Sunday, May 30, 2010

BP's Next Option

I'm following the Twitter stream from the incident command for the BP/Transocean/Halliburton oil spill, and the explanations aren't always illuminating. The problem seems to be the usual one that technical people have communicating with reporters, or perhaps I should reverse those nouns. I couldn't tell what was planned until the twitter stream gave me this graphic:

Now that is one humongous file (click on it for the whole thing). So along with all the other workers I listed the other day, count in some number of graphic artists to help tell us what's going on.

That next step has to do with containment only, not with fixing the well. I do hope they've been calculating the effects of the methane hydrates better this time. That was something that baffled me about that first attempt at containment. Oil companies know very well about methane hydrates, and it's obvious that there's a fair amount of methane coming out of the well. That error might have come from an underestimate of the overall flow or an underestimate of how much methane was in it.

A difficulty I have in watching spillcam is the scale of things. The blowout preventer is five stories tall. But the flanges, tubes, and fittings resemble vacuum systems I have built, which are more my size. So I have to keep reminding myself that those bolts on the flanges are probably each the size of my fist. Or bigger.

Update: More here about what might go right and wrong, particularly toward the end of the post.

Perfect Tommy, at Balloon Juice, has also recognized that problem of scale and has rescaled the graphic above to give you a better idea of just how difficult this operation is.

1 comment:

deichmans said...

Now triple that distance in the rock beneath the Gulf floor: another 13,000' into the rock, after going through 5,000' of water. It will be August before the slant-drills tap the well and relieve the pressure (i.e., Exxon Valdez x3).