May 17, 2010

From 60 Minutes Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster:

A Survivor Recalls His Harrowing Escape; Plus, A Former BP Insider Warns Of Another Potential Disaster

The gusher unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew crude oil. There are no reliable estimates of how much oil is pouring into the gulf. But it comes to many millions of gallons since the catastrophic blowout. Eleven men were killed in the explosions that sank one of the most sophisticated drilling rigs in the world, the "Deepwater Horizon."

This week Congress continues its investigation, but Capitol Hill has not heard from the man "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley met: Mike Williams, one of the last crewmembers to escape the inferno.


Deepwater Horizon was in 5,000 feet of water and would drill another 13,000 feet, a total of three miles. The oil and gas down there are under enormous pressure. And the key to keeping that pressure under control is this fluid that drillers call "mud."

"Mud" is a manmade drilling fluid that's pumped down the well and back up the sides in continuous circulation. The sheer weight of this fluid keeps the oil and gas down and the well under control.

The tension in every drilling operation is between doing things safely and doing them fast; time is money and this job was costing BP a million dollars a day. But Williams says there was trouble from the start - getting to the oil was taking too long.

Williams said they were told it would take 21 days; according to him, it actually took six weeks.

With the schedule slipping, Williams says a BP manager ordered a faster pace.

"And he requested to the driller, 'Hey, let's bump it up. Let's bump it up.' And what he was talking about there is he's bumping up the rate of penetration. How fast the drill bit is going down," Williams said.

Williams says going faster caused the bottom of the well to split open, swallowing tools and that drilling fluid called "mud."

"We actually got stuck. And we got stuck so bad we had to send tools down into the drill pipe and sever the pipe," Williams explained.

That well was abandoned and Deepwater Horizon had to drill a new route to the oil. It cost BP more than two weeks and millions of dollars.

"We were informed of this during one of the safety meetings, that somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million was lost in bottom hole assembly and 'mud.' And you always kind of knew that in the back of your mind when they start throwing these big numbers around that there was gonna be a push coming, you know? A push to pick up production and pick up the pace," Williams said.

Asked if there was pressure on the crew after this happened, Williams told Pelley, "There's always pressure, but yes, the pressure was increased."

But the trouble was just beginning: when drilling resumed, Williams says there was an accident on the rig that has not been reported before. He says, four weeks before the explosion, the rig's most vital piece of safety equipment was damaged. Read on...

Go read the entire article and there are bonus videos on the site besides the mash up I made here of the first two segments. There really should be people going to prison over this debacle. The whole story is disgusting and if something's not done, it's going to happen again.

Keith Pickering has a good summation of the article over at Daily KOS 60 Minutes: Critical equipment damaged weeks before blowout. And for more "good" news, it looks like oil is not the only thing pouring out of that well.

UPDATE: Gas Leak 3000 Times Worse Than Oil - Updated Math:

This repost of a diary from 2 days ago describes the fact that there is 3000 times more natural gas coming out of the leak than oil. All of the gas is currently staying in the water because the ocean has the capacity to hold large quantities of methane in solution.

When methane breaks down it depletes oxygen in the water.

Then, when it continues to break down it produces hydrogen sulfate

After some discussions with people who are currently working to determine the extent of this undersea damage, I decided we need to revisit this topic: The damage of the massive amounts of Gas being released into the gulf is worse than the oil.

From their summation, we haven't even begun to see the extent of the damage this spill is going to cause.

This deep water oxygen depletion zone has the potential of killing most deep water sea life in the entire Gulf of Mexico.

UPDATE: There has been some dispute over the numbers given in the KOS post and if anyone has some specifics on what those numbers might be if they disagree would be welcomed, but I don't think that takes away from the larger point of how badly the release of this amount of methane into our oceans might be for the environment.

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