As Predicted, BP Tries to Pretend New Leak is a "Natural Seep"

George Washington's picture

Washington’s
Blog

 

Listening to the news this morning as I drove to work, I
heard that BP is saying that the seep discovered near the blownout well
might be a natural seep .

Reuters notes:

A
BP spokesman said the seepage was detected by its engineers but it was
unclear whether the source was the blown-out well, adding that seepage
was a natural phenomenon in the Gulf.

Indeed, a
breaking news headline across the web reads:

"BP spokesman says seepage nearly 2 miles from its
ruptured Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico is natural and is unrelated
to the oil leak."

As I pointed
out
on June 24th (and again yesterday):

The
Washington Post made a very important
point
yesterday:

Bruce Bullock, director of the
Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said
additional leaks are a possible source of deep-sea plumes of oil
detected by research vessels. But this part of the gulf is pocked with
natural seeps, he noted. Conceivably
the drilling of the well, and/or the subsequent blowout, could have
affected the seeps, he said.

 

"Once you started disturbing the underground geology, you may have made
one of those seeps even worse," he said.

Remember
that geologists have said that if the well casing is substantially
breached, the oil and methane gas will find a way through fractures in
the surrounding geology and make it into the ocean. For example, the
Houston Chronicle notes:

If the well casing burst it could send oil and gas
streaming through the strata to appear elsewhere on the sea floor ....

Obviously,
if there are natural oil or gas seeps nearby, there are already
pre-existing channels up to the seafloor ... so that may very well be
the path of least resistance for the subterranean oil to flow up to the
seafloor.

 

Therefore, if there were a substantial breach in the
well bore, nearby natural oil and gas seeps could very well increase in
volume.

 

Because BP would like to minimize
leak estimates to minimize the damages it has to pay under the Clean
Water Act
, BP would undoubtedly try to pretend that the nearby
natural seeps always had the same volume. In other words, the owner of
the oil drilling prospect where the spill is occuring - BP - may be the
only party to have mapped out the nearby seeps ....

 

So don't be
surprised if - when formerly tiny seeps become gushers - BP tries to
pretend that they were always that large.

Indeed - given BP's track
record of prevarication - don't be shocked if BP pretends that brand new
gushers are ancient, natural seeps.

Today, recently-retired Shell CEO John Hofmeister told MSNBC:

There are many people, including in the White House,
including The Department of Energy, who doubt the integrity of the well
casing [and] who believe that the well casing could well be ruptured or
damaged in some respect and that could cause leaks way down in the
well where oil could be… working its way out of the casing into the
space between the wellbore and the casing itself.

 

That oil could
be moving up the geology of the earth… and could be emerging somewhere
as… the seepage ... the possible seepage.

YouTube Video

Thad Allen said today that there are anomalies on the seafloor within
100-200 meters of the blown out well. And oil expert Bob Cavner told
MSNBC today:

You know, these seeps that the admiral talked about
within 100 meters of the well concern me some… The ones close really concern me.

And there is a possibility, if you look at the well diagram which is
complicated and I won’t get into it. There is a path for oil
and gas to get out into the sub strata
. And I’m concerned about
that.

A 20-year petroleum
geologist - with 13 years spent in offshore exploration in the Gulf of
Mexico - "gasmiinder" noted
yesterday:

A 20-year petroleum geologist - with 13 years spent in
offshore exploration in the Gulf of Mexico - "gasmiinder" noted
yesterday:

 

Mapping of
natural methane seeps is required as part of the process of obtaining a
drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico. This is required because the
"methane seep communities" are considered environmental "havens" as it
were - you have to demonstrate you're not disturbing the critters. [My comment: There are ecosystems which can thrive
around small natural seeps.  But huge gushers like the BP blow out can
kill everything in sight, especially given the large
amounts of methane
which have spewed from BP's well]. 
The process does not measure the rate of seepage but you would have
some guess based on the areal extent of the communities. This report
is filed with the MMS and should be available. I'm surprised and
enterprising reporter hasn't requested a copy from the MMS. (Of course
enterprising reporter might be an oxymoron in the modern era)

 

I
attended a scientific talk about 20 years ago where the study results
estimated about 1 million barrels of oil a year seep into the Gulf from
natural seeps. Of course that is spread over a huge area on an entire
year.

In response to the above post,
blogger CD [CD - let me know if you want me to change how I describe you] notes
that page 16 of BP's Initial
Exploration Plan
for the well states:

There is
no evidence for the existence of high-density chemosynthetic
communities within 1,500 ft of the proposed well location.

Gasmiinder
responds:

The
statement regarding the chemosynthetic communities requires a seafloor
survey - that's what I'm referring too where there will be a report
available having mapped them (the partners will have copies of that
report as well).

Gasmiinder adds:

Here is a copy from the webpage of a company that consults on
the interpretation of the hazard surveys.  It should give at least a
feel for the level of information that is believed to be present in the
data (meaning this is what they claim to be able to accomplish with the
datasets):

• Assess seafloor conditions and stratigraphy, and geologic processes
to evaluate well site locations

• Identify shallow gas and shallow water flow potential [my note:
they are referring to shallow layers that could be hazards to drill
through)

Interpret and map geologic constraints, such as
faults, gas vents, seafloor depressions and mounds,
and any other geologic phenomena that are detectable with seismic data

Identify potential chemosynthetic communities,
archaeological sites, and man-made infrastructure and debris

• Assess mooring spread, anchor locations, and foundation zones

• Produce supporting maps to show water depth, topography, shallow

structure, and seafloor and shallow geologic
conditions and features
in an area that may have an impact on
drilling

• Prepare final reports needed for permit application to governmental
and insurance bodies

So BP (and its partners
in the well, Anadarko and Mitsui) would have maps of all of the nearby
seeps which were there before well
blew out.

In addition, there are logs of where BP's underwater
submersibles (ROVs) have traveled since they arrived at the scene.
Tracking the logs would show whether any ROVs had visited the current
seep before today. If so - and my hunch is that they have - then the
corresponding footage would show how big those seeps were previously.

Indeed,
enterprising citizen journalists who have recorded and stored the
footage from BP's underwater cams could compare the compass readings
from the current
feeds showing seepage
to previous similar compass readings, and
find the footage themselves.

NASA has also demonstrated that natural seeps show up in satellite
images when photographed in sunglint.
However, I am not sure whether the seep near the blown out well
is big enough - or of the right chemical composition - to see from
satellite images.