shows
(3) Methane leak adds to BP spill disaster
(4) Well casing did not get a good cement job by Halliburton; no cement bond log (CBL)

(1) Gulf Oil Spill “Could Go on Years and Years” - Professor at Russian State University of Oil and Gas

From: Sandhya Jain <jsandhya@gmail.com> Date: 25.06.2010 09:54 AM

Gulf Oil Spill “Could Go on Years and Years”...

F William Engdahl

25 June 2010

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=19660
http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=1276

The Obama Administration and senior BP officials are frantically working not to stop the world’s worst oil disaster, but to hide the true extent of the actual ecological catastrophe. Senior  researchers tell us that the BP drilling hit one of the oil migration channels and that the leakage could continue for years unless decisive steps are undertaken, something that seems far from the present strategy.

In a recent discussion, Vladimir Kutcherov, Professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and the Russian State University of Oil and Gas, predicted that the present oil spill flooding the Gulf Coast shores of the United States “could go on for years and years... many years.” [1]

According to Kutcherov, a leading specialist in the theory of abiogenic deep origin of petroleum, “What BP drilled into was what we call a ‘migration channel,’ a deep fault on which hydrocarbons generated in the depth of our planet migrate to the crust and are accumulated in rocks, something like Ghawar in Saudi Arabia.” [2] Ghawar, the world’s most prolific oilfield has been producing millions of barrels daily for almost 70 years with no end in sight. According to the abiotic science, Ghawar like all elephant and giant oil and gas deposits all over the world, is located on a migration channel similar to that in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico.

As I wrote at the time of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake disaster,[3] Haiti had been identified as having potentially huge hydrocarbon reserves, as has neighboring Cuba. Kutcherov estimates that the entire Gulf of Mexico is one of the planet’s most abundant accessible locations to extract oil and gas, at least before the Deepwater Horizon event this April. “In my view the heads of BP reacted with panic at the scale of the oil spewing out of the well,” Kutcherov adds. “What is inexplicable at this point is why they are trying one thing, failing, then trying a second, failing, then a third. Given the scale of the disaster they should try every conceivable option, even if it is ten, all at once in hope one works. Otherwise, this oil source could spew oil for years given the volumes coming to the surface already.”[4]

He stresses, “It is difficult to estimate how big this leakage is. There is no objective information available.” But taking into consideration information about the last BP ‘giant’ discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, the Tiber field, some six miles deep, Kutcherov agrees with Ira Leifer a researcher in the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara who says the oil may be gushing out at a rate of more than 100,000 barrels a day.[5]

What the enormity of the oil spill does is to also further discredit clearly the oil companies’ myth of “peak oil” which claims that the world is at or near the “peak” of economical oil extraction. That myth, which has been propagated in recent years by circles close to former oilman and Bush Vice President, Dick Cheney, has been effectively used by the giant oil majors to justify far higher oil prices than would be politically possible otherwise, by claiming a non-existent petroleum scarcity crisis.

Obama & BP Try to Hide 

According to a report from Washington investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, “the Obama White House and British Petroleum are covering up the magnitude of the volcanic-level oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and working together to limit BP’s liability for damage caused by what can be called a ‘mega-disaster.’”[6] Madsen cites sources within the US Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection for his assertion.

Obama and his senior White House staff, as well as Interior Secretary Salazar, are working with BP’s chief executive officer Tony Hayward on legislation that would raise the cap on liability for damage claims from those affected by the oil disaster from $75 million to $10 billion. According to informed estimates cited by Madsen, however, the disaster has a real potential cost of at least $1,000 billion ($1 trillion). That estimate would support the pessimistic assessment of Kutcherov that the spill, if not rapidly controlled, “will destroy the entire coastline of the United States.”

According to the Washington report of Madsen, BP statements that one of the leaks has been contained, are “pure public relations disinformation designed to avoid panic and demands for greater action by the Obama administration., according to FEMA and Corps of Engineers sources.” [7]

The White House has been resisting releasing any “damaging information” about the oil disaster. Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers experts estimate that if the ocean oil geyser is not stopped within 90 days, there will be irreversible damage to the marine eco-systems of the Gulf of Mexico, North Atlantic Ocean, and beyond. At best, some Corps of Engineers experts say it could take two years to cement the chasm on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.[8]

Only after the magnitude of the disaster became evident did Obama order Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to declare the oil disaster a “national security issue.” Although the Coast Guard and FEMA are part of her department, Napolitano’s actual reasoning for invoking national security, according to Madsen, was merely to block media coverage of the immensity of the disaster that is unfolding for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and their coastlines.

The Obama administration also conspired with BP to hide the extent of the oil leak, according to the cited federal and state sources. After the oil rig exploded and sank, the government stated that 42,000 gallons per day were gushing from the seabed chasm. Five days later, the federal government upped the leakage to 210,000 gallons a day. However, submersibles monitoring the escaping oil from the Gulf seabed are viewing television pictures of what they describe as a “volcanic-like” eruption of oil.

When the Army Corps of Engineers first attempted to obtain NASA imagery of the Gulf oil slick, which is larger than is being reported by the media, it was reportedly denied the access. By chance, National Geographic managed to obtain satellite imagery shots of the extent of the disaster and posted them on their web site. Other satellite imagery reportedly being withheld by the Obama administration shows that what lies under the gaping chasm spewing oil at an ever-alarming rate is a cavern estimated to be the size of Mount Everest. This information has been given an almost national security-level classification to keep it from the public, according to Madsen’s sources.

The Corps of Engineers and FEMA are reported to be highly critical of the lack of support for quick action after the oil disaster by the Obama White House and the US Coast Guard. Only now has the Coast Guard understood the magnitude of the disaster, dispatching nearly 70 vessels to the affected area. Under the loose regulatory measures implemented by the Bush-Cheney Administration, the US Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service became a simple “rubber stamp,” approving whatever the oil companies wanted in terms of safety precautions that could have averted such a disaster. Madsen describes a state of “criminal collusion” between Cheney’s former firm, Halliburton, and the Interior Department’s MMS, and that the potential for similar disasters exists with the other 30,000 off-shore rigs that use the same shut-off valves.[9]

Silence from Eco groups?... Follow the money

Without doubt at this point we are in the midst of what could be the greatest ecological catastrophe in history. The oil platform explosion took place almost within the current loop where the Gulf Stream originates. This has huge ecological and climatological consequences.

A cursory look at a map of the Gulf Stream shows that the oil is not just going to cover the beaches in the Gulf, it will spread to the Atlantic coasts up through North Carolina then on to the North Sea and Iceland. And beyond the damage to the beaches, sea life and water supplies, the Gulf stream has a very distinct chemistry, composition (marine organisms), density, temperature. What happens if the oil and the dispersants and all the toxic compounds they create actually change the nature of the Gulf Stream? No one can rule out potential changes including changes in the path of the Gulf Stream, and even small changes could have huge impacts. Europe, including England, is not an icy wasteland due to the warming from the Gulf Stream.

Yet there is a deafening silence from the very environmental organizations which ought to be at the barricades demanding that BP, the US Government and others act decisively. 

That deafening silence of leading green or ecology organizations such as Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club and others may well be tied to a money trail that leads right back to the oil industry, notably to BP. Leading environmental organizations have gotten significant financial payoffs in recent years from BP in order that the oil company could remake itself with an “environment-friendly face,” as in “beyond petroleum” the company’s new branding.

The Nature Conservancy, described as “the world’s most powerful environmental group,”[10] has awarded BP a seat on its International Leadership Council after the oil company gave the organization more than $10 million in recent years.[11]

Until recently, the Conservancy and other environmental groups worked with BP in a coalition that lobbied Congress on climate-change issues. An employee of BP Exploration serves as an unpaid Conservancy trustee in Alaska. In addition, according to a recent report published by the Washington Post, Conservation International, another environmental group, has accepted $2 million in donations from BP and worked with the company on a number of projects, including one examining oil-extraction methods. From 2000 to 2006, John Browne, then BP's chief executive, sat on the CI board.

Further, The Environmental Defense Fund, another influential ecologist organization, joined with BP, Shell and other major corporations to form a Partnership for Climate Action, to promote ‘market-based mechanisms’ (sic) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental non-profit groups that have accepted donations from or joined in projects with BP include Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Audubon. That could explain why the political outcry to date for decisive action in the Gulf has been so muted.[12]

Of course those organizations are not going to be the ones to solve this catastrophe. The central point at this point is who is prepared to put the urgently demanded federal and international scientific resources into solving this crisis. Further actions of the likes of that from the Obama White House to date or from BP can only lead to the conclusion that some very powerful people want this debacle to continue. The next weeks will be critical to that assessment.

F. William Engdahl is the author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order          

Notes

[1] Vladimir Kutcherov, telephone discussion with the author, June 9, 2010.

[2] Ibid.

[3] F. William Engdahl, The Fateful Geological Prize Called Haiti, Global Research.ca, January 30, 2010, accessed in

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17287

[4] Vladimir Kutcherov, op. cit.

[5] Ira Leifer, Scientist: BP Well Could Be Leaking 100,000 Barrels of Oil a Day, June 9, 2010, accessed in

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/9/scientist_bp_well_could_be_leaking

[6] Wayne Madsen,  The Coverup: BPs Crude Politics and the Looming Environmental Mega Disaster, May 6, 2010, accessed in http://oilprice.com/Environment/Oil-Spills/The-Cover-up-BP-s-Crude-Politics-and-the-Looming-Environmental-Mega-Disaster.html 

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Tim Findley, Natures’ Landlord, Range Magazine, Spring 2003.

[11] Joe Stephens, Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BP, Washington Post, May 24, 2010, accessed in http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052302164.html

[12] Ibid.

(2) Deepwater Horizon blast triggered by methane bubble, report shows

Investigation reveals accident on Gulf of Mexico rig was caused when gas escaped from oil well before exploding

David Batty and agencies

guardian.co.uk, Saturday 8 May 2010 13.36 BST

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/08/deepwater-horizon-blast-methane-bubble

The deadly blast on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas, an investigation by BP has revealed.

A report into last month's blast said the gas escaped from the oil well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding.

The sequence of events, described in the interviews with rig workers, provides the most detailed account of the blast that killed 11 workers and led to more than 3m gallons of crude oil pouring into the Gulf.

Segments of the interviews conducted during BP's internal investigation were described in detail to the Associated Press by Robert Bea, a University of California Berkeley engineering professor who serves on a National Academy of Engineering panel on oil pipeline safety. He also worked for BP as a risk assessment consultant during the 1990s. He received the details from industry friends seeking his expert opinion. ...

(3) Methane leak adds to BP spill disaster

By Simon Butler

Green Left Weekly

Saturday, June 26, 2010

http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/44594

John Kessler, an oceanographer at the Texas A&M University, told AP the leak was “the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history”.

The world’s worst ever oil spill is also the biggest methane leak in human history, US government scientists have said.

The US Geological Survey’s “flow team” has estimated between 4.5 billion to 9 billion cubic feet of natural gas have escaped from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig since it exploded in April, Associated Press said on June 19.

John Kessler, an oceanographer at the Texas A&M University, told AP the leak was “the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history”. Scientists think methane makes up 40% to 70% of what is spilling from the damaged BP rig.

Experts say the methane could worsen the already dire ecological impact of the oil spill, helping to create oxygen-poor dead zones that kill marine life.

The methane leak may also be a reason why vast plumes of oil have been found drifting deep underwater. Normally, oil would be expected to rise to the surface.

AP said a University of Georgia research team studied a 15-mile-long underwater oil plume in early June. The team “found methane concentrations up to 10,000 times higher than normal, and oxygen levels depleted by 40% or more”.

But BP has rejected claims that large amounts of methane are present in the Gulf. BP spokesman Mark Proegler told AP: “The gas that escapes, what we don't flare, goes up to the surface and is gone.”

Yet any methane that does reach the surface from this vast underwater leak will worsen global warming. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, about 70 times more potent than carbon-dioxide over a 20 year time-span.

BP has also faced new accusations that it has consistently lied about the extent of the gulf oil spill.

Reuters said on June 20 that Democrat representative Ed Markey had released an internal BP document revealing the company’s own worst-case estimate was that the leak “could be as high as 100,000 barrels per day”.

When the leak first took place, BP said the leak was about 1000 barrels a day. Later, it raised the estimate to 5000 barrels.

BP denied the internal document was relevant. “I don’t think there's been any underestimating”, a BP spokesperson told Reuters.

Yet on June 16, BP announced it intended to upgrade its capacity to collect oil in the gulf from its current 28,000 barrels a day to 80,000 barrels — 20,000 barrels more than it has publicly acknowledged is leaking.

(4) Well casing did not get a good cement job by Halliburton; no cement bond log (CBL)

The Largest “Accidental Oil Spill” in History: Lessons of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Disaster, Day 60

By Rick Steiner

Monday June 21, 2010 12:45 pm

http://firedoglake.com/2010/06/21/the-largest-accidental-oil-spill-in-history-lessons-of-bps-deepwater-horizon-disaster-day-60/

[Rick Steiner is a marine conservation biologist from Anchorage who has been advising in the Gulf for the last two months. For his earlier FDL post "Lessons of the Deepwater Horizon" click here]

As the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico approaches its 2-month mark, there are a few points that deserve to be made, as update. The world is now starting to appreciate the enormity of this disaster, which is likely already the largest “accidental” oil spill in history.

Cause

The growing list of mistakes made by BP in managing the well just before it exploded points to the astonishing negligence of BP officials. There had been several gas kicks in the weeks before the disaster – ominous signs of problems – and one worker aboard the Deepwater Horizon described the Macondo well as a “nightmare well.”

As pointed out in their June 14 letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward, U.S. Congressmen Waxman and Stupak recited some of the details their investigation has uncovered five failures that likely contributed to the disaster:

1. A well design with few barriers to gas flow – no casing liner was used at the bottom of the wellbore, thus eliminating 2 of the potential seals for an upward gas kick;

2. The failure to use a sufficient number of centralizers to prevent channeling during the cement process – 6 instead of 21 centralizers were used in the last 1,100 foot section of the well. Centralizers would have helped to center the well pipe in the well bore allowing an even and thorough cement job. Using so few could have caused channeling of the cement, where it was much thinner and weaker in some places;

3. The failure to run a diagnostic ‘cement bond log’ to evaluate the effectiveness of the cement job (crucial to sealing the well from gas kicks) – no acoustic cement log was performed, which would have detected anomalies in the cement set up between the well casing and the outer wellbore. A crew from Slumberger was on the rig to conduct this cement bond log, but were told their services were not needed, and sent home (the day of the explosion);

4. The failure to circulate potentially gas-bearing drilling muds out of the well – the muds in the well stem were not circulated to detect and remove further gas pockets and impurities, as is suggested by the American Petroleum Institute; and

5. The failure to secure the wellhead with a lockdown sleeve before allowing pressure on the seal from below – there was no lockdown sleeve installed to secure the well casing at the wellhead on the seafloor.

These decisions may have saved a few days of time and a few million dollars in cost, but they almost certainly contributed to this epic disaster. It appears that BP rolled the dice, knowingly and willfully risked worker safety and the environment, and simply hoped for the best. This appears to be a strong case for gross negligence, which if proven in court would result in BP forfeiting the entitlement to limit their liability under U.S. law. Indeed just today, one of the other owners of the well, Anadarko Petroleum, claimed just that – that BP was grossly negligent in its drilling of the Macondo well.

Failure to kill the blowout

After the initial Pollution Containment Chamber failed due to methane hydrate crystals clogging the outlet, the Riser Insertion Tube Tool (RITT) collected a little of the oil for a time, but was suspended for the attempted “top kill” effort.

But with the failure of the “Top Kill” effort, the magnitude of the disaster increased exponentially. This was a historic revelation – that the offshore oil industry cannot kill a high-pressure, deepwater blowout at the seabed. They pumped thousands of tons of heavy drilling mud, and several “junk shots” of golf balls and shredded tires etc., down the kill and choke lines of the blowout preventer (BOP), yet the well kept flowing uncontrollably. We could see early on in this attempt that it wasn’t working. Although the outflow of oil slowed during top kill and was replaced by muds, the outflow rate did not appear to slow at all. Given the reported pressure readings below the BOP of 8500 psi, the muds were blowing back out as fast as they were being pumped in. As well, it has been reported that there may be a “loss of well integrity” – a break – a thousand feet or so below the seabed wellhead, and some of the muds are thought to have exited the wellbore there, resulting in too little mud weight in the wellbore to counteract the high upward pressure of the blowout.

The failure of top kill meant that the only way this well was going to be killed is with the relief wells now being drilled. The first of these – the Development Driller III mobil offshore drilling unit, stationed about 1 mile away from over the blowout site – is now reported to have their drill 10,000 feet beneath the seabed. This is only 3,000 feet above the reservoir, and they will reportedly intersect the failed wellbore down near the top of the oil reservoir sometime next month. This is when the bottom-kill can be attempted, where drilling muds will be injected up into the well (along with the upward flow), and then followed by cement to hopefully cap the well deep near the reservoir. The second relief well, by the Development Driller II, is about 5000 feet beneath the seabed at present.

Until then, the only thing BP can do is to try to collect as much of the oil as possible coming from the blowout at the seabed. The cap and riser system is reportedly collecting about 25,000 barrels / day now (but these numbers may be suspect), and they intend to raise that capability to as much as 80,000 bbls/day by the end of July by connecting to the choke and kill lines of the BOP (which they have already begun), and then a tighter fitting cap. They should certainly try everything possible in this effort, but given their failures to date, I seriously doubt they will be able to collect a projected 80,000 bbls/day from the blowout, if indeed that much is actually flowing. Internal BP documents suggest that if the BOP were removed from the wellhead, the well could flow at 100,000 bbls / day, but the plan is to not remove the BOP until the relief wells kill the failed well. ...

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