Understanding why the Deepwater Horizon blowout progress is so slow

Posted: May 26th, 2010 by: h2

I’m going to continue the practice of mining theoildrum comment threads for understanding, and because most of you aren’t about to spend hours per day reading them, I’ll post some of the choicer nuggets here, the ones, that is, that actually explain in clear language things that the mainstream media is simply too sound bite oriented to explain properly.

So here’s the clearest explanation of the difference between reality and what you think reality should be.

bigtuna on May 26, 2010 – 10:48am Permalink | Subthread | Comments top

FF, Shelburn, and Rockman have posted some of the most insightful things, and some of the posts here should return to the strings, to understand better what is going on.

A few words about “why didn’t they do this sooner” and “why didn’ the government do mre” to implement the top kill. There is a good video [albeit only a few mins long, and that compresses what probably took hours] of the remachining of the control pod, valves, and connectors to the BOP to get the top kill devices to be connected properly. For various reasons, these original connectors – the choke and kill lines, that were originally on the BOP were either damaged, or do not match the connectors that come from the manifold that swings the mud into the two lines. There was some pretty amazing work done with ROVs that had to cut, machine, and polish connector sites so that the new system can connect and hold pressure. When you look at the video, remember that there are people at the surface who are controlling robots at 5000′ underwater, basically cutting metal, turning nuts, etc. THe people doing this are working their asses off, and wheter they get paid by BP or whoever, we need to realize that they are doing some amazing things.

As to why not sooner, etc. If I may step off the techno talk for a minute. I think this is a symptom of TV culture, where Jack Bauer or CSI or whoever, has infinite cool technotoys to do things in 41 mins… For those of us in industry, the reality is that drilling to depth is ALWAYS dangerous, and takes time, brute force, and at the same time, requires machines and people that have to integrate and work well. People somehow think we have insta ROV’s that can zip to the ocean bottom and magically cap leaks that have never occurred before. It ain’t like that. The laws of thermodynamics, newtonian mechanics, etc. still rule. Sorry kids. Life is still governed by fundamental rules

Got it? This is NOW a hardcore engineering problem. After this is stabilized, is the time to enter into the actual politics of change. But just make sure you aren’t driving around while fuming about how things aren’t changing. That convenience is just so addicting, isn’t it?

This isn’t TV, this is the outcome of decisions that were already taken decades ago, to allow deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling in the first place. We allowed that because we refused to cut our petroleum production, or to sacrifice parts of the life that enables.

Now the incredibly difficult work is going on to try to stop this, and since BP is paying these huge costs, you can be fairly certain that they are trying as hard to stop this as possible.

But the sad fact is, at the beginning of this process, ROCKMAN noted that in his professional opinion, while all the methods they are trying are worth trying on the off chance they will reduce or kill the blowout, in his experience, the only actual fix is drilling the relief wells.

Technically, this is incredible stuff, working at those depths isn’t like science fiction, it is science fiction, only it’s fact.

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