Cracks in BP Oil-well Months Before Explosion

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Alison Fitzgerald and Joe Carroll of Bloomberg report that as far back as February of this year, more than two months before BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 and spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, there were cracks in the oil well which BP struggled to seal.
Drilling documents obtained by Bloomberg show that on Feb. 13, BP told the Minerals Management Service about the cracks in the well about 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. It took 10 days to plug the first cracks. Cracks in the surrounding rock continued to complicate the drilling operation during the ensuing weeks. Left unsealed, they can allow explosive natural gas to rush up the shaft.
BP first attempted a “cement squeeze,” which involves pumping cement to seal the fissures. Over the following week the company made repeated attempts to plug cracks that were draining expensive drilling fluid, known as “mud,” into the surrounding rocks. BP used three different substances to plug the holes before succeeding, the documents show.
“Most of the time you do a squeeze and then let it dry and you’re done,” said John Wang, an assistant professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering at Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania. “It dries within a few hours.” Repeated squeeze attempts are unusual and may indicate rig workers are using the wrong kind of cement.
In early March, BP told the minerals agency the company was having trouble maintaining control of surging natural gas, according to e-mails released May 30 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the spill.
While gas surges are common in oil drilling, companies have abandoned wells if they determine the risk is too high. When a Gulf well known as Blackbeard threatened to blow out in 2006, Exxon Mobil Corp. shut the project down. “We don’t proceed if we cannot do so safely,” Exxon Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson told a House Energy and Commerce committee panel on June 15.
As late as March 10, BP executive Scherie Douglas e-mailed Frank Patton, the mineral service’s drilling engineer for the New Orleans district, telling him: “We’re in the midst of a well control situation.”
Investigators are now trying to determine whether the cracks in February played a role in the disaster.
~Eowyn

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0 responses to “Cracks in BP Oil-well Months Before Explosion

  1. So they know the well was F&*%ed in March and in 3 months they could not fix it. OK, so who’s bright idea was it to get the North Koreans to blow it up? How did they get from Cuba to the Deepwater Horizon without our Navy detecting the ship or the small sub? Somebody had to tell the military to stand down. That or our Gulf security is no better that of the Mexican border and that is real scary. What the hell is wrong with America? Have we already lost the silent war and the Communist coup has won? God Help Us!

     

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