BP Well Integrity Failure

BP Well Bore/Casing Integrity Issues and Senator Nelson’s Statements

One week ago, on the morning of June 7, I wrote about questions on the substantive physical integrity of the BP Macondo well casing and bore, and statements by Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson on the same, as well as potential resulting seepage from the sea floor surrounding the well head. To say the least it raised a few eyebrows.

I have again attached the FDL video from the appearance Nelson made on the Andrea Mitchell MSNBC show where he became the first official to materially discuss the game changing issue of sea floor seepage from a structurally compromised well below the surface. Since Nelson first made the statements and raised the questions, I have spoken to his office several times.

Here is a quote given directly to Emptywheel/Firedoglake by Senator Nelson:

Why do scientists and others suspect the well casing is breached beneath the seafloor? Well, for one, in one of my briefings I learned that a lot of mud used in the so-called “top kill” attempt didn’t come back up after it was pumped down there.

Clearly, from Senator Nelson’s quote, he has received multiple briefings in addition to the information in the public domain, and he is hearing other private disturbing reports. Quite frankly, this should be of no shock in light of that which is, and was, already in the public domain. In this post, mindful of the fact there is likely a wealth we in the public do not yet know, I would like to delve into the public evidence Senator Nelson was relying on and why this is an issue that should, and must, remain squarely in the forefront of public and media conscience.

First off, it is clear Senator Nelson’s measured statements to Andrea Mitchell were not an off the cuff or uninformed gaffe by Nelson. Quite the contrary, he and his staff had been probing the issue of the integrity of the well bore long prior to the MSNBC appearance. On June 2, Sen. Nelson directed the following correspondence to BP:

June 2, 2010

Mr. Lamar McKay
Chairman and president, BP America, Inc.
501 Westlake Park Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77079

Dear Mr. McKay:

I understand the priority of your company right now is capping the Deepwater Horizon well. But new information about the accident has come to light in two recently published accounts that raise serious questions I hope you can promptly Continue reading

BP Well Bore And Casing Integrity May Be Blown, Says Florida’s Sen. Nelson

Oil and gas may be leaking from the seabed surrounding the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told Andrea Mitchell today on MSNBC. Nelson, one of the most informed and diligent Congressmen on the BP gulf oil spill issue, has received reports of leaks in the well, located in the Mississippi Canyon sector. This is potentially huge and devastating news.

If Nelson is correct in that assertion, and he is smart enough to not make such assertions lightly, so I think they must be taken at face value, it means the well casing and well bore are compromised and the gig is up on containment pending a completely effective attempt to seal the well from the bottom via successful “relief wells”. In fact, I have confirmed with Senator Nelson’s office that they are fully aware of the breaking news and significance of what the Senator said to Andrea Mitchell.

Furthermore, contrary to the happy talk propounded by BP, the Obama Administration and the press, the likely success of the “relief well” effort on the first try in August is nowhere near a certainty; and certainly nowhere near the certainty it is being painted as.

About five days ago, I responded to someone in comments with the following:

Yeah, but I am absolutely convinced there is such a lack of integrity, from pretty much top to bottom, of the well that totally plugging it at the top just creates the blowout of whatever remaining seal they have with the cement at the wellhead. I believe they have a total clusterfuck in about every regard and are just not admitting it:

1) BP used, if not substandard, then very close to it, casing that under the circumstances was inappropriate. It is fragile.

2) They did not install somehow or another at least one major casing segment seal, and the remaining seals are now either completely blown out or on their way to it and as a result oil and gas flow is not only coming up the inside of the casing, but the outside of the casing between the casing and well bore walls in the rock.

3) BP specified a light and fluffy cement and, additionally, there may be significant breaches and voids making the cement job weak and disintegrating.

4) Even at best, the cement is in the upper depths of the well bore where the natural geologic rock structure is the loosest, weakest, most porous and fragile (hell some of it may effectively be silt). The oil and gas, which has a natural well pressure of 12,000 or so psi is going to erode and corrode through and around the cement and the porous well bore rock.

5) Being attached to the Deepwater Horizon rig by the riser, and perhaps drill string too, when all hell broke loose and it exploded, shifted and sank, it put various pressures and forces through attachment to the BOP in turn attached on the well casing head. This action may have kind of reamed out and loosened that whole situation making it even looser and more susceptible to 2 and 4 above.

6) The BOP, to the extent it had restrictions present initially, has now been eroded and reamed out by the long term flow of gas and oil upwards and then the caustic flow of drilling mud the other direction from the attempted Top Kill. It is totally fucked way worse than it even was initially.

7) The reservoir of oil in Macondo is way larger than most anybody realizes and certainly bigger than BP will admit. It is a huge mother lode. Could flow forever.

8) Did I mention that the natural well pressure may be as high as 12,000 psi??

The Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf States and all of us are totally fucked.

As Sir Richard Mottram famously said:

We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. The whole [thing] is fucked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fucked.

I may have been uncomfortably close to the mark. And the quote from Sir Richard Mottram was dead on the money; if Senator Nelson is correct about the breach of fundamental well integrity, the game is close to over for the Gulf of Mexico. We shall see where this goes from Nelson’s initial comment. But make no mistake, Nelson is a careful guy not prone to overt hyperbole, and he clearly understood the ramifications of what he was saying.

It also means, of course, that BP and the Obama Administrations continue to give the American public short shrift in the truth and honesty departments. How surprising.

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