Senator Nelson: The BP Well May Have Lost Structural Integrity Beneath the Sea Floor

Washington’s Blog

On June 2nd, Bloomberg pointed out:

Plugging the well is another challenge even after BP successfully intersects it, Robert Bea, a University of California Berkeley engineering professor, said. BP has said it believes the well bore to be damaged, which could hamper efforts to fill it with mud and set a concrete plug, Bea said.

Bea is an expert in offshore drilling and a high-level governmental adviser concerning disasters.

On the same day, the Wall Street Journal noted that there might be a leak in BP's well casing 1,000 feet beneath the sea floor:

BP PLC has concluded that its "top-kill" attempt last week to seal its broken well in the Gulf of Mexico may have failed due to a malfunctioning disk inside the well about 1,000 feet below the ocean floor.

 

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The broken disk may have prevented the heavy drilling mud injected into the well last week from getting far enough down the well to overcome the pressure from the escaping oil and gas, people familiar with BP's findings said. They said much of the drilling mud may also have escaped from the well into the rock formation outside the wellbore.

Yesterday, Senator Bill Nelson told MSNBC that he's investigating reports of oil seeping up from additional leak points on the seafloor:

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL): Andrea we’re looking into something new right now, that there’s reports of oil that’s seeping up from the seabed… which would indicate, if that’s true, that the well casing itself is actually pierced… underneath the seabed. So, you know, the problems could be just enormous with what we’re facing.

 

Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC: Now let me understand better what you’re saying. If that is true that it is coming up form that seabed, even the relief well won’t be the final solution to cap this thing. That means that we’ve got oil gushing up at disparate places along the ocean floor.

 

Sen. Nelson: That is possible, unless you get the plug down low enough, below where the pipe would be breached.

Indeed, loss of integrity in the well itself may explain why BP is drilling its relief wells approximately twelve thousand feet (and see this) beneath the leaking pipes on the seafloor.

And prominent oil industry insider Matt Simmons believes that the well casing may have been destroyed when the oil rig exploded.

On May 27th, Simmons addressed this issue on MSNBC:

 

On May 26th, Simmons referred to this again on a second appearance on MSNBC:

And he referred to it again on Bloomberg on May 28th:

And again on MSNBC yesterday:

Other updates on the Gulf oil situation:

As McClatchy wrote yesterday, the 100,000 barrels may still be gushing every day from the BOP/riser itself (forget the other leaks or the potentially broken well), even after the installation of the LMRP cap:

 

BP's runaway Deepwater Horizon well may be spewing what the company once-called its worst case scenario — 100,000 barrels a day, a member of the government panel told McClatchy Monday.

 

"In the data I've seen, there's nothing inconsistent with BP's worst case scenario,"

Ira Leifer, an associate researcher at the Marine Science Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a member of the government's Flow Rate Technical Group, told McClatchy.

 

Leifer said that based on satellite data he's examined, the rate of flow from the well has been increasing over time, especially since BP's "top kill" effort failed last month to stanch the flow. The decision last week to sever the well's damaged riser pipe from the its blowout preventer in order to install a "top hat" containment device has increased the flow still more _ far more, Leifer said, than the 20 percent that BP and the Obama administration predicted.

 

 

Leifer noted that BP had estimated before the April 20 explosion that caused the leak that a freely flowing pipe from the well would release 100,000 barrels of oil a day in the worst-case scenario.

 

The oil was not freely flowing before the top kill or before they cut the pipe, Leifer said, but once the riser pipe was cleared, there was little blocking the oil's rise to the top of the blowout preventer. Video images confirm that the flow of black oil is unimpeded.

 

"If the pipe behaved as a worst-case estimate you would have no visual change in the flow, and I don't see any obvious visual change," Leifer said. "How much larger I don't know but let's just quote BP."

 

How much oil is gushing from the well has been the subject of heated debate for weeks, with independent scientists suggesting that as much as 95,000 barrels could be gushing into the Gulf of Mexico each day. For more than a month BP and the Obama administration placed the figure at 5,000 barrels a day.

 

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Leifer, who is described in the flow rate's preliminary report released last week as a "world reknown researcher" who's published more than 60 scientific articles, said BP still has not delivered the data that scientists need for an accurate appraisal of the spill's size.

 

"We're still waiting," he said.

Subsea oil plumes found 142 miles from rig  

Another Oil-Rig has been leaking since at least April 30